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The Best Time to Eat Pasta Before Football- According to a Dietitian

Pasta is a traditional pre-game meal to help football athletes carb-load. Before a football game an appropriate pre-game meal of starchy carbs is essential.

A pre-workout meal full of carbohydrates, like pasta, should be eaten between 1-4 hours before a football practice or game. You need time to start digesting the pasta before you start playing. This loads up your body with easy energy and will fuel you throughout your match.

You’ve heard that the pros like to fuel up on pasta, the traditional carb-loading favorite meal before a big game. You’ll definitely need to be playing at the top of your ability with tons of energy, and pasta is a pretty good idea to help you stock up and store the carbohydrates that you need to energize your game.

Nutrition is just as serious as training when it comes to reaching your top athletic performance during a football game. Football players expend maximum energy during their plays so their energy stores need to be adequately stocked to meet these needs. Carbohydrate intake is what will help you have the quick bursts of energy that you need to compete at your top game.

Keep reading for the importance of your pre-workout meal timing, the types of nutrients you need before training, what to eat the night before football, and the best meals to eat before a football game.

Looking for a little more help and guidance with football nutrition this season? I’ve got you covered-

Fueling Teens Nutrition Game Plan for High School Football Ebook

All you need to know for a healthy football season! Including a 28-day meal plan, snack idea list, tips for what, when, and how much to eat for football, game-day tips, plus more. Fuel up for your best football season yet and rise above the competition!

Click here for more information.

Should You Eat Right Before Playing Football?  

Yes you should eat something in the hours before playing football. It’s important to start a game with the most amount of fuel your body can use throughout the high-intensity of football.

When Should You Eat Pasta Before a Football Game?

Eating the right type and amount of healthy carbs can be the key to help a player maintain the best energy levels during a football game.

You need to eat close enough to game time so that you have your maximum amount of stored energy levels, but not too soon before the game that you are playing football on a full stomach. It takes some practice and individualization to find the best pre-game meal window for each football athlete.

A high school athlete should eat pasta between 1-4 hours before a football game. Pre-game meals full of carbohydrates, such as pasta, will help to boost performance during a football game by providing an efficient energy source.

Do a trial run before practice to see what time best meets your needs. Start by eating your pre-game meal 3-4 hours before you take to the field for your game. If you eat too early and find yourself needing a little more food and fuel before the game, you can always add an additional snack of quick carbohydrates 30 minutes before kickoff.

Many players find that they do best with their pre-game meal about 2 hours before the game. Do a trial run before a practice to see what works best for you without upsetting your stomach.

What about the night before a football game? 

Eat well the night before a game and get a good night’s rest. For dinner the night before, you’ll want more carbs than usual, but don’t over-do it. See my section below for more details.

How Much Should You Eat Before a Game?

Starchy carbohydrates are key before a game. You’ll want to fill up on those plus a moderate amount of protein and plenty of fluid.

Some professional football athletes like to carb-load in the days prior to their big event. Carb loading for you as a high school athlete means you need some extra carbs than normal in your meal, but not an excessive amount. You don’t have to stuff yourself full of pasta. The average player will need about 70+ grams of carbohydrates in their pre-game meal.

What does that look like? (carbs are an approximate amount).

  • 2 cups of pasta =80 grams of carbohydrates. Pair this with some tomato sauce, chicken, and veggies. 
  • 1 peanut butter and jelly sandwich plus a banana= 88 grams of carbohydrates. (Remember it’s okay to have white bread in this situation.) 
  • 3 pancakes =66 grams of carbohydrates. Add some nut spread, syrup, jam, or fruit. 

Choose a meal that is easily-portable to bring with you to school during the day so you can eat 1-4 hours before your football game. Learn to listen to your body’s hunger cues. Eat a good-sized portion, but don’t overeat. You don’t need to eat as many carbs as you can, just a healthy amount.

What Is The Best Food To Eat Before a Football Game? 

Carbohydrates (also known as carbs, sugar) is the main form of energy you need from food for exercise. Carbs are the preferred fuel for your muscles and brain to function at their best ability. Foods high in carbs aren’t usually recommended for a healthy diet, but right before a game they will give you a much needed energy boost.

What are good pre-game choices for carbs? All types of carbohydrates will work, but some are better than others when it comes to fueling you before a game. Starchy carbohydrates are key, they break down and can be stored as glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates for your muscles). These will be digested at an appropriate rate to provide the body a consistent source of energy over a few hours.

Best Carbohydrate Choices Before a Football Game:

Choose carbs from healthier options such as pasta, bagels, potatoes, bread, fruit, vegetables, rice, cereals, oatmeal, tortillas.

You should usually choose whole-grain pasta and other grains for meals, but right before a game isn’t the most important time because whole-wheat can cause bloating and discomfort during your game. It’s okay to stick with white pasta in this situation.

This pre-game meal is the most crucial. Don’t let pre-match nerves get in your way of a proper pre-game meal. If you find yourself having a case of pre-game nerves for the upcoming game and can’t eat a big meal, try to at least drink something substantial.

Try a big smoothie with a nutritional boost loaded with carbs and some protein (blend milk, frozen fruit, frozen vegetables, oats, protein powder, nuts, honey, etc.).

Limit your intake of processed carbohydrates such as sugary cereal, candy, soda, and dessert. Try to stay away from fatty foods and high-fiber foods. Too many fatty foods can cause an upset stomach during playing time.

If you eliminate these foods before a game, your body will be able to more efficiently give you needed energy and keep you from feeling sluggish and uncomfortable.

Some foods can hurt your playing ability and cause you to fatigue early, have pain and cramping during an important game, or play lower than your ability. Be sure to check out my post on The Worst Foods to Eat Before Football  in order to keep you playing at the top of your ability, fueled by only the best food sources.

Why Do Athletes Eat Pasta the Night Before a Game?

The night before the football game is still an important time to keep your carbohydrate stores replenished for energy throughout the next day.

Some professional athletes like to start carb-loading a few days before sports events. In preparation for game day, a traditional meal the night before includes loads of pasta.

Pasta is a favorite choice. All types of carbohydrates will work, but starchy carbohydrates, like pasta, are a great choice. They are digested and absorbed at an appropriate rate to fill up your energy stores for later. 

What Should I Eat the Night Before a Football Game?

The night before an important football game is just as important as the day of. Make sure to eat a nutritious meal for dinner and get enough sleep. 

Any balanced meal is appropriate the night before a football game and will provide needed fuel and nutrients. You don’t need to load up on as many carbohydrates as you can, but eat more than normal. Choose from the same types of healthier carbohydrates: 

  • Pasta -try pasta with chicken, tomato sauce, and some veggies. 
  • Bagels -a bagel sandwich with turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato.
  • Pancakes -try having breakfast for dinner. You could also try oatmeal. 
  • Potatoes -try baked potatoes with some meat and vegetables. 
  • Rice -stir fry with rice is a great choice. 
  • Tortillas -wraps, loaded quesadillas, etc. (go easy on spicy foods, fatty foods, and beans). 

Choose a meal the night before that is easy on your stomach and won’t cause heartburn, cramping, or an upset stomach for the next day. Plan your meal with less emphasis on fatty foods, and more emphasis on carbohydrates, lean proteins, and vegetables.

Pasta is one of the best choices because it is easily digestible, helps your body store energy, plus it’s simple to make and tastes delicious. 

Spend some time the night before to plan ahead for your pre-game meal the next day before your football game. Choose a carbohydrate that is portable to bring with you. Pasta is a great choice as a leftover from your meal the night before. It’s easy to pack in a lunch box- just reheat it. 

Need some meal inspiration? Check out my FREE meal plan for high school football athletes.

For more tips, check out my Nutrition Game Plan for High School Football Players ebook. All the information you need in one place for your best season of football!

