PB & J is easy, light, and yummy so it's no wonder why players reach for it pregame. Our game day often starts at 8-9am and ends around 11pm. There are healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner options available throughout that, and there's normally a nap period for players between 12p - 3p. With a game time of 730p you end up with a no-man's land period from 430p - 7p where players are hungry but don't want to eat something big right before the game.
Too much food during the 3-4 hour window prior to competition can lead to spending energy on digestion, drastic changes in blood sugar/energy, feeling bloated, or grogginess. You will want to avoid big amounts of refined sugar, deep fried items, spicy foods, or caffeine prior to a workout or competition.
Everyone is different, but typically you want to keep food intake simple and light in the 3-4 hours prior to competition. The PB & J can be a good option as long as it's made with quality ingredients and not over consumed. Proceed with caution because it can be easy to eat 2-3 of them in a sitting- they're a comfort food and they're light.
If PB & J isn't your thing, a few other great pregame food options include a scoop of unsweetened nut butter and a square of dark chocolate, fruit with plain yogurt, mixed nuts with raisins, crackers with cheese and quality deli meats, a small turkey sandwich on sprouted or sourdough bread, or a small cup of coffee with cream or milk but no or light sugar.
Now for my secrets on making the perfect PB & J sandwich that hits both health and taste:
Unsweetened, natural peanut butter. Low sugar or no sugar added jelly (I prefer blackberry), sprouted whole grain/nut/seed bread.
Toast the bread. Spread peanut butter on each slice of bread. Apply jelly to one slice. Bring the peanut butter only slice to the slice with jelly to make a sandwich. Enjoy. The secret is peanut butter on both slices and using enough jelly so that it's slightly oozing out the sides!!
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Tim DiFrancesco, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS spent 6 seasons as the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and is the founder of TD Athletes Edge. He is nationally renowned for his evidence-based and scientific approach to fitness, training, nutrition, and recovery for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
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