I get a lot of questions on how to eat before, during, and after a tournament for elite volleyball athletes. Here are the general rules I use with them from junior high to professional.
Pre-play Plan/Breakfast: First and foremost, drink 20-32 oz. of purified water with a pinch of grey, pink, black, or red sea salt upon waking. This is a great start to avoiding dehydration and electrolyte depletion over a long day. The main goal of breakfast is to stabilize blood sugar and replace electrolytes for a long day of playing. Foods that stabilize blood sugar very well are protein and fats with fats being the most effective. This is why I never recommend eating egg whites. You remove all the good fat when you take the yolk out and just the whites can wreak havoc on blood-sugar levels. That being said, eggs are a good option for breakfast. Although eggs are good, meat is the best option. I love organic chicken sausages from Applegate Farms and Sheltons makes terrific organic turkey sausages. Sausages are great but chicken, turkey, fish and other animal proteins are ideal. Use the same colored salt to flavor food as they are practically complete electrolytes. Fruits are ok for breakfast but must be eaten with protein and fat. Fruits along with protein and fat make a very well balanced meal for a long day of playing. Stick to the low-fructose and low-glycemic fruits like apples, apricots, plums, avocados, berries, grapefruit, nectarines, papaya, and peaches. If you can include some veggies at breakfast than that is even better. There are lots of foods you want to avoid for a tournament day and are better saved for a lazy Sunday. Some examples of these foods would be: Cereal, pancakes, toast, bagels, all juices, waffles, oatmeal, granola, scones, and milk. Basically, any type of food that has any grain or flour in it or large amounts of sugar (juice and milk).
During-play Plan: Things dont change much. I recommend the same fruits mentioned above plus yams, sweet potatoes, quinoa, and brown rice because they replace glycogen lost while playing. I recommend eating those foods with protein but try to keep the proteins light like chicken breast, turkey breast, hard-boiled eggs (the whole egg). I prefer to make it easy on myself by purchasing Applegate Farms deli meat instead of cooking my own. I have enough to think about during a tournament. Although red meat can be beneficial to an overall healthy diet, I dont recommend it on tournament days. This is because it is much harder to digest and clinical experience has taught me that red meat makes some people sleepy. I also recommend salads and other veggies like carrots and celery sticks. Avocados are an excellent option because of their fat, potassium, and starch content. As with breakfast, stay away from foods that will whack your blood-sugar like pasta. These include grain-based foods mentioned above or anything with a high sugar load. All they do is mess with blood-sugar and contribute zero to replacing electrolytes. This is why fruits and veggies are so good as they also replace electrolytes. The so-called sports drinks that replace electrolytes are pure garbage. Stay away from all of them. All you need is a small pinch of the colored salts and a squeeze of lime in each water bottle to get your electrolytes. If you can taste the salt you have added too much so dilute it. Sports drinks are merely concoctions of food dye and high fructose corn syrup and are slightly better than a can of soda. If you have back to back games, make sure you eat a nice big meal at least an hour before the first match and then between games you can have a bite of protein, plus some fruit or a couple bites of yam, sweet potato, or brown rice. Fruits will help keep your body alkaline, which has been proven to help muscle spindles fire faster and keep you jumping as high as possible. Any grain based foods will promote acidosis and decrease ability of muscle spindles to fire so stay away from them (yes, that includes whole-grain items). If you stick to this meal plan you will have a major advantage over all the other teams and athletes feasting on processed garbage! Ideal meal during the tournament would be: Chicken or Turkey roll-ups with spinach and avocado inside, serving of sweet potato and fruit. Recommended fruits would be apricots, plums, avocados, berries, grapefruit, nectarines, papaya, and peaches.
Post-play Plan: So, youre done for day which means you should up your carb content. They will actually help you replace glycogen for the next day and help put you to sleep. Since you repair while you are sleeping, getting to bed before 10 is essential. Foods that I recommend (in preferred order) to replace glycogen, would be sweet potatoes, yams, quinoa, and brown rice. This does not mean that you skip the protein and fat though as it is essential to repair muscle tissue for next day. I recommend lighter meats at the end of the day too because red meat is more acidic than white meat and staying alkaline will also help repair tired muscles. This could be chicken, fish, or turkey. Once again you are staying away from grain-based foods like rolls, garlic bread, pasta, etc. Your immune system repairs you for the next day and these foods reduce immune function by beating up the GI tract (small and large intestine). Ideal post-play meal would be: Salmon, sweet potato and a spinach salad. Fruit for dessert.