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Timing Your Pre-Game Meal for Ultimate Performance

By Seanna Thomas, Nutrition Consultant, 01/23/23, 11:45AM EST


Different foods need different times to digest

The biggest question I’m asked by parents and players is: “What should I eat?”

While I could go on for hours listing nutrients that can benefit performance, there is often confusion to what EXACTLY that means.

For example, carbohydrates are an essential energy for young athletes to have as pre-game fuel. But what about protein, fibre, and fat?

It comes down to timing. Different foods will need different times to digest and allow your body to utilize those nutrients.

Basically, carbs digest faster than protein, fat, and high fibre foods. That doesn’t mean you don’t NEED protein, fibre, and fat - those nutrients are also important and should be a part of every athlete’s daily food.

This means the closer you get to game time, the more you want to focus on carbs, and less on protein, fibre, and fat.

If you eat foods that take longer to digest too close to game time (like having a steak right before you step on the ice), your body won’t know whether to focus on digestion or performance and this can have an effect on both… and not in the way you want.

Let me break it down:

3-4 Hours before a game:

This is when you have a “big” meal. That doesn’t mean eating beyond fullness or to the point where you feel groggy or sleepy. This also doesn’t mean you should chow down on deep fried foods or chocolate cake on game day.

This means you can have all the nutrients on one plate including lean protein, complex carbs, fat, and fibre. A great pre-game meal 3-4 hours before a game could be:

  • Chicken, rice, and broccoli 
  • Whole grain pasta, tomato sauce, and meatballs
  • Turkey and cheese sandwich loaded with vegetables and topped with mustard
  • Scrambled eggs, pancakes, ham, and avocado

This allows your body time to digest all the nutrients and avoid any cramping or digestion issues.

2 Hours before a game:

Think about having a smaller meal or bigger snack. Good options are:

  • Chicken Wrap
  • Fruit & Yogurt Parfait
  • Eggs & Toast
  • Peanut Butter & Banana Rollup
  • Muffin & Fruit

1 Hour before a game:

This is when you want to focus on easily digestible, carbohydrate focused foods. My favourites are:

  • Fresh fruit (Bananas are my fave!)
  • Dried fruit
  • Pre-Game Smoothie
  • Toast, bagel, or crackers

And of course, don’t forget to hydrate


This recipe is easy to make and a family favourite. Remember to leave at least 3 hours before game time. Enjoy!


  • 1 1/2 cups rice
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • 8-10 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs
  • 1 tbsp seasoning mix or dash salt & pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp gochujang or bbq sauce of choice
  • 2 1/2 cups boiling hot chicken broth


  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • Pour rice and frozen peas into 9x13 baking dish and stir.
  • Add seasoning and combine.
  • Top with chicken thighs.
  • Brush chicken with sauce of choice. Gochujang is a spicy Korean sauce that we LOVE but you can use whatever BBQ sauce or seasoning you enjoy.
  • Pour boiling hot chicken broth around chicken, onto rice and peas
  • Bake for 45 minutes.

The rice will be perfectly cooked and seasoned while the chicken is juicy and delicious. A quick and easy meal to fuel your performance!

Connect with Seanna!
Instagram: @hockey_snacks
Facebook: Seanna Thomas Nutrition
Facebook Group: Fuel More Wins!


Seanna Thomas is a Nutrition Consultant, Mom to 3 active kids, and founder of Hockey Snacks Inc., where she provides nutrition information for young athletes, sports teams, families, and organizations. Seanna regularly appears on CP24 Breakfast, & is a contributor to Triathlon Magazine Canada, as well as multiple other publications. Seanna focuses on whole foods with a spotlight on creating realistic healthy habits. She can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and In her downtime, she enjoys being outdoors with her family and relaxing at home with her husband and a well-deserved glass of wine (and maybe watching a hockey game).

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