The meal before a softball game provides important fuel and nutrition for athletic performance. Yet, the wrong amount or type of food can also decrease performance through gut distress and energy slumps. A softball player intent on playing will want to make smart pre-game dietary choices to maximize athletic ability. A good question for athletes to consider is, what is a good meal to eat before a softball game?
A pre-game meal eaten 3-4 hours before game time should contain higher carbohydrate, moderate protein and some fat. Some of the best options for a pre-game meal for softball include oatmeal with banana and peanut butter, egg burrito and fruit, chicken and lettuce wrap and crackers, tilapia with rice and veggies, baked potato topped with some chili, and pasta with lean meat and veggies.
Athletes should stick to familiar foods and limit those that cause gut distress or energy crashes. Possible problem foods before a game include those high in fat, sugar, fiber and sugar alcohols.
The following article will explain more in depth about pre-game nutrition and other relevant tips. Continue reading to find out more of my best softball nutrition tips to perform at your top potential.
What are the Best Nutrients Before a Softball Game?
Softball players needs a variety of nutrients to perform their best. Carbohydrates, protein and fat all play a role in fueling play. Athletes should also place emphasis on adequate fluid intake. Drinking enough fluid makes a significant impact on performance ability.
Here’s the important nutrients to focus on as part of your pre-game meal or snack:
As the main source of energy, avoiding or limiting carbohydrates will not favor good performance. Carbohydrate foods also provide energy supporting B vitamins and iron. A softball player should eat a higher amount of carbohydrates, especially in the meals and snacks leading up to a game.
Grains, fruit, vegetables, legumes (beans, lentils, soy), milk and yogurt are all good sources of carbohydrates. Carbohydrate foods higher in fiber add great health benefits when included in the diet. However, too much fiber eaten too close to game time can slow down digestion and may cause bloating, gas and other uncomfortable symptoms.
In the 30 minutes to 2 hours before expected exercise, softball players should include mostly low fiber carbohydrate foods. Examples include a bagel, pretzels, low sugar cereal, low-fat yogurt, or milk and fruit.
Known as the building block to the body, consuming adequate protein throughout the week and day leading up to game time supports recovery and growth. Protein does take longer to digest, and an athlete should only consume moderate protein with pre-game meals and snacks.
Adding some protein to the meals or snacks before a game can help prevent blood sugar crashes and assist with feeling satisfied throughout the game. Foods high in protein include meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds and dairy products.
Fatty cuts of meat, poultry and seafood, along with legumes, nuts and seeds contain higher amounts of fiber or fat. These types of protein foods make important health contributions but can cause gut distress when eaten too close to game time. Nut butters contain higher fat and fiber but are usually fine in appropriate amounts.
Fat provides energy, satiety and supports a healthy body. Due to the body digesting fat slowly, this nutrient should be included only in limited amounts as an athlete nears game time. Instead, a softball player should look to include healthy fats in meals and snacks throughout the rest of the week. Fats found in plant oils, seafood, avocado, olives, nuts and seeds provide many important health benefits to softball players and should be chosen more often than foods higher in saturated fats.
Games can last quite long in extreme temperatures during softball season. These conditions increase chances of dehydration. Dehydration not only harms performance, but can cause serious health issues.
In order to stay adequately hydrated, softball players will want to start focusing on fluids early. In fact, good hydration in the days prior to a game can help with improved training and health that increase performance. The color of urine offers a simple and effective way to check hydration status. Aim for a pale-yellow color.
About two hours before the game, athletes should drink 16 ounces (oz.) of water. Drinking an additional 8 oz. about fifteen minutes before the start of play is another good hydration practice. During the game, athletes should drink 4-6 oz. of fluid every 15 minutes. After the game, athletes should replace every pound of water weight lost with 16-24 oz. fluid.
Games or workouts that last longer than one hour or include excessive heat and sweating may necessitate fluids that contain electrolytes and carbohydrate. Otherwise, water is the best hydration tool to avoid over-consumption of sugar and calories.
