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As an athlete in season you should be hydrating for practices, games and tournaments. Hydration for upcoming matches should start the day before and continue throughout the day of the tournament. As a general rule of thumb, you should try to drink at least 64-80 oz (8 to 10 cups) of water each day. Doing this will help keep your muscles from cramping, maintain your energy and help your body run the way it was designed to. Taking a sports drink during a match is efficient too, as the calories from the drink will provide energy and replace the potassium and sodium that you may have lost through sweat when playing. Under intense and prolonged exercise conditions, water alone cannot provide what your body needs.

It can be helpful to establish a routine to get you into the habit of drinking enough water each day. Start by finding a water bottle that you can use consistently and determine how many ounces of water it holds. Then think about your daily routine and how and when you will refill your water bottle. For example, if you have a 32 oz water bottle, fill your water bottle before school in the morning. Drink that bottle during your morning classes. At lunch time, refill your bottle again. By the end of the school day, finish drinking that bottle as well. By doing this each day, you know that you will be drinking at least the minimum 64 oz of water your body needs. Fill that water bottle again after school and continue drinking it the rest of the day.

On game days, note that drinking a whole bottle of water at once is not the best way to deliver hydration to the body. It is recommended that you drink 4-8 ounces (½ cup to 1 cup) of fluid every 15 minutes during activity. This means that during each time out, you should take a few swallows of water. Also, spreading out your intake in this way will allow you to avoid the feeling of being waterlogged and will allow your body to metabolize the fluid throughout the match.

Pre-Tournament Fueling

Morning Competition:

On the day of the tournament eat breakfast, lunch and snacks. Stay away from fatty foods or those with processed sugar, and avoid any foods you may want to try for the first time on game day. Your body will draw energy from the foods you eat before a game, so choose them wisely. Research suggests that a pregame meal should be eaten about two hours before game time. Vary your eating times according to how closely your matches follow each other. If you have matches close to each other reduce amount of food accordingly.

Since volleyball requires a lot of quick movements and bursts of strength over a long period of time, it is necessary to fuel your body with a good amount of carbohydrates such as fruits, veggies, whole grain cereals, breads, potatoes, and pastas. Supplement your carb-load with protein (beans/legumes, lean meats, low-fat dairy and eggs) and healthy fats like nuts, nut butters, fish oils, avocado, soy, and vegetable oil-based salad dressings and you have the ideal pre-game meal. When planning a meal try to include as many of the food groups as possible including a good protein and grain source, vegetables and fruit.

Check the following example:

Dinner: Chicken/legume + roasted vegetables + spinach salad with veggies + whole grain (rice/farro/quinoa) + glass of low fat or nut milk

Breakfast: Oatmeal + seeds/nuts + berries/banana + water or juice

Afternoon Competition:

If you have an afternoon event, it is still important to have a high carbohydrate dinner the night before. This is to ensure that your body is fueled with enough energy to compete. Breakfast should also be high in carbohydrates. Lunch will follow with a lighter portioned meal. Here is another example of what this may look like:

Dinner: Whole grain pasta with chicken and marinara sauce + steamed vegetables + green salad + glass of low-fat milk

Breakfast: Two-egg or bean breakfast burrito with peppers and onions + apple and peanut butter + milk or water to drink

Lunch: chicken or lentil salad + fruit/vegetables + crackers and hummus + milk or water to drink

Evening Competition:

For an evening event, follow the same routine with a high carbohydrate breakfast and lunch, followed by a light dinner meal.

Breakfast: Whole wheat pancakes + strawberries + peanut butter + glass of low-fat milk

Lunch: Turkey or roasted veggie sandwich with lettuce and tomato + veggies and hummus + apples and peanut butter + milk or water to drink

Dinner: Chicken or tofu + ½ baked potato with broccoli + milk or water to drink

During the Game 

There are plenty of opportunities to refuel during a volleyball match. If the match goes long or you're working harder than usual, you can use up all your stores of energy that you packed away before the game.

If you feel you need a boost during the match, this might be a good time to eat an energy bar or piece of fruit. Most bars are formulated to give you energy right away, and fruit is easily digested. Make sure the energy bar you choose has a good ratio of carbohydrates to protein. A good choice has a ratio of at least 4:1 (carbs:protein). If eating during a match makes you queasy or doesn't sit well, you can restore your energy with the proper hydration. Drink a sports drink during the game in addition to water.

Playing in a volleyball tournament is distinctly different than playing in one match. Instead of storing up carbs for a two-hour block of time, you need to eat and drink in a manner that will allow you to keep your energy up all day long. Make sure to study your schedule so you can plan the best times to eat. The best course is to eat a good, hearty breakfast and follow it up over the course of the day with lunch and snacks like fruit (whole and dried) and nuts through the day.

Eat protein or nutrition bars for quick energy, but make sure you have a sandwich or something hearty around lunch time when you have a free hour or two. Eat directly after playing to optimize your body's capacity to store carbohydrates.

If you don't have much time, make sure to keep your snacks light. Playing on a full stomach when your body needs to digest will make you sluggish and will hurt your game.

After the match: Eat within an hour after playing
The post-game meal is important too because it helps you to store carbs which will help you recover more quickly.

Try to have this meal within an hour or so after playing. This is when your body is most efficient at storing carbohydrates. In addition to taking in carbs soon after finishing play, it helps to take in some protein as well. Protein will aid in the storage of carbs and in your recovery process.