Dodge Safe #9: You Are What You Eat

Posted on November 13, 2013 at 10:59 am |

DS 9 Featured image

Disclaimer: I am NOT a nutritionist. I have only taken a few sports nutrition classes in my Bachelor and Master programs. The purpose of this post is to provide some information on how the types of food you eat can affect your dodgeball prowess.

Imagine this: You are the last person on your team with all 6 balls on your side. All members of the opposing team stand on the other side of the court waiting to dodge or catch your throws. Rearing back, you throw. The first ball hits a guy square in the chest and rolls right back to you. You easily dispose of the next 2 players in the same fashion. However, your shoulder burns, your arm is rubbery, and you are now panting but you must go on (you don’t want to be dropped down a tier!). You grip the ball tight and stretch back to throw. As you release the ball, you watch it float towards your opponent and right into a catch.  What the? What happened to my power? Sorry team, guess we’re heading down a tier. I must be out of shape.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Experiencing fatigue during dodgeball is common but it does not necessarily mean that you are out of shape. It may simply be because you ran out of fuel. Did you come straight to dodgeball after work? Was your last meal 7 hours ago? Without the proper food intake, your body and muscles won’t be able to produce the amount of output, power, or energy that you need it to.

Our body’s 3 energy systems.

Without making this into a biology or physiology lecture, here is a quick explanation on how our body produces energy. The key to all this energy production is a compound called ATP or adenosine triphosphate. When ATP is broken down, energy is released and the muscle is able to contract. The body utilizes 3 different energy systems to produce ATP (Quinn, 2008):

  1. The ATP-CP energy system is also known as the immediate energy system. This energy system uses ATP that is already stored in the muscle and supplies the body with about 10 seconds of energy, like when you make a mad dash for the balls at opening rush.

  2. The Anaerobic energy system converts carbohydrates to ATP, allowing for short, high-intensity activity that lasts 1-3 minutes, like the typical length of a dodgeball game.

  3. The Aerobic energy system converts carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to ATP and is used primarily for endurance exercises like a 30-minute long distance run.

In a game of dodgeball, your body utilizes all three energy systems but it mainly relies on the Anaerobic system to produce energy.

Mmmmm…. Carbs.

Eating carbohydrates is the best way to fuel yourself before dodgeball, but before you go and stuff yourself full of leftover Halloween candy, make sure it is the right kind of carbohydrates.

Choose foods that can be easily digested and are low in fiber. Also, make sure that it is a food that you are familiar with so you don’t end up spending your night in the washroom with a stomach ache.

Listed below are suggestions of carbohydrate-rich pre-exercise meals (Fink et al., 2009):

  • bagel with peanut butter and jelly, and applesauce

  • yogurt with bananas and granola

  • oatmeal with raisins, walnuts, and milk

  • turkey sandwich, apple slices, yogurt

  • spaghetti, grilled chicken, salad.

When should I eat my “turkey sandwich, apple slices, and yogurt”?

The timing of your meal before physical activity is important. You don’t want to eat too early and be hungry at dodgeball OR you don’t want to eat too late and feel too full to run. Most research suggests that eating your carbohydrate-rich meal 1-4 hours prior to physical activity is ideal (Fink et al, 2009).

What about having a “grande white mocha Americano”?

Caffeine is often used as a nutritional aid to “wake up” and “stay focused” but does it actually help you throw harder or run faster?

In endurance exercises, recent research reports that having 3-9 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of body weight 1 hour before can improve on performance (Spriet and Graham, n.d.). 3 mg/kg of body weight roughly translates to 1 mug or 2 regular-size cups of coffee. Some researchers think that caffeine helps to release more fat, which helps to fuel the aerobic system.

There isn’t a lot of research to support whether caffeine has a positive effect on short duration sports like dodgeball. However, caffeine does help with increasing mental alertness and attention, which are important aspects in dodgeball.

The American College of Sports Medicine does not recommend ingesting high doses of caffeine (10-15 mg/kg) because of the side effects associated with caffeine. The side effects may include anxiety, jitters, irritability, heart arrhythmias, and mild hallucinations (Spriet and Graham, n.d.).

Carolyn Tam is a registered physiotherapist currently working in the Lower Mainland. She completed her Master of Physical Therapy degree at the University of British Columbia after graduating from UBC with a Bachelor of Human Kinetics.


Fink, H.H., Burgoon, L.A., and Mikesky, A.E. (2009). Practical Applications in Sports Nutrition 2nd Edition. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Spriet, L.L. and Graham, T.E. (n.d.). Caffeine and Exercise Program. Retrieved on November 10, 2013 from

Quinn, E. (2008). Energy Pathways for Exercise – How Carbohydrate, Fat and Protein Fuels Exercise. Retrieved on November 10, 2013, from

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