What Not to Eat Before a Softball Game
Both type and quantity of food should be managed according to timing of eating occasion.
In the day and weeks leading up to a game, meals should contain a balance of food groups and nutrients. A good rule of thumb is to fill half the plate with fruit and vegetables, a quarter protein and a quarter grain. Athletes should eat less of foods high in sugar, saturated fats and sodium. However, athletes do not need to exclude these foods completely, just enjoy them in moderation. Severe restriction of any food or food group can increase risk of binging.
Generally, softball players can eat most foods in meals eaten 4 or more hours before a game. Individual athletes may find different timings work for them. The most important principle for meals and snacks on game day is to avoid eating anything new. New foods or eating routines may cause surprising or unpleasant symptoms that affect play.
As the game time gets closer, athletes will want to forgo eating large quantities of food and limit certain types of foods due to possible undesirable consequences. Large quantities of food, or even drinking too much fluid all at once can lead to side-aches, sloshing in stomach, sluggishness and bloating.
The following foods are harder for the body to digest and can cause gut discomfort during athletic performance. Foods high in fiber (beans, vegetables, whole grains, certain fruit with skin), high fat foods (fried foods, higher fat meat, full-fat dairy, desserts, nuts) and sugar alcohols (often sugar free foods) should be limited pre-game.
Foods high in sugar can provide energy initially, but the energy does not last long. Sugary foods often lead to a blood sugar spike and subsequent crash. This crash causes a softball player to feel tired during the game.
A softball player can enjoy these foods in appropriate quantities as part of an overall healthy eating pattern. However, in the hours before a game, easily digested carbohydrates and some protein make the best meals and snacks.
What Are Some Good Pre-Game Snacks for Softball?
A meal 3-4 hours before a game does not always keep a teenager feeling energized and satisfied through a long softball game. Eating a snack closer to game time can help support lasting fullness and energy levels. A snack 1-2 hours should focus on carbohydrate with some protein and any snack eaten less than an hour before a game should contain mostly easy to digest carbohydrates.
Snacks 1-2 Hours Pre-Game
- Bagel with peanut butter
- Greek yogurt with fruit
- Egg on toast
- Banana with almond butter
- Tortilla with lower-fat cheese
- Fruit smoothie
- Trail mix and dried fruit
- String cheese and crackers
- Hard-boiled egg and juice
- Pretzels and nut butter
Snacks Less Than 1-hour Pre-Game
- A piece of fruit (peeled decreases fiber)
- Light or unbuttered popcorn
- Pretzels or crackers
- Toasted bagel
- Dry cereal
What About Fueling After the Game?
After the game, a good carbohydrate and protein snack will help athletes replenish energy stores and assist with recovery. Softball players will also want to make sure they drink enough fluids to rehydrate well.
Generally, rehydration should occur as soon as possible. As highlighted earlier, an athlete should drink 16-24 ounces fluid for every pound of fluid lost. Water should work fine unless the game went longer than one hour, or the environment causes excess sweating. These conditions may warrant a drink with electrolytes and carbohydrates such as a sports drink or juice. In particular, studies show tart cherry juice can improve recovery due to inflammation fighting components.
A softball player should consume a post-game snack/meal 30-120 minutes after play. The earlier an athlete eats before game, the earlier she will want to eat after the game. If unable to eat a balanced meal in that time, athletes should consume a quick carbohydrate/protein snack.
- Chocolate milk
- Yogurt with fruit
- Nut butter on toast or crackers
- Cereal with milk
- Egg sandwich, carrots and hummus
- Fish with baked potato and roasted vegetables
- Bean burrito with fruit
- Taco salad with brown rice
Nutrition plays a key role in fueling a well played game and with recovery afterwards. Softball players should also ensure good sleep habits and stress management to further support top level performance.
For some more tips, be sure to check out:
- The BEST Post-Workout Snacks for Teenagers – Dietitian Recommended!
- Best Meal Plan for Teenage Athletes (FREE Download)
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