High Carbohydrate Foods Before Exercise

I had another question from a reader regarding what to eat before a competition.

Q: I know carbs are good before a game.  Is a powerbar good?  What else could I eat?

A: Yes, you want to eat carbs before a game.  It is ideal to eat anywhere between 1-4 hours prior to a game.  If you have 4 hours before a game, that should give you adequate time to digest a meal that has carbs, protein and a some fat.  Therefore, you have a lot more flexibility with the types of food you are eating.  However, if you only have 1 hour before a game you will want to stick primarily to carbohydrates since they are digested more rapidly. 

A power bar can be a good choice because it is high in carbohydrates, with ~30-45 gm carbohydrate depending on the bar.  However, there is nothing that makes a power bar better than other snacks that are high in carbs (although that is what their marketing department would like you to believe).  Some other good high carb snacks for before a game are:

  • Bagel, English Muffin, or toast (plain or w/ low-fat cream cheese or jelly)
  • Fresh fruit, dried fruit or fruit juice
  • Granola Bar (i.e.: Quaker, Kashi, Pria, South Beach) Almost any bar will be a good choice, but remember it’s the carbohydrates, not the protein, that will give you the most benefit at this time.
  • Hard or Soft Pretzels
  • Dry Whole Grain Cereal or Granola
  • Crackers
  • Pasta with marinara sauce