Related Posts:


  • A pre-workout meal of pasta or other starchy carbohydrates is best eaten 1-4 hours before a football game. Practice what works best for you.
  • The goal is to start kickoff with a mostly empty stomach. Eat enough for fuel to keep you feeling satisfied, but don’t over-do it.
  • Aim for about 70 or more grams of carbohydrates in your pre-game meal. Be sure to also add a moderate amount of protein and plenty of fluid. 
  • The best foods to eat before a football game includes healthy carbohydrates that will digest at an efficient rate and store energy for use during your game.
  • Pasta, bagels, potatoes, bread, fruit, rice, cereals, oatmeal, and tortillas are appropriate choices when planned as part of an appropriate, balanced meal. 
  • The traditional athlete-favorite meal of pasta is a great way to carb-load before a game. 

Should You Eat Before Football?

You want to start a football game with the greatest amount of energy stored in order to play at your top potential for the longest amount of time. That means you need to plan out your meals and snacks the day of your football game. 

Yes, you need to eat something a few hours before a football game. Football athletes should always eat within a few hours before a football game to store energy to fuel their muscles during a high-intensity game. The best pre-game meals focus on a balance of nutrients, are high in carbohydrates, and contain protein.

Keep reading to see when you should eat and what you should eat before a football game.

Looking for a little more help and guidance with nutrition this football season? I’ve got you covered-

Fueling Teens Nutrition Game Plan for High School Football Ebook

All you need to know for a healthy football season! Including a 28-day meal plan, snack idea list, tips for what, when, and how much to eat for football, game-day tips, plus more. Fuel up for your best football season yet and rise above the competition!

Click here for more information.

How Long Before a Football Game Should I Eat?

Eating the right foods and right amounts is key for a football player to maintain the highest energy levels during a football game to play at their top potential. 

The timing of your pre-game meals and snacks is important. Plan your food so that you are eating close enough to game time to have a maximum amount of stored energy, but not too soon before the game that you end up playing football on a full stomach. It takes some practice to see what works for you individually to find the best pre-game meal window. 

In general, a high school football athlete should eat between 1-4 hours before a football game. Do a trial run on days you have football practice and see how you feel and how you perform after your pre-workout meal. It’s best to eat a little too early, because you can always add a quick snack before kickoff for some additional fuel.

Many players find they do best with a pre-game meal about 2 hours before the game. Do some trial runs before your practices to see what works best for you individually without upsetting your stomach. Start by eating your pre-workout meal 3 hours before football and then add a small snack 30 minutes to 1 hour before. Adjust as needed to fuel your game. 

What Should I Eat An Hour Before Football?

Many athletes prefer their pre-workout meal about 1-2 hours before football. If you prefer to eat 3-4 hours before the game, you might find that a snack about 1 hour before kickoff is appropriate to help you feel energized through the game. 

Right before football you’ll want to focus on eating some carbohydrates, moderate amounts of protein, and making sure you are properly hydrated. 

The best foods to eat right before football include bananas, grapes, dried fruit, toast, crackers, a granola bar, or trail mix. You can add a moderate amount of protein such as Greek yogurt, milk, hard boiled eggs, string cheese, etc. Go easy on the fiber and fat, you don’t want digestion issues on the playing field.

What Should I Eat Before Football Conditioning?

Whether it is an intense day of training or a football game, you need to properly prepare a nutrition plan to fuel your activity. Be smart about your meals and snacks during the day and the timing of when you eat.

To fuel your football game, you should focus on 2 key nutrients for your pre-game meals and snacks- carbs and protein, as well as some other vitamins and minerals, and of course water.

What to Include in a Pre- Workout Meal or Snack:


Carbohydrates (or sugar) is the main form of energy your body likes to use to fuel your muscles during exercise. The good news about carbs is that your body can store them (in limited amounts) for use throughout the day.

You want to start a football game with your levels topped off and ready to provide energy for as long as possible during a vigorous football game. You want your muscles to have as much stored energy as possible.

Carbohydrates are natural sugars found in foods such as starchy vegetables, fruit, dairy products, and grains.

Some good pre-game choices for carbs are starchy carbohydrates such as pasta, bagels, potatoes, fruit, bread, rice, corn, cereal, oatmeal, tortillas, etc. These forms of carbohydrates are digested at an appropriate rate to provide you with a consistent energy source over the next few hours.

You need to continually refill your carbohydrate stores throughout the day before, during, and after a football game. A sports drink or small amount of carbs may be appropriate during your football game when you are exerting yourself super hard in order to replenish your body’s carbohydrate stores.


While protein only contributes a small amount of energy during your game, you need protein because it helps repair your muscle tissue. You need a moderate amount of protein in a pre-game meal, but save your high-protein shakes and bars for after the game. 

What are appropriate pre-game protein foods? Choose lean proteins like chicken breast, ground turkey, tuna fish, or peanut butter, Greek yogurt, a protein bar, etc. Consume around 15-30 grams of protein at each meal and snack during the day. 

Vitamins and Minerals

Athletes need other nutrients for an overall healthy body with proper function during a football game. You don’t need expensive fancy supplements to be healthy. If you choose an overall balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains you’ll be able to provide your body with an appropriate balance and variety of all the nutrients it needs. 


Don’t forget to properly hydrate yourself before a football game. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and during your sporting event. While juices and sports drinks can help, water is best for hydration.

Check out my post Should Football Players drink Gatorade? for other tips when sports drinks might be appropriate. 

Some foods can negatively impact your playing ability and cause you to fatigue early, experience stomach pain and cramping, or otherwise hurt your athletic ability. Be sure to check out my post on What NOT to Eat Before Football for a list of some foods to stay away from in order to keep you playing at the top of your ability.

What Should I Eat the Morning of a Football Game?

Another popular question is about breakfast before a football game. Make your breakfast meal high in carbohydrates, lean proteins, water, and go easy on the fat.

Plan your breakfast around healthy carbohydrates. Choose a whole-grain cereal such as oatmeal and pair it with a glass of juice, banana, and toast. If you have a hard time consuming a big meal for breakfast, choose a fruit smoothie instead.

Here are some other appropriate breakfast options for a football player:

  • Oatmeal, juice, and toast
  • Greek yogurt, fruit, and granola
  • Whole wheat cereal, fruit, and milk
  • Eggs, pancakes, and milk
  • A high-carb smoothie
  • Hard-boiled eggs and toast with nut butter
  • Bagel with nut butter and yogurt
  • Avocado toast with egg

Summary | TL;DR

  • Football athletes should always eat within 1-4 hours before a football game to make sure they have enough stored energy to fuel their muscles. 
  • The best pre-game meals focus on carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein, healthy vitamins and minerals, and water. 
  • Experiment to find the best pre-game meal timing that works for you so you aren’t playing on a full stomach, but you have enough energy to fuel your game. 
  • Enjoy these tips and want more information on how to fuel your best football season yet? Check out my ebook- Nutrition Game Plan for High School Football. All the tips you need in one place including a 28-day meal plan, snack ideas, meal schedule, supplement recommendations, hydration tips, what/when/how much to eat, and more!

Related Posts:

Is Whey Protein Safe for Teenage Athletes? Here’s What Dietitians Recommend

Protein is important for athletes and protein supplements are often an easy way for athletes to fit in their post-workout protein to help repair and build muscles.

Some brands of protein powders are acceptable and safe for teenagers, however most teen athletes do not need additional protein and many protein powders are unsafe for teenagers. Teens should avoid most supplements, including protein powders, and get nutrients through whole foods.

Growing teen athletes should focus on getting appropriate nutrition for growth, development, and physical activity.

Whey protein is a popular choice for protein powder because it is easily digested and absorbed for use to build your muscles. Find protein powder tips for teenagers below as well as how much protein a teenage athlete needs and the best protein powders and shakes for teens.

What is Whey Protein?

Whey is a protein found in dairy. It is the watery part of milk which is removed during the cheese-making process.

