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Nutrition Tips for Athletes

In order to perform your best at game time, your body needs the right nutrition and hydration. Follow these general sports nutrition tips from UPMC Sports Medicine — before, during, and after your next competition — to help maximize your athletic performance and avoid potential injury.

Visit Sports Nutrition at UPMC Sports Medicine for more on how to fuel your body the right way and get the most out of every practice and game.

Pre-Game Eating

Start three days before games and eat a little more at each meal.

Increase your pre-game meals by adding:

  • A larger bowl of cereal.
  • One or two sandwiches for lunch.
  • A larger serving of rice, pasta, or potatoes at dinner.

This will help your body store more fuel for upcoming games.

Stay Hydrated

Pick your fluids wisely.

Drink 1 water bottle or 20 ounces of fluid 1 hour before practices and games.

Be sure to drink at least 1 water bottle for each hour of practice and competition.


  • Water
  • Sports drinks
  • Milk


  • Juice
  • Soda
  • Energy drinks

Fuel Your Muscles Well

Eat every 3 to 4 hours, beginning with breakfast and a morning snack. Eat a snack before practice, such as yogurt, a granola bar, a small bowl of cereal, or a bagel with a little honey.

Incorporate carbs into your meals.

Muscles require carbohydrates to function properly and avoid cramping.

Ideally, carbs should take up two-thirds of your plate at all meals.


  • Bread
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Cereal


  • Chips
  • Cookies
  • Candy

Include some fat in your diet.


  • Nuts
  • Nut butter
  • Small amounts of salad dressings, mayonnaise, or oil


  • Wings
  • Ribs
  • Hot dogs
  • Fried foods
  • Fatty meats

Pick your proteins wisely.

Proteins are not an ideal fuel source for sports.

They should make up about one-third of your plate at all meals.


  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Pork chops
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs, cheese, and milk
  • Beans (pinto, black, navy, white, black eyed peas)


  • Fatty or fried meats
  • Burgers

Post-Game Eating

What you eat and drink after the game is just as vital as before and during.

For ideal recovery, eat or drink something within 15 minutes of finishing a practice or game.


  • A 20-ounce sports drink.
  • 2 handfuls of trail mix or dry cereal.
  • 2 granola bars.
  • A package of peanut butter crackers.
  • A small bag of pretzels.

Make An Appointment With A Sports Nutritionist

Looking for a sports nutrition plan tailored to you? To learn more about our program and pricing, or make an appointment at the UPMC Freddie Fu Sports Medicine Center or UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, call 724-720-3081 or email