Game Day Nutrition

John,

First of all, thanks for the phenomenal FREE programming.

I use your program as my strength & conditioning tool for fighting in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments as recommended to me by Freddy Camacho about a year ago.  I stand 6’3″ and when I started CFFB I was about 250 pounds with a 385lb squat, 335lb bench and 510lb deadlift. One year later, my weight is down to 225 lbs but with a 445lb squat, 365lb bench and 565lb deadlift and I’m faster and more explosive.  One of the biggest benefits has been the ability to drop from the ultra-heavyweight division, which has no weight limit to the 207.5 to 221lb weight class. Now I am one of the bigger guys, which provides a significant advantage.  I’m now also almost always the best-conditioned fighter in my division, which helps during a tournament where you fight back-to-back with no extended rest.

That brings me to my question: How would you recommend that I eat prior to a tournament, during a tournament and then after a tournament?

Presently, I eat a Paleo diet with a daily single quart of whole milk added in my post workout meal. During my tournaments, if I do well in my division, I qualify to fight in the open division, which is usually held 1-2 hours later.  I tried slugging down a quart of milk after winning my division in my last tournament, but when time came for the open division, I just about puked on my opponent and didn’t do well.

Do you have any other suggestions for my nutrition during the tournament as well as for before and after?

Thanks for any advice that you can offer and, again, thanks so much for providing this incredible resource that is helping me and so many other athletes.

Regards,

Mike P.

GAME DAY NUTRITION#1

Mike,

You have quite a few moving parts to address, so lets break them down into a few categories and see if can give you some clear guidelines.

When I say prior to the tournament I am thinking a range of 6 months out to the day before the fight; just stick to the Power Athlete inspired by Chuck Norris. Those of you that have been following TTMJ for a while will remember the Just Tell Me What To Eat post where Chuck Norris delivered the Power Athlete Diet via Bubo the mechanical owl.

In case you forgot, your diet should consist of meat, fowl, fish, seafood, eggs, vegetables, roots, tubers, bulbs, herbs and spices as well as animal fats, olives & olive oil, avocados, and coconut (meat, oil, flour) and dairy.

You should be very conscious to limit foods like nuts, seeds, and fruit. With choices in the nut category include macadamias, cashews, and hazelnuts. Almonds are ok. Seeds are generally rich sources of linoleic acid because they can be eaten in large quantities (the serving sizes are typically in the tablespoon to 1/4 cup range and can be misleading). Sunflower and sesame seeds are terrible choices in the seed category. Soaking nuts prior to consumption is recommended but not necessary. Reduce the serving size if you are going to pick a fruit that has a high metabolic fructose content.

By all means avoid cereal grains including: all varieties of wheat (spelt, einkorn, emmer, durum), barley, rye, triticale, corn (maize), sorghum, millet, fonio, and teff and legumes. Grain-like substances or pseudo-cereals including: Amaranth, Breadnut, Buckwheat, Cattail, Chia, Cockscomb, Kañiwa, Pitseed Goosefoot, Quinoa, and Wattleseed (aka aacacia seed). Pseudocereals are the seeds of broad leaf plants whereas grains are the seeds of grasses.

Now that you know what to eat for your training, lets take a look at your game day meals.

You need to start your day with protein, fats and some easy digestible carbs. If we had a noon or 1 p.m. game, I would eat a breakfast of chicken for my protein, olive oil for a fat and potatoes or fruit for my carbs. This was done about 3-4 hours before the game. I always hated the feeling of being full when I played so I choose to eat early and have an empty stomach when I took the field. I was always a believer that hunger heightens the senses and that last thing I wanted was a big full belly sloshing around on game day (You experienced a bit of this after consuming milk in between matches). This was a personal preference, as I knew guys that would bring food the stadium and eat right before they went on the field. I never could imagine doing this, as I would probably have thrown up and/or played like shit.