Whey liquid goes through a few more processing steps until it is a powder that is added to meal replacement shakes, protein bars, and more. It’s not very tasty by itself so it is usually flavored vanilla, chocolate, even cookies and creme or berry.

Whey protein is a complete protein, which means it contains all the essential amino acids to build proteins in your body. It has little fat, little lactose, and it is digested quickly, although it may cause bloating and an upset stomach in some people.

You may not want to take whey protein if you are lactose-intolerant or sensitive to dairy foods (whey isolate or hydrolysate may work for you, but probably not whey concentrate which contains amounts of lactose).

Whey protein is a popular choice for protein supplements, even in some baby formula. However, whey protein supplements should be used with caution.

Benefits of Whey Protein

  • Easily digested.
  • Rich in branched- chain amino acids (BCAAs). Leucine, a BCAA, helps promote muscle growth and recovery after exercise.
  • May help you feel “full” and reduce appetite, which could help you lose weight.
  • Complete Protein- contains all essential amino acids that your body cannot make.

Is Whey Protein Safe For Teenage Athletes? 

Teenagers may want to use protein powder to bulk up or become bigger, stronger, and faster on the field. But likely, teens don’t really need it. Consuming extra protein above a teen’s recommended amount won’t be useful, and could possibly even be harmful.

Whey protein is made from milk, so if you choose a supplement, choose one that is just whey protein without other additives. Whey itself is likely fairly safe when purchased in this natural form from a high-quality manufacturer.

The Dangers of Protein Supplements for Teens:

Most protein powders have fine print warnings that say “intended for healthy adults over the age of 18“. This is because supplements are not strictly regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Protein supplements are intended for adults over age 18 because their effects are not studied on teenagers and may not be safe for teens.

Since protein powders are not heavily regulated, some have been found to contain prohibited substances or be contaminated with toxic chemicals and harmful ingredients for teenagers and children (heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury, arsenic, lead, or other toxins such as BPA have been found in protein supplements). This is a risk to healthy teens as they are growing and developing and going through puberty.

Additionally, many protein drinks contain not-so-good-for-you fillers and added sugars. With potential unsafe ingredients for teens, protein powders should not be your go-to for increasing protein in a teenager’s diet. I’ll give my favorite tips for getting more protein without protein supplements below.

See also: Meal Plan for Teenage Athletes

Excess Protein:

Teen athletes need more protein than non-active teens. Some teens could benefit from a protein supplement, however there are still some risks, including risks related to excess protein intake.

It is hard to get too much protein from food, but if a teen adds protein powder to their diet they are likely getting too much protein. A diet too high in protein for a teen can cause dangerous side effects such as kidney problems, dehydration, liver problems, and calcium losses (i.e. weak bones).

Eating too much protein also equals excess calories that are usually stored in the form of fat which equals unwanted weight gain. Although protein is an essential nutrient, it’s possible for a teen to consume too much. The body can only use so much protein, so any extra won’t result in more muscle and greater health. Extra calories from protein are stored as fat.

Too much whey protein can also have unwanted side effects such as nausea, flatulence, diarrhea, pain and cramping.

The healthiest and best way for teenage athletes to get extra protein is through food. Teens can get enough protein through their diet, even if they are trying to put on muscle. Eating enough servings of lean meats, fish, dairy, eggs, nuts, and seeds will help teenagers get plenty of protein without going over-board. Most teens get plenty of protein in their diet through regular foods.

Even so, there may be a place for protein powder in your teenage athlete’s diet. If busy kids aren’t hitting their daily protein target it can be harmful for overall growth and development.

Young vegetarians, high-carb eaters, and some underweight kids may not be getting enough protein. In these cases, a safe protein powder for teenagers could be recommended with a doctor’s approval.

This would only apply to a small number of teenagers, please ask your doctor before using any supplements. It is also a good idea to consult with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to determine protein intake goals for your teenager.

My advice (a registered dietitian nutritionist): protein powders are not necessary for most teen athletes. A well-balanced protein-rich diet will benefit you a lot more than protein powder ever will. Stick to whole foods in order to get enough protein in your diet. If you do need a little extra protein, use small amounts of protein powder. Look for a protein powder without artificial sweetener and flavors.

Why Athletes Need Protein

Protein intake is important for everyone, but especially for athletes. Your body needs enough protein spaced out regularly through the day to help you build, strengthen, repair, and maintain muscle and other body tissue after a workout.

Protein requirements for athletes are greater than other sedentary individuals. Occasionally a supplement may be required.

How Much Protein Do Teenagers Need?

Non-athlete teenagers need about 0.3 to 0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight (about 0.85 grams per kilogram). This equals about 40 to 60 grams of protein per day, depending on size. This can easily be met through whole foods.

How Much Protein Do Teen Athletes Need?

Teenagers need a lot of protein due to the years of growth and development, but teenage athletes need even more protein than kids who aren’t physically active. Protein needs depend on age, gender, weight, and activity levels.

Teenage athletes need about 0.45 to 0.6 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, a slight increase from the recommendations for non-athletes. This is about 50 to 90 grams per day, depending on size.

Teens athletes can meet their protein requirements by including protein foods a few times regularly spaced throughout the day. Many animal and plant sources contain protein, but high-quality protein is from animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products, as well as soy products. These are the best protein sources teens can include in their diet.

Studies have found that young athletes eat plenty of protein, even 2 or 3 times more than the recommended amount. Adding even more protein to their diets will not help them build additional muscle.

Supplementing with whey protein is not likely necessary. If teens already eat enough meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products, they probably don’t need extra whey protein supplements.

Is it OK For a Teenager to Drink Protein Shakes?

Protein shakes are pre-mixed protein drinks that are bought ready-to-drink. These usually contain added fillers such as sugars and artificial sweeteners, fat, and other ingredients. I wouldn’t recommend protein shakes to teenagers.

If you really like protein shakes you can make your own! Blend some greek yogurt, chia seeds, and frozen fruits and vegetables to get 20+ grams of protein, an appropriate amount pre- or post-workout. You don’t need to add protein powder for a protein-packed smoothie or shake.

For teenagers looking to build muscle, they might want to include some protein shakes. The best way to build muscle isn’t to load up on protein, but to be smart about when you eat protein. Eating a balanced amount of protein 3-4 or more times per day will help you build muscle.

If your physician recommends protein shakes, stick with an age-appropriate protein powder, and not pre-made shakes. The serving size is typically 1-2 scoops of protein powder per day for anywhere from 20-50 grams of protein. I would recommend only 1/2 scoop per day, but teens can get the protein they need from a healthy diet.

Should 16-year-olds Take Protein Shakes? 

Protein shakes are not necessary and could even be unsafe for a 16-year old, even for an athlete. A 16-year old needs around 50 grams of protein per day. Protein needs can be met with food easily. By including a protein food at each meal and snack, you will get plenty of protein to meet your needs.

Here’s a Sample Menu of More Than 50 Grams of Protein in a Day:

  • Breakfast- Protein shake made with 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, 1 cup milk, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, 1 frozen banana, 1/4 cup frozen zucchini, and 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter. (20 grams of protein)
  • Snack- small handful of trail mix, string cheese (15 grams of protein)
  • Lunch- 3 oz tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread, apple, 1/4 cup hummus, carrot sticks, crackers (33 grams of protein)
  • Snack- 8 oz Greek yogurt with 1/4 cup granola (18 grams of protein)
  • Dinner- 1 cup leafy green salad, 2 bean burritos with salsa (30 grams of protein)
  • Grand total for the day = 116 grams of protein in a normal day without even trying. Teens need between 40-90 grams of protein per day, which means most teens are getting plenty of protein.

Best Protein Powders and Protein Shakes for Teens. 

Again, whole foods are best and teenage athletes can get plenty of protein from foods. If there is a place for protein supplements in a teenager’s diet they should look for one that doesn’t have added sugars, artificial sweeteners, fillers, supplements, or fats.

