Pre-Performance Nutrition: Optimal Timings for Squash Players

26th April 2024

In the pursuit of peak performance, most squash players understand the importance of proper nutrition in fueling their endeavours. One critical aspect often neglected however, is the timing of pre-exercise meals or snacks. Finding the optimal period to eat before training or matches can significantly impact performance, energy levels, and overall well-being. This article delves into the science behind timing pre-performance nutrition for best results, considering individual variances and highlighting the role of different foods in providing energy for performance.


Understanding Pre-Exercise Nutrition

Before delving into timing specifics, it’s essential to grasp the significance of pre-exercise nutrition. The meals or snacks consumed before engaging in physical activity will function alongside existing stores to serve as the body’s primary source of fuel, providing the energy necessary for optimal performance. The key nutrients to prioritize include carbohydrates, which supply readily available energy, along with proteins and fats for sustained energy release and muscle function support.

It’s important to be cognizant of the fact that people will vary widely in their nutritional needs and preferences, making it crucial to personalize pre-exercise nutrition strategies. Factors such as metabolism, body composition, training intensity, and individual tolerance to different foods all influence the ideal timing and composition of pre-exercise meals or snacks. Experimentation and observation of how the body responds to different approaches are essential for each athlete to identify what works best for them.


Timing Pre-Exercise Nutrition: Finding the Sweet Spot

There is obviously a need for difference in timings as regards full meals, and smaller snacks. Consuming a large meal before exercise requires more time for digestion. Ideally, athletes should allow 3-4 hours for a substantial meal to be digested fully before engaging in intense physical activity. This timeframe allows for the absorption of nutrients and minimizes the risk of digestive discomfort during exercise. For smaller pre-exercise snacks on the other hand, such as a piece of fruit or a granola bar, athletes can aim for consumption 30 minutes to 1 hour before exercise. These snacks provide a quick energy boost without overwhelming the digestive system.


The Role of Different Nutrients in Pre-Exercise Nutrition

Carbohydrates play a central role in pre-exercise nutrition, as they serve as the primary source of energy for high-intensity physical activity. Consuming carbohydrates before exercise helps top up glycogen stores in the muscles and liver, providing a readily available fuel source for sustained performance. Ideal carbohydrate sources include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, which offer a combination of complex and simple carbohydrates for sustained energy release.

While carbohydrates take centre stage in pre-exercise nutrition, proteins and fats also play crucial roles in supporting energy levels and muscle health. Including lean proteins and healthy fats in pre-exercise meals or snacks helps promote satiety, slow the absorption of carbohydrates, and provide essential nutrients for muscle repair and recovery. Optimal protein sources include lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, and seeds, while healthy fats can be found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.


Hydration: Fundamental to Pre-Exercise Nutrition

In addition to food, adequate hydration is a vital component of pre-exercise nutrition. Proper fluid intake before physical activity helps optimize hydration status, ensuring that the body is adequately prepared for the demands of exercise. Athletes should aim to drink water regularly throughout the day leading up to matches/training, and consume additional fluids in the hours leading up to physical activity. Electrolyte-rich beverages, such as sports drinks or coconut water, can also be beneficial for replenishing electrolytes lost through sweat.



Timing pre-exercise nutrition is a nuanced endeavour that requires consideration of individual variances, preferences, and training goals. By understanding the importance of fueling the body with the right nutrients at the right time, athletes can optimize their performance, energy levels, and overall well-being. Whether it’s consuming a substantial meal several hours before exercise or grabbing a quick snack closer to activity time, the key is to personalize pre-exercise nutrition strategies to suit individual needs and preferences. Athletes should experiment with different timing strategies to determine what works best for their bodies. Some individuals may find that they perform better with a larger meal consumed several hours before exercise, while others may prefer smaller, more frequent snacks closer to activity time. It’s essential to pay attention to how the body responds to different timing approaches. Athletes should note any feelings of fatigue, digestive discomfort, or fluctuations in energy levels and adjust their pre-exercise nutrition accordingly.

For more info on nutrition for tournament play, check out the companion blog Top 3 Snack Choices for Recovery Between Matches.


Gary Nisbet

B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director

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