Pre Game Meal

Topping off your power stores with a pre-game meal will ensure you have energy to compete late into the fourth quarter. While there’s not a magic meal that works for everyone, I’m going to provide a Pre-Game Meal Formula to help you jump higher, cut quicker and finish stronger when it really counts.


Michael Jordan ate a 23 ounce steak and baked potato before stepping on the court to win six championships. Lebron James preferred salmon and grilled pineapple to fuel his 4 MVP performances. The NBA’s all-time leader is steals and assists, John Stockton said that he felt great when he ate eggs on toast.

While each of these meals are very different, the common thread is a quality carbohydrate and protein selection, with some dietary fat.

Proteins like steak, salmon and eggs support muscle growth and repair.

Carbohydrates like potatoes, pineapple and toast replenish muscle glycogen, which allows you to repeatedly sprint, shuffle and jump.

The healthy fats in the salmon, steak and egg yolks slow down the release and absorption of carbohydrates, which will give you energy in the second half.

As you can see, the category of food is more important than the actual food type.

Instead of focusing on eating specific foods, start thinking of your Pre-Game Meal in terms of categories.   This will give you the freedom to eat a variety of foods that fit your preferences and environment.


Here are the four categories I use with my players and a short list of foods to get you started:

Bananas, berries, broccoli, lettuce, peppers, spinach, etc.

Quality breads and pastas, potatoes, quinoa, sweet potatoes, rice, etc.

Eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, beef, beans, yogurt, etc.

Avocados, olive oil, cashews, peanut butter, almonds, butter, etc.

What category you choose from depends on when you eat. The further away from game time, the more food you can eat and the more dietary fat can be included in your meal. The closer to tip off, the less food and fat you should eat.


This is the optimal time to start your Pre-Game Meal. By eating four hours before tip-off, you’re able to top off energy reserves and allow your body to digest the majority of food you eat.

The only recommendations I give to players is to pick one food from each of the four categories. Feel free to add your favorite food if it’s not on the list. Here’s the Pre-Game Meal Formula when eating four hours before tip-off:

4-Hour Pre-Game Meal Formula = Carb1 + Carb2 + Protein + Fat + H2O

4 HOUR pre-game meal

4-Hour Meal (Sample 1)
Garden Salad (Carb1)
potatoes (Carb2)
Steak (Protein)
Avocado (Fat)

4-Hour Meal (Sample 2)
Broccoli (Carb1)
Rice (Carb2)
Chicken (Protein)
Cashews (Fat)


It’s common for school to end around 3pm and for games to start around 5pm. On these days, it works well to eat your Pre-Game Meal two hours before tip-off.

The closer you get to game time, the less fat you want to eat. Fat is a slow-burning fuel and you don’t want to have a full stomach while you’re playing. Here’s the Pre-Game Meal Formula when eating two hours before game time:

2-Hour Pre-Game Meal Formula = Carb1 + Carb2 + Protein + H2O

2 hour pre-game meal

2-Hour Meal (Sample 1)
Turkey sandwich (Carb2 & Protein)
Banana (Carb1)

2-Hour Meal (Sample 2)
PB & J sandwich (Carb2 & Protein)
Apple (Carb1)


When playing tournaments, it’s possible to only have an hour between games. In this scenario, your Pre-Game Meal is even more important because it also acts as your post-game recovery meal.

I suggest drinking a Power Smoothie so your body can digest the nutrients faster. It doesn’t matter how healthy a certain food is, if it upsets your stomach, it shouldn’t be included in your Pre-Game Meal.

Here’s the Pre-Game Meal Formula for eating within an hour of tip-off:

1-Hour Pre-Game Meal Formula = Liquid Carb1 + Protein + H2O

1 hour pre-game meal

1-Hour Meal (Sample)
2 cups of water
1 cup of frozen mixed berries (Carb1)
1 cup of frozen spinach (Carb1)
1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (Protein)

Blend and enjoy!


The perfect pre-game meal doesn’t have exact macronutrient ratios.  There’s not a superfood that will make or break your performance.  The best pre-game is the one that you consistently eat!

Stop looking for a complicated magic pill and realize that the best fueled athletes are the ones that simply do what they know.

If you’re looking for quick meal ideas for basketball tournaments, check out my youtube video, Top 7 Basketball Foods

What’s your favorite Pre-Game Meal? I’d love to hear how you fuel your body to compete.