My Recommendations for Whey Protein and Vegan Protein for Teenagers:

(be sure check with your doctor before using a protein supplement!)

Naked Whey Grass Fed Unflavored Whey Protein Powder. I like that this brand is organic, has zero additives, and claims zero contamination from heavy metals and other unsafe ingredients. Pure and simple straight whey protein, but unflavored and probably doesn’t taste very good plain. Mix it with your favorite smoothies, oatmeal, or a glass of milk.

CalNaturale Svelte Organic Protein Drink. This one is not whey. Svelte is dairy-free and plant-based made of soy-milk for anyone that is lactose intolerant or vegan. It has added vitamins and minerals and it is also gluten-free, organic, vegan, low in sugar, and doesn’t use artificial flavorings. You can find it here on Amazon, they are having a sale right now on your first order. You can also get it at your grocery store.

Orgain Organic Whey Protein Powder– this is one of the only ones that isn’t sweetened with artificial sweetener. It has some fiber and no added sugar. Orgain claims it is healthy for adults and kids. They also have vegan plant-based protein powder here.

Organic Valley Milk Protein Shake– This protein shake is organic, lactose-free, and contains 26 grams of milk protein. Get it here on Amazon.

Homemade Protein Smoothie – but really the best option for protein intake is a homemade smoothie or shake using whole food ingredients. Experiment with a few options and you’ll find some delicious shakes. You can fit a lot of protein in a homemade smoothie with the right ingredients. Here’s a sample customizable recipe to get you started:

  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1-2 cups milk
  • 1-2 tablespoons chia or flax seeds
  • 1 cup frozen fruit such as bananas, berries, peaches, mangoes
  • 1 cup vegetables such as spinach, zucchini, kale, celery, beets
  • Any other add-ins: oats, nut butter, cocoa powder, vanilla, ice, etc.

Getting protein from whole food is more beneficial than using supplements. A homemade protein shake can provide 20+ grams of protein without using any protein powder. It’s easy to bring a homemade shake to school for breakfast or before practice in a Blender Bottle. You can get a good price for a set from Amazon here. (I love to use mine as a water bottle too!)

Need more help with game nutrition this season? Check out my meal plans:

My newest ebook will help you with a 28-meal plan, customizable snacks, supplement tips, how to lose or gain weight the right way, meal schedule, etc.


  • Whey protein has many benefits and can help build muscle, however protein supplements aren’t recommended for teenagers.
  • Unregulated contaminants and unsafe ingredients for teenagers have been found in protein supplements.
  • Protein powders can cause excess protein intake which is harmful.
  • The best way to have a high-protein diet is to plan a diet of evenly spaced out high-protein foods such as meats, fish, dairy products, seeds, nuts, and beans throughout the day.

Check Out Some of my Other Posts for Teenage Athletes:


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. How Teen Athletes Can Build Muscle with Protein. Jill Castle, MS, RDN. Accessed September 24, 2018.

Should Football Players Drink Alcohol?

You want to be like the top players and do the things they do and eat the things they eat? So what about alcohol?

Alcohol intake can lead to a risk of nutritional deficiencies, heart disease, cancer, liver disease, plus intoxication, alcoholism, and poor decisions.

Seems risky. But football players tend to be thrill-seekers and drinking tends to mimic the “high” response that adrenaline-addicted football players are after. Many football players choose to drink alcohol, often in very unsafe quantities. The NFL is unfortunately known for chronic misuse of alcohol, and even binge drinking problems among players.

Athletes should be very careful about alcohol intake because they may jeopardize their athletic performance and overall health.

Keep reading for more tips and information about alcohol intake, hydration, sports drinks, and football.

Looking for a little more help and guidance with nutrition this season? I’ve got you covered-

Fuelint Teens Nutrition Game Plan for High School Football Ebook

All you need to know for a healthy football season! Including a 28-day meal plan, snack idea list, hydration recommendations, tips for what, when, and how much to eat for football, plus more. Fuel up for your best football season yet and rise above the competition!

Click here for more information.

Do Professional Football Players Drink Alcohol?

Tom Brady– arguably the best quarterback of all time- does not drink alcohol. If you want to be the next Tom Brady, you might think twice about drinking. His health is important to him as evidenced by his dietary practices. He takes care of himself inside and out and doesn’t want alcohol to affect his playing ability on the field.

There are some professional football players that do NOT drink alcohol. Some have chosen so for health reasons, religious reasons, and others because alcoholism has been an issue for them in the past (DUIs, rehab) and they have decided to come clean and stay sober.

There are many other top sports stars who abstain from drinking alcohol. Cristiano Ronaldo, the top soccer player, does not drink alcohol due to family history (his father passed away from alcoholism).

As an elite athlete, professional football players should take their job very seriously and treat their bodies carefully and abstain from alcohol. In the very least they should be very smart about their alcohol intake and drink very little.

Some players hit the bars every Friday and party for most of the weekend and turn into alcoholics and have rough lives because of it. Others choose to drink occasionally in moderation and sometimes not at all.

Teams often have rules regarding alcohol intake, curfews for partying, etc. What does your team teach you? Follow the limits that your coaches give you, it’s for your own health and safety and helps you play at your best ability. 

Why Alcohol is Bad For High School Athletes

Here’s a list of some of the reasons and health risks for why football players, especially high school football players, should not drink alcohol: 

  • #1 reason- you’re underage and you should not consume alcohol illegally. 
  • Increased blood pressure – Alcohol constricts blood vessels which means less blood flow is going to muscles. That means less energy and less oxygen is being delivered to your muscles. This is especially bad if you consumed alcohol before football.
  • Elevated triglycerides – Triglycerides are a type of fat in your blood that is stored in fat cells. You don’t want this level to be too high as it could lead to worse health problems. 
  • Liver damage – Alcohol-related liver disease is preventable by not drinking. It causes inflammation, fat build-up, scarring, and reduced liver function. 
  • Increased risk of cancer – Alcohol use increases your risk of a lot of diseases, including certain cancers. 
  • Extra calories and weight gain– Alcohol provides extra calories which could lead to weight gain and other health conditions
  • Poor performance– Your athletic performance will be negatively impacted. Your endurance, speed, agility, balance, and coordination will be reduced and your body’s ability to recover and build stronger muscles will decrease. 
  • Diuretic effects– Alcohol can be a diuretic, so drinking too much makes you dehydrated and makes you pee more. 
  • Compromises the immune system– Alcohol decreases your immune system response, which you need to stay healthy and to recover after a game.
  • Ruins lives– In large amounts, alcohol ruins performance, health, careers, relationships, and lives.  

The effect of alcohol depends on many factors, including the timing of alcohol consumption, recovery time, injury status, and dose being consumed. Athletes should abstain from alcohol to avoid the negative impact on recovery and athletic performance.

I chose to list the more severe risks of regularly drinking because athletes tend to over-indulge alcohol often and can become alcoholics. Athletes tend to consume greater amounts of alcohol through bingeing behavior compared with the general population, and put themselves at greater risk of alcohol-related problems.

Effects of Drinking Alcohol Before a Football Game

Timing of alcohol intake matters. It is not a good idea to drink alcohol before you are physically active. Do not drink alcohol the day of a football game. Even if you drink the night before a big football game, your performance will be negatively impacted.

During a football game you need your body to be healthy and perform at your top ability. If you recently consumed alcohol it causes difficulties for you to be at your best.

Your performance will suffer because your body will have a hard time processing stored fuel for your muscles, your playing capabilities and focus will be off, and you will increase your risk for injury. Here’s more details about these negative side effects:

1. Your Body Cannot Effectively Process Stored Fuel For Your Muscles

Your body has a hard time processing alcohol and turning it into energy. Your liver has to focus on processing alcohol, which means it will be less efficient at producing glucose for energy during a game.

