What to Eat Before a Chess Tournament? (Secret Facts!)

The best foods that can be eaten before a chess tournament are seafood, vegetables, fruits, and any easy to digest snacks. A player should avoid any type of meat (except fish meat), cheese, chocolates and sugars, or dishes that are high in protein since it will make one sleepy while playing.

Being in a chess tournament is one of the most painful and stressful experiences you will get to see as a player, I’ve seen it myself. One would need to prepare extensively in order to be in a condition that will deliver their utmost performance.

This is why some people wondered what to eat and not to eat before a chess tournament? and that’s what I’m going to be talking about today. I have researched extensively on this in order to produce accurate findings.

I will go over one by one at each of the food types and specifics to provide a guideline on the best nutrition before a tournament, let’s begin.

Should you eat any type of meat before a chess game?

Every form of meat such as chicken, beef, pig, etc. takes a long time to digest which consumes energy, it also produces amino acids that are converted into serotonin that cause drowsiness.

Due to this, it is not good to eat meat before a chess tournament with the exception of fish meat.

Some claim that any type of meat whether chicken, pig, or beef meat has negative consequences except for fish meats.

This is actually an outspoken rule that all players follow, which is to not eat any barbecue, sandwiches, or even some form of pizza that is heavy in the meat before a tournament.

The meat supposedly made the player sleepy with less calculating power, something that would affect the productivity of the player. It is after all hard to analyze and concentrate on the game when there is this urge to sleep in between the competition.

This is adding to the fact that most chess tournaments last for 6 to 8 hours with 10-minute breaks in between for consecutive days, endurance is a must. Any type of food that would contribute to such a burden would have to be eliminated from the diet.

There are two reasons why meat makes people sleepy: one, the digestion of meat takes a lot of energy which will affect one’s energy consumption, and two, it is responsible for the creation of amino acids which in turn, produce serotonin (a chemical for drowsiness).

This is what most people anonymously mean by something heavy which is those that take time to digest, and the body cooperates.

Those extra energies that go into the digestion process of the food warrant some form of rest mentally, which will affect your game.

Plus it also produces serotonin as a by-product which is the direct cause of sleepiness for people, another bad thing.

This combination is deadly enough that you don’t want to waste hours of study just to not perform at your best in the actual event and therefore something you must avoid.

Fish meat surprisingly has passed in this as people reportedly do not feel the same way after eating it. It is not as heavy to the stomach as pig or beef meat, it could actually be lightweight in average quantities.

Should you eat foods that are high in protein before a chess tournament?

Foods that are high in protein usually contain a lot of amino acids, this extra amino acid produces serotonin which will make one sleepy before a chess game.

It is advised to eat low protein food that is high in carbohydrates before a chess tournament for energy.

Foods that are rich in protein, such as meat, poultry, eggs, fish, spinach, tofu, cheese, and soybeans, contain tryptophan amino acid.

Obviously not every food that contains high protein will also have the same amino acid risk, but the popular ones definitely are. 

We don’t want to be looking back and forth if it’s ok to eat a high protein food every now and then (though you can do it), so it’s just better to avoid most of them.

They will have the same effect as eating a lot of meat which has lots of amino acids so we are back to square one.

This amino acid is used by the body to produce serotonin, which is responsible for drowsiness. That is why it is necessary to not only avoid high protein foods but also to preserve low-protein ones along with high carbs.

Eating low protein foods

It’s good to eat low protein foods preferably with high carbohydrates for extra energy such as pasta, some other low protein foods are:

  1. Fruits: Apples, bananas, pears, peaches, berries, grapefruit, etc.
  2. Vegetables: Tomatoes, asparagus, peppers, broccoli, leafy greens, etc.
  3. Grains: Rice, oats, bread, pasta, barley, etc.
  4. Healthy fats: Includes avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil.

It’s good to go for high carb and low protein diet since it has been proven to maintain good physical and mental abilities short and long term. This has been demonstrated in the new research published in cell reports at this particular source.

Some high carb foods you can choose as the pair are the following:

Milk, yogurt, and ice cream
Whole fruit and fruit juice
Bread, rice, crackers, and cereal
Starchy Vegetables
Potatoes and corn

Consuming high in carbs yet low in protein diet will enable you to avoid the drawbacks of other snacks, which is an advantage. It’s better to plan this kind of food preparation in some 2 to 3 days before the chess tournament for the effects to trigger.

Which foods does one need to avoid in preparation for a chess tournament?

A chess player should avoid hard to digest food such as fried food, citrus fruits, artificial sugar, fructose, spicy foods, cabbage, dairy products, and peppermint, this takes energy to digest making one somewhat lethargic.

This is another thing that I have not tackled clearly earlier, meats are not the only food that are hard to digest (there are other ones). You should also avoid eating any of these heavy foods that would affect your condition during the games.

Avoid hard to digest food

These are the most popular hard to digest food that you are likely to consume:

  • Fried Foods
  • Citrus Fruits
  • Artificial Sugar
  • Cabbage and Its Cousins
  • Fructose
  • Spicy Foods
  • Dairy products
  • Peppermint

Of course, this is not a complete list of hard to digest foods since it will take too long, but these are just the things that I see other people eat a lot.

Absolutely avoid any of these potential snacks (even a peppermint) since it’s not the actual size, but the effect that it will have on your body.

If you are not sure if a snack is easy to digest, just imagine the experience of eating that food before and whether you have to rest after eating it.

If yes, then there’s a good chance that it is something hard to digest and therefore you should avoid it, if no, then there’s a green light right there.

Don’t eat sugary, fatty, or oily food

There’s another one that is hard to digest, sugary foods, avoid sugary foods (like chocolates) along with snacks that have a high concentration of fats since this gives temporary energy but is vulnerable to energy crashes.

