Fueling the Game: What to Eat Before a Soccer Match?
Wake up! It’s game day! You have a very important match. You need to be as ready as possible.
You trained for a while, you have the best shoes, the best gear, you’ve packed everything, but forgot to take care of one thing…
Food? Oh dear…
We soccer players tend to underestimate the power of nutrition and its influence on performance, particularly before a game.
What influences a performance is a good night’s sleep, a good recovery approach, and great nutrition...
I am telling you this from experience. Training and experience won’t matter if you run out of energy on the field…
But don’t panic. I got your back.
Here is my guide on what to eat before a soccer match for you to have the most energetic of games.
The 6 Cheat-Coded Food
What To Eat Before A Soccer Match?
The timing of the meal is almost equally as important as what you eat. You cannot eat a heavy load of food too close to your game time, or else you won’t be able to run.
The best thing you can do before a game is to eat as early as possible prepare mentally with an ice bath, and visualize yourself succeeding on the pitch.
With that being said, let’s look at the best food to eat before a soccer game:
Oatmeal is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, making it a perfect pre-match meal. It provides a sustained release of energy, keeping you fueled throughout the match.
As we know, complex carbs are one of the best macronutrients to provide energy for a game.
It produces energy, as well as reserves that our body can dig out if we run out of energy during a game to be able to run all the time.
Best way to eat it?
There are many ways to make oatmeal, and it can be complicated to know which one to consume and how to do it.
How I do it is by boiling water (or milk) and adding raw oats to them. They take 2-4 minutes to be done and you can add flavors such as vanilla extract or cinnamon.
To make it even more nutritious and tasty, you can add fresh fruit, nuts, and a touch of honey…and you get yourself a delicious breakfast!
When to consume it?
I would suggest consuming oatmeal 3 hours before a game because complex carbohydrates take time to digest and break down glucose (which is the ”fuel” you need during the game).
2. Bananas (Fruits)
Bananas are a quick and convenient source of energy due to their high potassium content.
Potassium is good for soccer players since it prevents muscle cramps during intense, aggressive moments, and it tends to maintain proper muscle function.
Now, there is a difference between an overripe banana and a bright yellow one (ripe).
An overripe banana has more sugar (glucose), while a yellow one has less sugar and more resistant starch (a type of carbohydrate that is beneficial for gut health and does not get digested, hence ”resistant”).
For soccer players, we do aim for glucose as we need this energy to help our conditioning during a game, and therefore a banana on the ripe side is good (although you won’t die if you eat a green/yellow banana, so I suggest going for preference).
Bananas are easy to digest (like most fruits) and are great as a quick energy source.
Other light snack fruits are:
How to eat them?
Well, I can’t imagine someone not liking to eat fruits as it is. You can make yourself a little fruit salad and consume it, or pair it with oatmeal or Greek yogurt.
You can also add them to a smoothie (they will be easier to digest because of the liquid form, but might bloat you!)
When to consume it?
Eating a single fruit like a banana can be consumed 30 minutes to 1 hour before a game. The more you eat, the more you need to give your body time to digest.
3. Apple Sauce
Apple sauce is a quick and easily digestible source of carbohydrates, making it an excellent choice shortly before a soccer game.
I never go to a practice or game without eating…drinking…slurping apple sauce (you get the idea).
The natural sugars found in apples, and their liquid form, provide a rapid energy boost, helping you feel more alert and focused on the field.
Feeling more energetic can help you feel lighter on the field, finding it easier to perform skills such as dribbling, footwork, and sprinting.
Additionally, the high fiber content in apples supports healthy digestion and can help prevent any stomach discomfort during the game.
How to eat it?
I suggest buying apple sauce in snack sizes and consuming them as it is. Do not pair them if you want to consume them right before practice.
For reference, I slurp 100g of apple sauce before I play soccer.
When to eat it?
Just before you step onto the pitch!! Did you know? Professional soccer players sometimes consume them during half-time for more energy!
Pasta is a classic choice for athletes seeking long-lasting energy. And it also happens to be my FAVORITE, and I’m sure a lot of you agree with me!
Similar to oatmeal, pasta is rich in complex carbohydrates and provides a steady release of glucose into the bloodstream for both immediate energy and stored energy.