2. Playing Capabilities Will Be Negatively Affected

There is a common belief that alcohol aids performance- this is not likely, there is a decrease in your endurance even if small amounts of alcohol are consumed before a game.

Alcohol impairs strength, power, muscular endurance, reaction time, memory, concentration, and dexterity during playing. With decreased coordination and delayed reactions you certainly won’t be playing at your best.

3. Increases Your Risk for Injury

With compromised motor skills, impaired balance, and poor judgment, your performance is highly affected and your risk for injury is increased. If you are injured, alcohol will negatively impact your body’s healing process as well. Alcohol decreases your immune function, resulting in prolonged healing time.

Effects of Drinking Alcohol After a Football Game

Alcohol negatively affects playing capabilities, so most athletes do not drink before a football game. Drinking in celebration or defeat after a game is much more common and a likely time for athletes to drink, but still has negatively effects on you and your body.

Drinking alcohol is seen as a reward for the hard work put in during the game or for relaxation, so the majority of problematic alcohol use occurs in the hours after a game. Alcohol consumption after a game won’t affect performance, but it interferes with the recovery process.

Here’s some common problems of consuming alcohol after a football game:

1. Nutritional Deficiencies

After a game is a common time for athletes to consume alcohol, however this is the crucial time for correct nutritional strategies to recover, refuel, and rehydrate. You need to refuel with carbohydrates, protein, electrolytes, and plenty of water. You should never re-hydrate with alcohol. Alcohol does not contain enough carbs or electrolytes for proper recovery.

Alcohol also inhibits your body’s absorption of nutrients from food, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies with serious health and performance implications. Follow nutrition guidelines in the hours after a game, your body needs it.

2. Less Protein Synthesis

After physical activity your body repairs and rebuilds muscle tissue to make it stronger and bigger. With alcohol in your blood, there is less protein synthesis so recovery is negatively impacted. Alcohol reduces your production of testosterone and inhibits recovery and muscle adaptation to exercise. Your muscles won’t be built bigger and your endurance won’t increase as much with alcohol.

3. Poor Sleep 

Athletes need adequate sleep! Alcohol intake negatively affects your sleep, especially if you have a hangover. It disrupts your sleep cycles and quality of sleep. Sleep is so important after a sporting event- it is needed to help your body recover and decrease your risk of injuries. You need more sleep after a football game than normal. Getting enough rest is essential for proper recovery to build and grow your muscle tissue. 

4. Bingeing

It is common among athletes to celebrate or reward themselves after a game by binge drinking and consuming large amounts of alcoholic beverages. Bingeing behavior is harmful and associated with long-term physical, psychological and social problems.

Alcohol Recommendations for High School Football Players

There is no safe amount of alcohol for teenage athletes. Only adults of LEGAL age may consume alcohol, and then only 1-2 drinks are recommended. Alcohol hinders athletic performance and recovery and intake should be avoided for athletes hoping to be at their top performance capabilities.

Alcohol is a drug and a poison and should be treated like one and avoided. Consuming even low doses of alcohol before or after athletic performance is discouraged due to the negative effects of alcohol on performance and recovery.

If you are of legal age and choose to drink alcohol, always be smart and responsible about your choices. Start with a nonalcoholic drink first- preferably water- especially if you are thirsty.

Drink your alcoholic beverages slowly and don’t drink on an empty stomach. Choose to drink 1-3 glasses of water between alcoholic beverages and don’t over-do it. If you don’t drink alcohol, starting is never recommended.


  • Drinking alcohol negatively affects athletic performance and recovery.
  • Alcohol intake is not recommended for athletes, especially for teenagers. Drinking too much alcohol can affect you for days after and cause poor decisions and bad habits. 
  • Anyone can become an alcoholic, those who are safe from the effects are those who abstain from alcohol.
  • Enjoyed these tips? Want more nutrition information for your football season? Be sure to check out my ebook- Nutrition Game Plan for High School Football. All you need to know for high school football nutrition in one place!

Check out some of my related posts:

Free Meal Plan for High School Football Players

Should Football Players Drink Gatorade?

Best Fruit For Teen Athletes

The Worst Foods to Eat Before Football

How Big Should Football Players Be?

How Many Calories Does a High School Football Player Need?


1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eat Right and Drink Responsibly.

2. American College of Sports Medicine Health and Fitness Journal. Alcohol and Athletic Performance. Volpe, Stella Lucia Ph.D., R.D., L.D.N., FACSM. May/June 2019. Volume 14(3):28-30.

The Worst Foods to Eat Before Football

Football season– It’s game day and you need to fuel yourself with the best pre-game meal to provide you with major performance benefits. Here’s the list of foods to avoid before a football game, as well as recommendations for best pre-game meals. 

Worst Foods to Eat Before Football

You know a lot of the best foods for fuel, but what should you NOT eat before a football game?

Just because you’ve been working your hardest all week and eating right, doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want on game day. You need to be focused so you can give it your all and be at the top of your game. Nutrition is as big of a deal as training.

What foods should you avoid before a football game? You can probably guess that fatty foods and desserts are on the list, but the other items might surprise you.

Get the list below. Start small and make simple improvements to your nutrition plan and you will notice major performance benefits.

Keep reading for a list of foods that athletes should not eat before a football game. This post will also discuss what types of foods you should eat on game day and how to best fuel yourself for a game.

Looking for a little more help and nutrition guidance this season? I’ve got you covered

Nutrition Game Plan for High School Football Ebook

All you need to know for a healthy football season! Including a 28-day meal plan, snack idea list, tips for what, when, and how much to eat for football, plus more. Fuel up for your best football season yet and rise above the competition!

Click here for more information.

Foods to Avoid Before Playing Football: 

There are certain foods you definitely don’t want to eat before playing football. It will benefit you to avoid these food items throughout your season, and before practices as well, but you’ll for sure want to stay away from these types of foods and drinks the day of your game. This list is made up of food that will cause discomfort and an upset stomach, as well as foods that will negatively affect your performance. 

Here’s the list. Don’t eat these foods the day of a football game:

Fatty Foods– including any fried food, french fries, hamburgers, fried chicken, greasy pizza, bacon. You will have an upset stomach with possible bloating, pain, and diarrhea.

Caffeine– soda, tea, and coffee will not be your friends before a football game, especially if they have excess sugar and calories. Caffeine can actually negatively affect your hydration status. Hydrate with plain water. (note: small amounts of caffeine may help during exercise, but there’s negative effects as well).

Carbonated Beverages– the air bubbles from the carbonation will stay in your stomach for an unpleasant indigestion experience. Any sugary beverage is not a great choice.

Alcohol- Alcoholic beverages don’t count towards your hydration. They have diuretic properties and are dehydrating. Plus exercising under the influence is a terrible idea and can lead to injury.

Artificial Sweeteners– Be careful with your consumption of artificial sweeteners. They can affect digestion and cause an upset stomach which is not desirable on game day. Stay away from any candy, sports drinks, diet soda, etc. which are labeled with “zero calories” or “zero sugar” (for example: Gatorade Zero and other sports drinks).

Gassy Foods– such as beans (watch out for hummus), and cruciferous vegetables cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli. You don’t want to be embarrassed or feeling intestinal discomfort during your game.

Desserts- especially pastries, doughnuts, cakes, muffins, ice cream, and cookies. These are high in all the wrong types of nutrients and are not what you want in your body for fuel when you’re trying to perform at your best.

Spicy Foods- Know your personal limit here. You don’t want to have heartburn during a game. Be careful with mexican foods, asian foods, and salsas. Bland, easy-to-digest foods are best.

Energy Drinks- you heard me right. Which energy drink does your team swear by for performance enhancement? While popular among football players, skip the energy drink.

They are usually carbonated and full of sugar and too much caffeine (some caffeine may help during a workout- but there’s negative effects as well). Some sports drinks might be helpful, but energy drinks typically contain too many ingredients you want to avoid.