Not only will it decrease your energy level because of the digestion part, but it will also crush everything due to the sweet and sugary part, a double kill.

If you want to be successful in the chess tournament, you should have the discipline to not get anywhere near these foods in just a couple of days.

Are peanuts a good choice for something to eat before a chess tournament? 

A lot of frequent chess tournament participants recommend munching on some peanuts claiming that it can improve concentration. Peanuts contain healthy fats, protein, fibers, and other useful nutrients that help with the player’s diet.

The major type of peanuts has been reported to increase concentration during chess games without giving too much downside. I find this hard to believe but have heard frequent enough to warrant a deep dive on the specifics, which is frankly not that bad.

Peanuts are not exactly fruits but kind of (seed) that qualify to something of low protein which could fit in a high carb diet.

Adding to this peanuts are especially a good source of healthful fats and fiber, very good nutrients that would help in endurance and bowel levels (bathroom may become an issue in tournaments).

They also contain plenty of potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, and B vitamins which will all help in the preservation of one’s mental state.

Plus it is just a transportable snack that doesn’t require too much space (I mean it is a peanut) kinda like a peppermint.

If you can’t hold an actual peppermint (since it will cause sugar crashes) then it might be better to substitute it for something beneficial like a peanut. It is snackable (doesn’t take that much time to eat), digestible, and you can pretty much intake it anywhere.

It will help your actual performance while still being something delicious, what more can you ask for a stressful setting such as a chess tournament?

What things can one eat moments before the start of a chess tournament?

One can eat cereal, any of the major fruits, or a snack which doesn’t contain chemicals that will cause a sugar-crash before a chess tournament.

It is advised to eat easy to digest food such as soup since it doesn’t take much energy and wouldn’t make one lethargic while playing a game.

What to eat at breakfast?

If it is in the morning, good cereal and milk can do the trick as long as you don’t eat any meat or cheese. Cheese as you may know it has the same downsides as one having high in proteins, but milk should be ok.

A cereal is lightweight and easy to digest while satisfying the gut enough at the same time, if you don’t want this then bread may do the trick.

Bread as I have included above is actually a food high in carbs so it would fit in the high carb low protein diet, perfect for a chess tournament.

You can even switch and test things out in order to find the one that works for you, as long as it follows the nutrition highlighted above.

What to eat just before the first game in the tournament?

If it is just moments before a chess tournament I will repeat, peanuts are a good option since it is snackable and easy to carry.

It is a light but not too light that it doesn’t fill the hunger in your stomach, a good match for someone about to take on something stressful (such as a tournament).

If you are just not the guy that would like peanuts, bananas are good snack just before a game since it is high in nutrients while still being easy to carry.

It is not as snackable as peanuts and you have to take care of it since it may spoil, but still a good option nonetheless.

Bananas are a good source of nutrients as much as peanuts but have that sweet taste that would make some people prefer them.

You can choose your own snacks just remember that it is advised to not eat anything heavy just before the game (since it will take time to digest), but if you really have to, choose easy to digest foods that don’t cause an energy crash.

Chocolates, peppermint, and any sugary treats are off the charts since it will make you sleepy during the chess games (again, sugar crash).

What should a player eat if the chess tournament is still weeks ahead?

It doesn’t matter what an individual eats weeks ahead before the chess tournament, though a diet should be planned 3 days before the event. Seafood, vegetables, and fruits proved to be the best options for maximizing one’s performance.

If the tournament is weeks ahead you can basically eat anything preferably a healthy balanced diet, just leave your unhealthy food pyramid just for this week before the event.

It really doesn’t matter all that much if the time span is too long however, once you get in the three-day span then you should prepare.

The high carb low protein diet is extremely recommended, and you should make it a goal to only eat seafood as the meat. Fruits and vegetables will help your energy and acuity that can transfer to the actual tournament, so you should go for that.

Believe it or not, you should also avoid oily and sugary foods even at this point, such snacks will make you lethargic throughout the days.

You should develop a habitual pattern of food intake that is healthy and beneficial for your body and the brain (at this moment in time).

A vegan chess player

Going vegan for the last two meals before the event can also be a good practice even if you may find it weird. I mean we can’t eat meat except for seafood meats, might as well eat something really healthy like vegetables and fruits.

I mean you can eat bread, cereal, and all the other recommendations that I have, but I do not think that would be a satisfying meal.

A vegetable and fruit meal for example, will be beneficial for the body but also secures your stomach (making sure it is not hungry).

It has been proven time and time again that the nutrients from fruits and vegetables help in facilitating our bodily functions.

And trust me, chess tournaments are one of the most stressful things you can ever participate here on earth, the garry kasparov vs. anatoly karpov standoff should accurately show that.

If this is a lower-rated tournament with lower time control then yeah, the food intake may not matter as much. However, once you cross the 1500 Elo mark then you need proper conditioning to take care of your brain and body while going into this.

The stress, competition, and hours would get tougher and longer, only one with the best stamina (sometimes not even skill should survive).

And going vegan just two meals before the tournament will help in making the body last longer to see success in the event, therefore you should do it.

Do you now know what to eat before a chess tournament?

Chess tournaments really are one of those things that need extensive preparation in order to do well, the performance on the board is half the battle.

If you do not know how to take care of your body as much as your mind, then you’ll inevitably gonna fall into a battle of attrition.

Having a good food schedule will be the first step to preparing yourself in getting that first place. By just being aware of what you can eat and not eat, you are already one step ahead of other chess players that are studying the same thing as you.

This competitive edge will be valuable especially against participants of similar skill level, I hope you can apply some of these suggestions, sleep well and play chess.