Re-Thinking the Pre-Game Meal

“I think people don’t place a high enough value on how much they are nurtured by doing whatever it is that totally absorbs them.”

Jean Shinoda Bolen

In case you might have missed it, TTP reader/commenter Dexter had this to say in relation to CNS priming:

“…Could it be that IF is a CNS stimulator? That IF creates an actual threat to the organism? I find that when I exercise at the end of a 36 hr fast, I usually achieve that zone of invincibility…that zone where reps at higher and higher weights come effortlessly…”

Absolutely.  In fact, a Paleo athlete would be much better off going into a competition in the fasted state; 18 to 24 hours fasted, I believe, would be optimal.  Of course, this is just my opinion, and is not substantiated by any evidence whatsoever — outside of my own, that is.  My experiences and results with my own demanding workouts while in a fasted state, are sufficient enough to serve as positive n=1 evidence of this notion’s efficacy.  So much so, in fact, that I’d have no qualms whatsoever in advising a properly adjusted athlete to do the same.  Properly adjusted is key here, though.  The athlete must be fully adapted to the Paleo lifestyle for this method to be effective.  I think we all know what the results would be otherwise.  Bonk city, severe cramping, the shakes/trembles, debilitating weakness, nausea; the list goes on.  Contrast this to the added boost the Paleo athlete would garner from the added CNS stimulation/adrenaline rush, not to mention the added energy available from the body’s not having to deal with digestion issues, and the edge of not having to deal with that “fullness” in the gut.  The team-building ritual should be that of the post-game feast — a nice fatted calf offered up in a “spoils-of-victory” fashion (i.e., the post-hunt feast).  Unfortunately, though, this scenario is a long, long way off.  To wit (from the NAU Football Blog, 10/3/09):

“…The players have their pre-game meal on campus. Today’s menu was rice, stir fry, lasagna, and breadsticks. After this each position will meet and then the game countdown begins…”  (emphasis mine).

I don’t offer this up as a slam against anybody’s program, but simply to illustrate a point.  Eating a pre-game meal of this fashion is the only way possible to survive if an athlete is a sugar burner.  I ate the same manner of pre-game meal myself back in the day(admittedly, this was back in the dark ages).  What I’d love to see, though,  is a few of these kids make the transition to a full-on Paleo lifestyle, and reap all the performance enhancement that comes part-and-parcel with primal eating patterns.  Their success and stellar results from doing so would have the Paleo way spread unabated through the collegiate and professional ranks.  Really, it is just a matter of time before an already successful athlete takes the leap of faith.  That almighty sought-after edge is there to be had; and no anti-doping agency has yet to put the Paleo lifestyle on any banned substance list…yet.

In health,


13 responses to “Re-Thinking the Pre-Game Meal

  1. When I play in men’s leagues–whether soccer, basketball, tennis, etc.–games are usually at night. I fast all day.

    My friend says about IF prior to games: “It gives me tons of energy.” He’s super lean; a vegan-Paleo practitioner.

    In the old days, I felt like my body tried to expel the contents of my stomach prior to matches.

    No longer; all is calm; there’s not much there.

    That post-game meal is quite nice.

  2. What would happen if you were pure paleo and you sucked down a few gel packs before a football game? How would those fast acting carbs work on our system? Could they work like a turbo charge since we never use them? Something I was thinking about.

    • I believe the initial “jolt” would bring on nausea and jumpiness, and the subsequent rebound would leave one feeling sluggish and weak; in other words, a disastrous outcome. This is merely speculation, of course — I’ve never tried it, nor do I think I’ll add that protocol to my n=1 experimentation 😉

    • Never tried gel pack before exercise as such, however a few weeks ago my 11 year old daughter bought me a doughnut from her pocket money. I felt obliged to eat it and did so. Felt fine for about 30 minutes and then felt HUNGRY and lightheaded. Based on this I would not want to try a gel pack at all and particularly not before exercise.

      Cheers – Mark

  3. Keith,

    You said “of course, this is just my opinion, and is not substantiated by any evidence whatsoever — outside of my own”

    Same goes for me. Substaniated by my experiences!