As your day progresses and your body begins to run at a high motor pace your energy stores become depleted as your body and muscles use glycogen as fuel. Since, glycogen is made by the liver and muscles and stored in the muscles and liver, we need to consume something that the liver and muscles can quickly and easily convert to glycogen.

This is going to amaze some of you since I take a pretty aggressive stance on fruit, but fruit works to our advantage two fold in this situation. Fruit contains fructose and fructose easily converts to glycogen in the liver, however, it is not especially good at replenishing muscle glycogen. But fruit is not only composed of fructose but a mixture of glucose and sucrose. And guess what? Glucose is very good at replenishing muscle glycogen.

Looks like our moms had it right when they would bring tens of oranges cut into quarters for a half time snack during soccer games.

Oranges, grapefruits, pineapple and strawberries have a high glucose to fructose ratio and are good choices for a snack between quick matches. I would recommend eating some fruit instead of slugging back a Gatorade or similar sports drink. Most sports drinks are made with high fructose corn syrup and while a concentrated amount of fructose, in the form of high fructose corn syrup, will replenish glycogen in the liver, we only need a small amount and it won’t do shit for your muscles.

Be smart and listen to mom.

If your break is longer, like 1-2 hours, try consuming sweet potatoes and/or fruit and an easily digestible protein, like chicken. I hate chicken more than anyone you know and if I want to consume a protein and not feel full or bloated, I eat plain chicken breasts. They helped me survive during college on a $740 a month scholarship check; they will help you in this situation.

After the match, switch gears and reward yourself for the day’s victories. I recommend steak done medium rare, green veggies with olive oil, tubers in the form of yams, sweet potatoes or the occasional white potato and a glass of red wine. The amino acids from the protein will do wonders for repairing your muscles; the green veggies and tubers will do their part in filling glycogen stores in the liver and muscles. The mono-unsaturated and saturated fat will work to keep the body functioning correctly with digestion and sex hormones firing and red wine is nature’s natural painkiller.

Remember to drink plenty of water for hydration and recovery.

John

John Welbourn is the creator/operator of CrossFit Football and Power Athlete. He is a 10 year NFL veteran. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft. He went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John also is owner of CrossFit Balboa, an S&C gym in Orange County, CA. CrossFit Balboa is one of a handful of Westside Barbell certified gyms in the world. In addition to training MLB, NFL and other professional and Olympic athletes, John travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie.

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Posted in Diet, Paleo Brands, Talk to Me Johnnie, The Power Athlete | Tagged , , , , | 25 Comments

25 Responses to Game Day Nutrition

  1. Daz

    excellent information for all sports[obviously].

  2. rob is

    Great question and great answer.

    A follow-up though: I’ve been trying coconut water post-workout. It’s all sugar and it’s all natural, so I figure it’s a good for glycogen replenishment. Am I right in that?

    Seems like a good option, even in the middle of a match, game or tournament since it’s basically water. Do you any thoughts or experiences with this?

    Coconut water is an excellent source of sugar, potassium and a bunch of other good stuff. It is ph balanced in that it can be used instead of plasma in a transfusion.

    I have a refrigerator full of coconut water and forgot to mention it. Thanks for reminding me.

    John

  3. Phil

    Just a quick question/comment on the rice. Several Paleo sources (ie Matt Lalonde, Mark’s daily apple), have been starting to not include white rice in the evil grains category. The following quote is from Mark’s Daily Apple:

    “The common thread is that white, milled, polished rice is basically pure starch. All the chemical negatives are found in the hull, husk, and bran, and those are easily removed or negated. It is essentially a blank slate, nothing all that bad about it, but nothing all that great, either.”

