Preparing for summer tournaments is difficult in many aspects considering the mental, emotional, and physical demands required to perform. It’s unbelievable to me how many kids I watch throughout a tournament put in all of this preparation to perform and yet little preparation into what they eat, making less than ideal decisions come tournament day.
The reality is food is physical and mental fuel for your body. When athletes are running around, they are using up the fuel and in order to keep going and play at high levels the fuel must be restored. I’m not saying that you need to eat your greens here. In fact, come tournament day, I’d stay away from them unless you know you personally perform well with them. Greens are typically high in fiber, which can cause some digestion issues (we don’t want that on game day). In between games, you also don’t want to consume foods high in fat (think oils, avocado, eggs, etc), again unless you know that you perform well eating them. Fats take a long time to digest and use for fuel, and can also cause digestion issues for some. Fats should be ingested about 3 hours or more prior to the first game and after you’re all done for the day.
In between games you’ll want to consume protein and carbohydrates. These macros power your muscles for optimal recovery. While fruit is great, it will mostly break down to be stored in your liver, whereas more starchy carbs (bread, rice, oats, etc) will be stored in your muscles. This doesn’t mean avoid fruit. It just means don’t overdo it and change up the sources of carbohydrates you’re consuming. There will be of course the person that plays at their best with a ton of fruit - awesome, keep it going if it works.
I hope what you’re noticing from this is that fueling for performance is HIGHLY individual. There are of course guidelines, but the best thing I can tell you is to start testing what works best for you with your practices and evaluate how you feel at tournaments based on nutrition. It can even be helpful to track how your sleep and hydration levels affect your play too. It is of course tedious, but the best way to play at your best is to know your body and the only way you get to know what works best for you is to try different things. It will take time, but it will pay off dividends if you can figure it out.
You spend so much time working on the field, in the gym, in the classroom to try to get a scholarship offer, so why continue to ignore something in your control that can influence your performance on such a large scale?
Scroll down to check out my go to foods at tournaments.
Coaches & Parents
It doesn’t matter if you’re a club coach or a college coach, trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle at tournaments is TOUGH. Usually you’re up early and walking around fields all day in the hot sun. My usual step count is 12-15K, and at the end of the day of being tired I always crave the worst foods and hardly have any time or energy to fit in an actual workout. Add in the fact we’re carrying backpacks, sticks, balls, and if you’re like me a giant water bottle, making the odds of also carrying a cooler unlikely. Tournaments are usually on a weekend too, providing even more reason to have the treat yourself mindset. Normally, totally fine. The problem is when you’ve had that mindset all day and you start with a waffle at the hotel buffet, get the fries and chicken fingers for lunch, maybe a snow cone as a snack, and then finish the day with some wine and fettuccine alfredo for dinner and ice cream for dessert.
Again, if you don’t care about your fitness goals or feeling good, then totally cool and I mean that seriously not sarcastically. For the most part, if you’re coaching, you do though.
So what do you do?
Just like during the week, you meal prep. Most people only prep for the weekdays despite the weekend being the hardest time to eat in a way that keeps us on track to our goals. Every tournament I make sure I have my snacks and/or meals ready to go. Are there times when I can’t plan completely and have to find the best options? You bet. For example, the other weekend I got swamped and couldn’t pack food so I opted for a poke bowl without rice giving me protein and fat from the avocado. Carbs aren’t bad, but I know post tournament I usually want to enjoy the carbs whether that’s pasta, burger and fries, burrito. etc. I generally backfill my calories because of this too, packing mostly snacks instead of full meals during tournaments.
Parents can be in the same situation and follow the same guidelines. However, there’s one thing to point out here, and that’s if there is something at tournaments that you LOVE or if you are all out of options and you don’t have a decent food vendor, you gotta just deal with what you have and enjoy it. One day isn’t going to mess you up. Just remember to plan for the next day and keep working towards your goals. For example, one of my mom’s favorite part about tournaments was her egg custard snowcone with extra marshmallow. In fact, when she came to watch me coach at the WDNT tournament in Maryland, you bet that was her number one target. She deserved it too, with the amount of lacrosse she was forced to watch and subsequently stress over, all while sweating all day in the east coast humidity. Sometimes you have to have something to get you through it, and that’s okay too. Just try not to let it lead to the first example I went through and you’ll be okay.
So what are my go to snacks? Check them out below.
Bars - always my go to. If it’s really hot I’ll opt for a QuestBar, LaraBar, or RXBar, knowing these don’t melt. Preferred bars if it’s cooler are One Bars, PowerCrunch bars, and Perfect Bars. I’m sure there are more out there, and some I haven’t tried but those are the ones I like and work for me.
Jerky - a great source of protein, I’ll go to beef or turkey jerky. I recently tried salmon jerky too and enjoyed it! Advice on the salmon jerky would be to get the peppered one, it was much better than the sweeter flavored one I tried. Also, try to look at the ingredients to make sure the company isn’t sneaking in a bunch of sugar into the list.
Veggie Chips - it’s nearly impossible to get enough veggies in, so I’ll make sure to bring some kale chips (Brad’s are my go to) or beet chips (sometimes I’ll make my own of both of these).
Fruit - Grapefruit, oranges, apples
Baby food pouches - this depends on temperature too, but honestly they’re great for carrying around and get the job done on nutrient intake.
Rice cakes & nut butter - self explanatory :)
Powders - protein and greens. This is less of a snack and more so something I bring to every away tournament with me to make sure I hit my targets and at least if I don’t have greens I can know that I had some. I always start my day with the green juice because of this.
Coffee - iced coffee at tournaments for me is my egg custard snowcone. It’s not ideal to have a ton, and might not count as a “snack” but I’m sure I’m not the only coach that agrees with me.
Hope this is helpful, if you have questions, feel free to reach out! Always here to help!