What To Eat For Pickleball (And When!)

May 6, 2015

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It’s hard to enjoy a great game of pickleball while your stomach is grumbling. On the flip side, feeling too full makes you lethargic and the last thing you’ll want to do is chase after a ball! Nutrition is key when it comes to athletic performance.

Think of your body as a car. Cars require gas to get you from point A to point B efficiently and without any problems. Without gas, your vehicle would sputter out!

Your body is the same way. If you don’t feed your body adequately before exercising, you’ll either run out of stamina or struggle to muster up energy, period.

Follow these guidelines to have a stellar pickleball game from the first call of “zero, zero, two” all the way through the final rally.
BeforeIdeally, eat a high-carbohydrate snack 30 minutes to 1 hour before picking up your paddle. In a nutshell, carbs are your energy-boosting best friends.

They provide you with a steady stream of energy to get you through all your pickleball playing. By giving yourself some time between eating and playing, your body can work on digesting your snack. This way, it doesn’t have to split its energy between providing your muscles with energy to play and digesting your food!

Some awesome options would be a rice cake topped with a smidge of peanut butter and banana slices, a bowl of cereal, a fruit smoothie, a small bowl of oatmeal, or a small low-fat muffin.

Delicious low-fat muffinsIf you’re in a time crunch and only have time to eat right before you play, eat something quick digesting. Your body needs energy pronto and doesn’t have the time to break down more complex carbohydrates. Eat something light made up of simple carbs to fire up your energy levels and get your through your game.

Think: a handful of dried fruit, a sports drink or a piece of white bread.
DuringThe most important, non-negotiable dietary requirement during exercise is water. Your body can actually sweat out over a quart of water during an hour or so of pickleball playing. Just about 2/3 of the muscle tissues in your body are actually water, so it’s vital that you drink up to keep your energy levels humming.

Here's an awesome calculator from Camelback which determines how much water you need per day.

If your pickleball playing spans beyond an hour in duration, you may benefit from giving your body additional fuel from food. Don’t eat anything heavy that will sit in your stomach; again, keep it light and easy to digest. A banana is a great food that will give you an extra boost of energy as well as replenish your electrolyte levels.

Gauge your playing though and determine if your body really needs more food. Most people don’t need to refeed during an average game of pickleball unless you’re playing several intense games in a row, or if you’re playing for several hours. However, you know your body best so listen to it and do what works for you.
AfterAll that pickleball paddle swingin’ really can take a toll on your arm and shoulder muscles, while your legs worked hard to chase down those lobs. It’s important to nourish your muscles to prevent soreness or injury!

You need to replenish the carbs that you burned off during exercise so your energy levels don’t plummet. Try a piece of fruit paired with a handful of nuts, or a serving of Greek yogurt topped with low-fat granola and fruit.

Granola mix with yogurtWhile you may be tired after playing, don’t reach for quick fixes that are made of simple carbs. These were great for a fast boost of energy before your games, but they’ll just spike your blood sugar and cause a crash later on. Bring a small 8 oz bottle of chocolate milk with you to drink after playing in case you may be tempted to reach for a candy bar instead. Low-fat chocolate milk is an awesome combination of carbs, protein and chocolate flavor!

Of course, always drink water after exercising.
AvoidYou don’t want an upset stomach to be distracting you from play. Avoid eating these foods to prevent any discomfort:

  • Spicy foods
  • High-fiber foods
  • High-fat foods
  • Alcohol
  • Too much food, period

The rule of thumb is to not eat anything new before an important event to avoid any unpleasant responses from your body. Don’t try out a new granola bar right before your tournament or you may be focused on an upset stomach rather than your important game.

Following these nutrition tips is a good way to feel great, look awesome and rock your pickleball game!