Foods to Limit Before a Football Game:

This next list is foods that might be okay to eat before your game, but within reason. An appropriate portion is fine, but a larger portion could negatively affect your playing ability. Moderation in all things is best.

Here’s the list of pre-game foods to limit: 

Fiber– again this one is important due to possible stomach problems. Eat some fruit and vegetables the day of your game, but don’t over-do it.

Fat– fats take the longest to digest of the macronutrients. Fat is necessary for any balanced diet, but you will want to eat a low amount before football games. Proteins and carbohydrates process faster and give you an energy boost. A fatty meal could sit in your stomach for hours and cause discomfort while you play.

Sugar– it can give you quick energy, but then you’ll feel a “crash” later on as your blood sugar drops and you will actually feel more fatigued. If you didn’t plan your pre-game meals and snacks properly then some quick sugar right before a game is appropriate.

You might also be accustomed to having some sugar during the game (sports drinks, gels, candy) to quickly refuel your body’s stores of carbohydrates, but you don’t need very much.

Protein -protein takes longer to digest than starch. Eat a moderate amount of protein in your pre-game meal. You won’t want it in large quantities before a football game. Shoot for 15-25 grams of protein in your pre-game meal and 15 grams in your snack. After a football game is the best time for protein.

Processed Foods- Limit the processed foods you eat during game day. You don’t want to fuel your tank with chips, pretzels, crackers, and other processed snacks. Have appropriate pre-game meals and snacks.

Dairy Products-  Know your personal limits with dairy. Some people are more sensitive to dairy and develop stomachaches and cramps. While chocolate milk can be a great post-game recovery drink, try not to consume dairy 1-2 hours before a game if you are sensitive to dairy.

What is the Best Food to Eat Before a Football Game? 

Now you know the list of the foods to avoid, here’s the types of fuel you will want for your pre-game meal before your football game. Fuel up on a balanced meal a few hours before a game, then add a snack and you’ll be ready to go at your top performance.

Carbohydrates –

Carbohydrates (also known as carbs, sugar) is the main form of energy you need from food for exercise. Carbs are the preferred fuel for your muscles and brain to function at their best ability. Carbs are your friend– game day is not the time to try any low-carb diet to lose weight.

The good news about carbohydrates is that your body can store a certain amount for later, about the amount that will fuel 1 hour’s worth of physical activity. That means carbs are so important to consume throughout the day before a game. You want your muscles to have as much stored energy as possible.

You can only store some carbs and you’ll need to be continually refilling your stores throughout the day in order to perform at your top potential. It’s important to note that a sports drink or small amount of carbs may be appropriate during your football game when you are exerting yourself super hard in order to replenish your body’s carbohydrate stores.

What are good pre-game choices for carbs? All types of carbohydrates will work, but some are better than others when it comes to fueling you before a game. Starchy carbohydrates are key, they are your friend. They break down and can be stored as glycogen effectively. These will be digested at an appropriate rate to provide the body a consistent source of energy over a few hours.

Choose carbs from healthier options such as pasta, potatoes, bread, fruit, vegetables, rice, cereals, oatmeal, tortillas, etc. Limit intake of processed carbohydrates such as white bread, sugary cereal, and dessert. (It’s okay to choose white over wheat right before a game because whole wheat options have more fiber and may cause bloating for some).

You’ll want around 70 grams or more carbohydrates as part of your pre-game meal and about 30 grams as part of your snack.


Protein only contributes a small amount to providing fuel during your game. You need protein because it is made up of the building blocks for making muscles and other tissue in your body.

Your body needs a moderate amount in a pre-game meal. Pre-game is not the most important time to focus on protein, so don’t over-do it with many protein shakes and bars, save those for after the game.

What are good pre-game choices for protein? Choose an appropriate amount of chicken breast, ground turkey, peanut butter, fish such as tuna, an energy bar, or dairy products like cheese and yogurt based on personal tolerance, etc.

Vitamins and Minerals-

Other nutrients are important for your overall health and body’s function during the game. Vitamins and minerals are needed in small amounts for all systems of your body to work properly. You don’t need expensive fancy supplements to be healthy, choose a balanced diet and you’ll be fine.

What foods are high in vitamins and minerals? Choose foods with high nutritional value. Choose vegetables. fruits, grains, lean meats, fish, dairy products, beans, nuts, and seeds. Include an appropriate variety of these foods in all shapes and colors- remember to “eat the rainbow” for a balance of all the important nutrients you’ll need.


Don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated before, during, and after football. Water is best! See my post on Should Football Players Drink Gatorade? for advice on sports drinks.

Here are a Few Additional Tips When Planning Your Pre-Game Meal:

  • Finish your pre-game meal a few hours before kick off so you aren’t full before game time. See below for best meal-timing tips.
  • It’s all about planning ahead- bring your lunch and dinner to school so you’ll be prepared and won’t have to rely on nearby fast food or school vending machines for game day meals. 
  • Try new things, and find a plan that works best for you before football game day. Football season isn’t the best time to try a new diet.
  • You can easily get all the appropriate nutrients by eating a well-planned and balanced meal. Don’t stress about eating perfectly, just do your best. Most people get plenty of carbohydrates and protein daily without following a nutrition plan. 

Best Examples For an Appropriate Football Pre-Game Meal: 

  • The classic- pasta with sauce plus some lean chicken or ground turkey.
  • Pancakes and fruit.
  • Green smoothie and toast. 
  • Oatmeal, toast, and juice. 
  • Peanut butter sandwich and a banana.
  • Whole wheat cereal, milk, and banana slices.
  • Baked sweet potato with shredded bbq chicken.

How Much Should You Eat Before a Football Game? 

You need to eat a good-sized meal to fuel you before your game, but not too much. The goal is to have an empty stomach by kickoff. No one likes to exert themselves on a full stomach, and you need to be in your best shape by game time.

If you eat too much ahead of time, you will have too much weight of food in your stomach without any of the benefits of that food.

Learn to listen to your body’s hunger cues. Eat a good-sized portion, but don’t overeat. You don’t need to eat as many carbs as you can, just a healthy amount.

When in doubt- eat early and supplement with a snack before game time.

When Should You Eat Before a Football Game?

Personal preference is important when considering timing of meals and snacks before your football game.

There’s also some variation with best timing depending on what you are eating. Anything liquid will be digested very quickly, while more protein and fat will take longer to digest.

The recommended window for a pre-game meal is 1-4 hours before the game. Eat an appropriately sized meal that is full of carbohydrates and easy on the fiber, fat, protein, and sugar.

Try eating 4 hours before and then if you get too hungry before game time, eat a decent snack 30 minutes before kick off. Then next time you might try eating 3 hours before and see how that goes. Experiment for what is best for your body and your performance.

What Should You Drink Before a Football Game? 

Water is hands-down the best choice for hydration before a football game. If your pre-game meal was 3-4 hours before the game, you might choose to have a sports drink right before the game to give you some carbohydrates.

Expensive energy and sports drinks typically provide too much sugar, save the sports drinks for half time when you need to refuel.

Check out my post on sports drinks to see if Gatorade is appropriate to drink during football.

Check out my meal plans for a specific nutrition plan for football season and my Nutrition Game Plan for High School Football ebook for more information on what, how much, and when to eat to appropriately fuel you for football.


  • Before a high school football game avoid foods that will cause any stomach discomfort as well as foods that will negatively impact your performance. 
  • Fuel up on carbohydrates and fluid with a moderate amount of protein. And remember to limit fat, sugar, and fiber in your pre-game meal.
  • Eat foods with high nutritional value.
  • Eat a pre-game meal 1-4 hours before kickoff and eat a pre-game snack if you need it. Eat enough to keep you comfortably full for a few hours so that by game time you will not be playing on a full stomach. 
  • Hydrate with water before a football game. Sports drinks are occasionally appropriate to re-fuel during the game. 
  • The best thing to do is experiment with your pre-game nutrition plan before practice until you find out what works best for your body. Then when game day comes you will have the perfect game plan to fuel your peak performance. 
  • If you’ve enjoyed these tips and are looking for more nutrition information, check out my Nutrition Game Plan for High School Football ebook. All you need to know for football nutrition in one place including a 28-day meal plan!