    This is from this article:http://www.marksdailyapple.com/is-rice-unhealthy/

    In Matt Lalonde’s Paleo seminar he seemed to echo these sentiments. I find using white rice to be effective post work out as a break from sweet potatoes, or as part of a cyclic ketogenic diet.
    Are there any other reasons you would avoid white rice?
    Thanks for all the great info,
    Phil

    One thing I know about Mat Lalonde is he never seems to just echo any sentiments. Mat will come out and tell you want he thinks, then back it up with 3 hours of research proving his point. If Mat thinks you should eat rice, he would have told you word for word and your comment would read “Mat Lalonde recommends you should eat white rice.” What he might have said was closer to “white rice doesn’t have the same effect on your gut as other neolithic grains”. The analogy was made gluten is like holding a stick of dynamite in your closed fist when it goes off…bye, bye arm. Rice and corn are like holding a firecracker in an open hand when it goes off.

    Just like everything, I am giving you my recommendations. I personally enjoy eating white rice (hate brown rice) and love to eat sushi. If we are talking a 100% performance based diet where the only thing we are considering are the most optimal foods, why would we include something that might cause a problem?

    Just like everything, find what works for you and run with it. I found what works for me and I just try to share the knowledge.

    And last time I eat dinner with Mat he was careful to not eat the rice and separated the bean sprouts from his salad.

    John

  4. Mike Page

    John,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my question, I’ll put your game day nutritional recommendations to work immediately and report back to you after my next tournament as to how it worked for me. Just fyi, the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation holds two of their biggest tournaments, the Pan Am Championships and the Mundials (World Championships), out in Los Angeles each year. Although I’m not competing in the Pan Am’s this year which are being held in Long Beach this coming weekend, I’m planning on competing in the Mundials which are also being held in Long Beach at the beginning of June. If that comes together as planned, then I’d love to stop by Crossfit Balboa while I’m out there and shake your hand. Until then, be well and thanks so much for the awesome programming.

    Mike Page
    Atlanta, GA

    Good luck and we should be here. Shoot me an email or give us a call before you come in.

    See you soon.

    John

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  13. Nathan Greaves

    I’m not sure how useful this will be to anyone, but i do remember reading on Robb Wolf’s site a concoction that James ‘OPT’ Fitzgerald had after training of sweet potatoes, apple sauce and a little cinnamon. Robb does explain what each component of the mixture will do but I have it about once a week and it…is….delicious! plus it works like it should do.

  14. Hi john, super post! I came across your blog on one of Robb Wolf’s comments on Tim Ferriss’s site.

    I am not a professional athlete but am very active with sports and running. Infact I want to focus more on sports nutrition so was hoping you can help answer a few questions:

    1) Does the above game day advice pertain to all kinds of sports, such as Cricket/marathons, which are slow sports but you are on your feet for atleast 4-6 hours during the day, or squash/soccer which are much faster sports but you tire quicker.

    2) When you are playing a sport like Cricket in the sun all day, re-hydration is a must. The most obvious solutions are water or gatorade but are they the best solution to replenish the salts lost through sweat? Is coconut water the best bet?

    3) I am trying to gain expertise, especially in the area of sports nutrition .ie. exactly when to eat what and why. Can you recommend any books on the subject? Most of the books I’ve seen so far are on fat-loss or healthy living, not on sports.

    4) I hate feeling hungry when I take the field but you state above that its good for performance to be on empty stomach. is that the case for non-contact sports too?

    5) I feel like if I am hungry I will run out of energy faster. Is that true?

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  23. Rocks

    We are particularly amazed along with your composing expertise and in addition with the composition for your website. Is it the paid subject matter or even do you colorize it for you yourself? In any case stay inside the awesome superior creating, it can be uncommon to see a terrific blog just like it nowadays.

  24. Great to hear that some fruit might be a great pre-workout and mid workout snack. I train MMA and sometimes before I go to the gym (After work), I’m starved. Knowing that I may also get the added benefit of re-fuel after expending energy to the point where you cant perform is refreshing!

  25. EXCELLENT INFORMATION!!! THANK YOU!!! As an coach, athlete and father of young athletes I am always amazed by the food parents bring for our young athletes to eat in between matches or games at our tournaments!!! Then they wonder why their performance gets worse as the day goes on!!

    Thanks again!

    Cyril White
    countryspiritcrossfit.com

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