    I play my tennis matches and weekend tournaments in a fasted state. I’ve blogged about it before. But during my last tournament, I played almost for 5 hours straight. EVERYONE around me, drank gatorades, gel packs ate granola/energy bars, you name it. I just had water when I felt thirsty. Many people cramped during the day of play and several people pulled muscles etc. That night at the tournament bbq party, the discussion came up about being in shape, pre and post workout meals etc. NO-ONE believed I played in a fasted state. They honestly thought I was messing with them. They almost refused to believe it and then pretty much proclaimed me crazy.As a non bragging side note, my partner and I won ALL our matches that day and played in the finals the following morning which we lost.


    • I frequently encounter people who are simply shocked and appauled that I workout fasted. The reaction typically mimics what I’d get if I said “I left my toddler in the car with the windows rolled up.” I actually had one guy tell me I was destroying my liver and my muscle mass. Not to judge, but he was 5’7″ and much heavier than I am at 6′, and drinking his second glass of sweet tea as he said it. It was hard for me to take him very seriously.

      My whole life I always scratched my head over all this extra “energy” (adipose) that I had stored up but was unable to get at, instead feeling hungry/tired frequently. Learning to tap into my stored energy, and to treat my fat stores quite literally as a readily accessible gas tank, was perhaps one of the most liberating parts of this Paleo journey.

    • This makes perfect sense from an evolutionary prospective as well. Of course, fasted performance past a “rule of thumb” point (18 to 24 hours, I’d say), there is most certainly a point of diminished returns, and I think that’s where n=1 experimentation is required.

  4. Hey Keith,

    This is a little off topic (it does pertain to food, though), but I have recently acquired a 3 lb boneless buffalo sirloin tip roast and am wondering what would be the best way to prepare it if I want a medium to medium-rare center. The majority of my meat preparation experience deals with smaller cuts of meats (1 lb steaks cooked on the stove top cooked in beef tallow) or whole chickens, ducks, etc (cooked in the oven). So, needless to say, this large chunk of meat is a little foreign to me. I do have a grill but I do not have extensive experience with it, as it is my brothers. Any advice from the culinary meat master on how to best prepare this beautiful piece of buffalo?


    • Ahhh, the options are many; pressure cooker (my preference), oven, or even on the grill. In the oven or on the grill, go “long (time) and low (heat)” and keep the cut doused liberally with olive oil (my preference) or equivalent good fat. Now, I prefer the pressure cooker route because (1) it’s fast, and (2) it seals the juices within the meat better than the other two options. Also, with a pressure cooker, all the fantastic juices/ au jus is contained. What I don’t use to re-douse over the final product, I’ll drink at a later time for a light meal. The only problem with the pressure cooker is that there’s no popping the lid to see how things are coming along; it takes a bit of time to correlate the size of the cut to the amount of cooking time to hit your desired level of done-ness. You might want to go the oven route with this cut, and get your feel/timing down with cheaper cuts in a pressure cooker. Ribs are a great, relatively cheap option to “practice” on.

      Where did you find such a fine cut?

  5. It was quite a lucky thing actually. My local grocery store gets in buffalo from time to time from a vendor up north and this piece had been in this natural foods freezer section for a time. Real meat eaters (who care about grass-fed, etc.) are few and far between here (vegetarian land incarnate), and the only reason I hadn’t snatched it up was because it was sitting at about $8 a pound I believe. I made a comment to an employee saying, “Will this piece of meat ever go on sale? It’s been in here for a couple weeks” and he immediately slashed it down to 10 bucks. $3.33 a lb I can do.

    How do you go about dousing it when in the oven? Take it out and re-cover it with the fat in the pan from time to time with a ladle? And how would one estimate the time to cook it? I would hate to pull it out and have it overcooked or completely raw in the middle (its a very thick cut, like a block of flesh). I believe the lowest my oven goes is 200 degrees F, what would be a decent temperature? I’m sorry but slow-cooking and I are complete strangers.

    • Wow, nice get!

      A turkey baster works well for re-dousing. 275-300 degrees F is the temp you ought to aim for, though you can go lower if you have the time to spare. Your best bet is to purchase a good meat thermometer (even the best aren’t all that expensive), that way you can nail your desired level of doneness perfectly. Set aside a day when you’ll be hanging around the house for a good long time, that way you won’t feel pressured to rush things along. I like to throw in celery, carrots, and sweet potato chunks to my roasts and let them cook along with the meat. Good stuff.

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