Eat. Fight. Win!


Dietitian Recommended Best Fruit For Teenage Athletes

Fruit is healthy and provides many important nutrients to fuel physical activity and provide major performance benefits. Teen athletes will benefit from adding nutrient-rich fruits to their diets.

Some of the best fruits for teenage athletes are berries, bananas, oranges, dates, cherries, watermelon, and dried fruits. I recommend eating 2-3 fruits every day for teens and choosing a mix of fresh, frozen, dried, and canned. Fruit can help boost recovery and improve performance for teen sports.

Keep reading below for the list of the best fruits for athletes and recommendations from a registered dietitian nutritionist for fruit intake before and after physical activity.

What Fruits Should Athletes Eat? 

If you follow food trends, you know about the superfoods- foods that are packed with nutrients to bring you fantastic health benefits when included in your diet. 

Fruit is nutrient-rich and delivers many important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and more to help your body function. 

Athletes, especially high school athletes, need to take advantage of healthy fruits to get important nutrients for major performance benefits. Proper nutrition is just as essential as regular training. Your diet should be just as much of a top priority as your fitness efforts. 

This post will cover the best fruits for athletes, recommendations for fruit intake, fruits to avoid, and best fruits to eat pre-workout and post-workout. Keep reading to get the tips! 

What Nutrients Does Fruit Provide Athletes?

As an athlete, you need the right nutrients for your body to function properly and fuel itself during high-intensity activity. Fruit can provide many of these important nutrients. 

Fruit provides essential for sports nutrition: 
– Fruit is a great way to get fiber. Fiber regulates gut health and the rate of digestion, meaning you’ll have a healthy gastrointestinal system because fiber will help you experience less constipation.

It will help you feel full after a meal and not crave unhealthy foods, and you’ll have a consistent energy supply with stable blood sugar. It will help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your overall risk of disease. 

Fiber can slow down digestion, so it shouldn’t be consumed right before high-intensity training or game days. See my post on What Not to Eat Before a Football Game. 

B Vitamins– Thiamin, Niacin, and vitamin B6 are important B vitamins that are involved in the metabolism of carbs, protein, and fat for energy production for your body.

They also play a role in nerve function, muscle contraction, and making new tissue. You can get many B vitamins from consuming fruits such as apples, bananas, citrus fruits, and berries. 

Folate is another B vitamin that helps with DNA synthesis for healthy cell division and growth, including blood cell production. 

Magnesium also helps with energy production, nerve function, and muscle contraction as well as the B vitamins, and it plays a role in bone mineralization, enzyme actions, and helping to build proteins. Magnesium is becoming a popular supplement but you can get it easily from a well-planned diet, which includes fruits like figs, bananas, and raspberries. 

Iron is especially important for athletes. Important functions of iron include blood cell production, energy metabolism, and antioxidant function.

Iron helps your muscles work properly. With it, your body can turn carbohydrates into energy for you to use during exercise. And don’t forget, a main role of iron is to transport oxygen in the blood to all body tissues. Iron is essential for ensuring that you have the oxygen and fuel you need for your muscles to work best during exercise. 

Vitamin C helps with wound healing, immune health, forming connective tissue, and as an antioxidant to stop cell damage. Another great benefit of Vitamin C is that it helps your body absorb more iron from plant-based foods.

You can get vitamin C from citrus fruits, berries, and kiwis. Plus, fun fact: the Brazilian fruit acerola is the size of a cherry and contains more vitamin C than an entire orange.

Potassium is important for athletes because it helps with muscle contraction. It is an electrolyte with sodium that balances your fluid levels. Low potassium can reduce an athlete’s energy and endurance levels. It’s also important for your heart and to decrease possible muscle cramps. 

What Are the Best Fruits for Athletes? 

Although all fruits are healthy and good for you- specific fruits provide amazing benefits to athletes. When you eat fruit, you are providing your body with micronutrients (vitamins, minerals), antioxidants, as well as energy (calories).

When athletes aren’t getting enough micronutrients it can lead to early fatigue, impaired immune function, muscle and cell damage, and overall poor performance. Vitamins and minerals help athletes prepare for peak performance with healthy bodies.

Another great benefit for athletes of consuming fruits is the high water content. Bring some fruits and vegetables to practice or your games to help with hydration and maintain your active lifestyle.

Here’s a list of some fruits that are rich in the important nutrients for athletic performance:


Berries contain antioxidants and phytochemicals which protect against cell damage/oxidative stress during physical activity. This keeps your body working properly for healthy cells and muscles. Include a variety of berries of different colors for the most phytochemical benefits.

Tart Cherries

Dark colored fruit like tart cherries are full of antioxidants and anthocyanins which reduce inflammation, prevent muscle damage and pain, and reduce soreness. Tart cherries are great to include for a recovery snack post-workout to help you heal. Tart cherries aren’t the easiest thing to eat, so try mixing them into smoothies or your electrolyte-rich drink.


Oranges provide potassium and vitamin C, carbohydrates, and water. They help to lower fatigue and dehydration after intense exercise, and support a healthy immune system. Oranges help athletes absorb more iron from plant foods. Other citrus fruits help as well, but oranges are the easiest to eat, so bring a bag of cut up orange slices to eat after your next training session.


Another great way for athletes to get vitamin C is to eat strawberries. Vitamin C in strawberries will help you stay healthy by fighting infection, produce collagen for strong muscles and bones, and enhance iron absorption. Plus strawberries are a fiber-rich food to provide healthy blood sugar control and energy.


Bananas are a great fruit for athletes, they are easy to bring along and easy to eat. Bananas deliver easy-to-digest carbohydrates, which provide needed fuel before practice or games. They also provide potassium- an electrolyte that can be lost during vigorous exercise.

Do any of these fruits sound like something you’ll prepare for your next post-workout snack? Some of my other nutrient-rich favorites include peaches, plums, and even dried fruit.

How Much Fruit Should an Athlete Eat? 

Now that you have an idea for great fruits you can eat to help you perform your best as an athlete, it’s important to know the recommendation for how much fruit you should be getting daily.

High school athletes should be getting a balance of nutrients from each of the main food groups. The goal for fruit is about 2-3 servings of fruit per day. It’s okay to consume more fruit, but make sure that you are getting enough of the other food groups to have a balanced diet.

What are the Healthiest Fruits?

Berries, citrus fruits, bananas, apples, avocados, and mangoes are some popular fruits that are nutrient-rich for great health benefits.

You don’t necessarily need to follow the “superfood” trends and buy blueberries, acai, and goji berries to get antioxidants. Eat the fruit you enjoy and fruit that is affordable and in season. The healthiest fruits are any fruit in whole form without added sugar.

All fruit is healthy in different ways, just make sure to include a variety of fruits so you are covering a variety of nutrients. Think of your favorite fruits and ways you can include them throughout the day between your practices and games.

Some of my favorite ways to consume fruit as an athlete is to drink smoothies in the morning for a quick breakfast, bring orange and apple slices with me during the day, and eat a banana with peanut butter for a post-workout snack

What is the Most Unhealthy Fruit? 

Throughout my practice these are my least favorite questions, “which fruits are least healthy?” or “which fruits are fattening?” or “which fruits are bad for you?”.

It’s fruit! Fruit is not bad for you. Bananas are not fattening. Do you think you need to stop eating fruit because it’s unhealthy? If you aren’t going to eat fruit, what are you going to eat in its place? Probably something a lot less healthy than fruit.

