What you eat plays a significant role in achieving your athletic goals. You can control what you put in your body. Unfortunately though many athletes are not fully aware of what they are consuming and how it affects the body. The most important thing you should know about nutrition is that there are no miracles.

With information ranging from fad diets to “lose 10 pounds in ten days” constantly in front of you it is easy to understand why nutrition is the one component of strength and conditioning programs where most people are misinformed. As an athlete you must approach nutrition just like approach your sport. Would you make time to work on your off hand? Watch film? Go for a run? Then why not schedule time to visit a nutritionist? Spend time learning how to cook? The time spent on understanding nutrition may be what separates you from the bench to being on the front cover of your local newspaper or school website.

Remember that no pre-game meal is right for every athlete or every event, but some nutritional approaches have been found to be better than others. Here are a few tips to consider when you ask “What’s for dinner?”

1. Allow enough time for digestion. Eat a meal at least three hours before an event.
2. Choose a meal that’s high in starch. Starch is easy to digest and helps steady the levels of blood sugar.
3. Consume only moderate amounts of high quality protein. Protein foods take longer to digest than starch. And high-protein meals may lead to increased urine production, which can add to dehydration.
4. Limit fats and oils. They take too long to digest.
5. Restrict sugary foods. Sweets can cause rapid energy swings in blood sugar levels and result in low blood sugar and less energy.
6. Avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the body to increase urine output, which can contribute to dehydration problems, and a full bladder can be very uncomfortable.
7. Remember to drink plenty of fluids with your pre-game meal.