No fruit is unhealthy. Most of the “unhealthy” labels on fruits refers to blood sugar responses. Some fruits increase your blood sugar more than others. This shouldn’t be a problem for an athlete, unless you need to watch your blood sugar levels.

Individual insulin responses are more important. Be smart about your fruit intake, don’t over-do it and don’t eat the same fruit all the time. Eat bananas, eat grapes, eat a variety and enjoy them all in moderation. Fruit is packed with nutrients, water, fiber, and are lower in calories than many other foods. Fruit is good for you!

Plant-based diets (which include fruit) can be extremely beneficial by lowering risk of disease and helping you maintain a healthy weight. Include fruit in your diet– any and all types of fruit. Include fresh fruit, dried fruit, canned fruit, frozen fruit, and fruit juice.

The only unhealthy fruits are fruits that contain added sugar. Be careful of fruit that is canned in heavy syrup- look for fruit canned in juice. Also look out for fruit juice- only drink 100% fruit juice. You don’t need any extra sugar in your diet.

Fruit juice isn’t the best way to consume fruit. Drinking one glass of orange juice is almost like eating 3-4 or more oranges. You wouldn’t eat that many whole oranges at a time, and it’s not necessarily the best decision, plus you aren’t getting all the fiber from consuming the whole fruit. Stick with moderation with your juice intake, and a balance between your fruit intake throughout the day. 

Need some more help with your sports nutrition this season? Get help from a registered dietitian nutritionist with my newest ebook: Nutrition Game Plan for Teen Athletes

Includes 28 day meal plan, snack list, supplement tips, protein tips, how to gain or lose weight the right way, meal schedule, and more. Click here for more information.

What is the Best Fruit to Eat Before a Workout?

Dried fruit can be helpful to eat before a workout. Many athletes rely on some quick-digesting carbohydrates just before training or games for a boost of energy.

Researchers have found that dried fruit such as raisins can be effective for performance benefits by providing your muscles with needed energy. Raisins are a good choice because they are less expensive, easy to grab, and provide significant amounts of other important nutrients for athletes, such as iron, fiber, and potassium. 

Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for active muscles, which the body stores as glycogen before physical activity. This is the preferred fuel source for muscles during exercise.

A pre-workout meal 2-4 hours before an event should include carbohydrates that are easy to digest including fruits like bananas, apples, or oranges. A small amount of fruit can be appropriate in the hour before physical activity to again refuel important carbohydrates for top performance during competition.

The best fruit to eat before a workout depends on which fruits are easy-to-digest and will not cause intestinal discomfort soon after during exercise. Oranges, apples, and bananas can be great choices. 

See also: The 25 BEST Pre-Workout Meals and Snacks For a Teenage Athlete

What is the Best Fruit to Eat After a Workout? 

Training time is so important to improve physically, but the time after the workout is crucial for improving and becoming stronger. Recovery techniques, including post-workout nutrition, can make a huge difference in your overall fitness capacities and performance.

See the list above of the best fruits for athletes- berries, cherries, oranges, strawberries, bananas, peaches, plums, and dried fruit. Any of those fruits are great options for an after-workout snack to help you replenish your lost carbohydrate stores.

After a workout, athletes should choose fruits that are higher in carbohydrates such as bananas and dried fruit. Some great post-workout fruits also include raisins, pears, grapes, blueberries, and watermelon for additional micronutrients and antioxidants to replenish your body’s stores after an intense workout. Fruits also have carbohydrates that will help your body replenish and store them for later.

Tart Cherries may help reduce inflammation and prevent muscle damage, pain, and soreness, while bananas provide potassium which is an electrolyte that can be lost during vigorous exercise.

Fruits can also be a refreshing way to help you replace fluids lost during exercise. Snack on watermelon or oranges for a great hydration snack post-workout.

See also: The BEST Post-Workout Snacks for Teenagers – Dietitian Recommended

Below are some additional common questions I wanted to address. I’ve received these questions regarding fruit intake and athletic performance.

Are Bananas Okay for High School Athletes to Eat? 

Yes, bananas are a great choice of fruit for high school athlete. Don’t listen to all the negative media messages you’ve seen about bananas being “fattening” or “bad carbs”. Those people aren’t nutrition experts and don’t have a nutrition degree, they are just trying to sell you their fad diet.

Bananas are low in calories and a natural source of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes which need to be replaced after exercise. You’re probably familiar with the fact that bananas are high in potassium.

Intense exercise and sweating causes potassium loss, so bananas as a post-workout snack help you replenish your body’s supply. The potassium in bananas will help protect you from muscle cramps and fatigue after a training session. They will also re-supply carbohydrates which is the fuel source for your muscles.

Bananas are seen as “bad carbs” because they are high on the glycemic index scale, meaning they increase your blood sugar more than other fruits (glycemic index is not perfect and differs from each individual, it doesn’t take into account someone’s insulin response).

If you are watching your blood glucose levels, then it is important to pay attention to the glycemic index of food. Otherwise, enjoy an appropriate amount of fruit in moderate portions. Athletes need carbohydrates and fruit is a great way to get them.  

Are Grapes Good After a Workout? 

A beneficial post-workout snack includes carbohydrates, fluid, and protein, so grapes make a great post-workout snack. They contain carbohydrates, electrolytes, and water for hydration. Some professional athletes swear by grapes for a refreshing snack post-training session.

Now that you have the carbohydrates taken care of- don’t forget the protein (grapes won’t provide what you need). 

Why Do Athletes Eat Fruits and Vegetables?

Athletes eat fruits and vegetables to optimize athletic performance by providing their bodies with appropriate nutrition to get the correct amount of needed nutrients for top health.

Fruits and vegetables are some of the best ways to get essential micronutrients that help our bodies function and work properly. 

Is it Okay to Eat Dry Fruit After a Workout? 

After a workout is the time to think about enhancing the benefits you received from your workout. As you exercise, your body uses the glucose in blood and then turns to stored amounts in your liver and muscle tissue called glycogen to continue to fuel your workout. After exercise you need a snack or meal to replace glycogen back into your muscles. Look for foods that have carbohydrates.

Dried fruit is a great way to replenish muscle glycogen post-workout. You could eat a regular meal and be set, but when you need something quick, dried fruit can be a simple snack. Dried fruit can be expensive and fresh fruit might be a better option after your workout, depending on your plan.

Dried fruit has the same nutrients as fresh fruit, but without all the water. Fruit is filling because of it’s water content- dehydrated fruit shrinks and doesn’t contain this high amount of water, making it smaller and less filling.

You’ll probably feel like you need to eat more dried fruit to feel full. Fresh fruit is probably best, but don’t feel like you have to avoid dried fruit. Choose dried fruit that has no added sugar, and eat an appropriate amount (a small handful) and you can be satisfied and refueled. 


  • Fruit is a healthy choice for athletes because it provides important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals to help your body function. 
  • Fiber, B vitamins, folate, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, and potassium are some of the important nutrients athletes need and can get from eating fruit. 
  • Berries, tart cherries, oranges, strawberries, bananas, peaches, plums, and dried fruit can be excellent choices for athletes. Athletes should include a variety of fruit for top health benefits. 
  • Athletes should eat about 2-3 servings of fruit per day. 
  • The healthiest fruits are any fruit in whole form without added sugar. No fruit is unhealthy, but some cause your blood sugar to spike more than others. 
  • Choose easy-to-digest fruits before a workout such as oranges, apples, and bananas.
  • After a workout choose fruits that are higher in carbohydrates such as bananas and dried fruit, and fruits that have a high water content for hydration. 
  • Take advantage of healthy fruits to get important nutrients for performance benefits. Proper nutrition is just as essential as regular training. Your diet should be just as much of a priority as your fitness efforts. 

What are your favorite fruits to bring for a workout snack? Let me know what fruits work best for you.

See Also:

Eat. Fight. Win!

Written by Katherine Harmer, RDN