Basically, you will get so much energy from it that your opponent won’t be able to keep up with your skills with the soccer ball.
If you don’t like pasta (yes they exist), you can substitute it with baked sweet potato, rice, or quinoa.
How to eat it?
My simple yet effective combo: pair it with a tomato-based sauce for added antioxidants and a touch of lean protein, like chicken, fish, turkey, or tofu.
When to consume?
Complex carbohydrates need to be consumed not sooner than 4 hours before game time.
They are tough to break down and take energy to digest, meaning it wouldn’t be wise at all to eat before a game.
5. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a fantastic combination of protein and carbohydrates, making it an ideal pre-game snack.
The balance of nutrients in Greek yogurt ensures that your energy levels stay constant during the match.
The carbs can grant you the energy you need, while the protein can give you the essential nutrients and recovery for your muscles.
Greek Yogurt is a life hack (literally called superfood) for athletes as they are low in calories, and they can be paired up with fruits and all sorts of healthy food!
How to eat it?
Add some honey and fresh berries to enhance the taste and nutritional value. Granola and fruits also go well with Greek yogurt.
When to consume it?
Greek yogurt can be consumed 1-2 hours before a game. If you plan on eating it with all sorts of extra food like fruits and cereal, then consume it earlier.
6. Grilled Chicken Breast
Grilled chicken is a lean protein source (one of the best sources of protein). It is low in saturated fats and high in essential amino acids.
Consuming chicken before a game supports muscle recovery and growth while reducing the risk of muscle fatigue and injuries.
Although protein is known for recovery and repairing muscles, it is also important to consume it before a game since it can provide long-lasting energy and make sure your muscles have the nutrients they need to perform.
How to eat it?
Chicken is versatile and can be incorporated into various pre-game meals such as sandwiches, salads, or wraps.
You can also eat grilled chicken breast with pasta or baked sweet potato for a balanced meal.
When to consume it?
I would suggest eating chicken the day before for proper recovery of the muscles. On game day, consume it 5 hours before a game, since protein is tough to break down.
Consumption of protein too close to a game can lead to an upset stomach, and we absolutely do not want that while running…
The Role of Pre-Game Nutrition
Soccer is a physically demanding sport that requires endurance, speed, agility, as well as mental focus and energy.
Think of your body like a car, and the food you consume like fuel.
The right foods can provide the necessary energy, enhance muscle function, and improve concentration during the game.
The same is true of the opposite: the wrong food can mess up performance on the field…trust me on that, my fellow soccer players.
1. Complex Carbohydrates – The Energy Boosters
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for athletes, making them a crucial component of a pre-game meal.
Foods like pasta, brown rice, and whole-grain bread are excellent choices.
2. Lean Proteins – Muscle Repair and Growth
Proteins are essential for repairing and building muscles, especially in a high-intensity sport like soccer.
Lean proteins like chicken, turkey, grilled fish, or tofu are ideal before a game.
They aid in muscle recovery, reduce the risk of injuries, and promote endurance. Additionally, protein helps stabilize blood sugar levels when combined with carbohydrates, providing a well-rounded energy source.
Hydration – The Unsung Hero
I cannot stress this enough…HYDRATION IS KEY in performing well.
Dehydration can lead to fatigue, decreased coordination, and increased risk of injury.
Any type of exercise will cause you to sweat and lose essential minerals and electrolytes, therefore you need to prepare your body by hydrating yourself.
Water is a fundamental component of staying hydrated, but sports drinks with electrolytes can also help replenish lost fluids and essential minerals during intense matches.
All day, sip on water. Right before a game, what I do is consume a drink rich in important fluids to avoid cramps or deal with the loss of minerals when sweating.
Gatorades, mineral water, or a homemade smoothie (not too heavy on carbs as it can bloat you) are great ways to stay hydrated and fuelled up!
Fruits and Vegetables – Micronutrient Powerhouses
Fruits and vegetables are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health and performance.
Bananas, for example, are a fantastic source of potassium, which helps prevent muscle cramps. Oranges and strawberries provide vitamin C, boosting your immune system. Dark leafy greens like spinach are packed with iron, which aids in oxygen transport to muscles.
Things You Need To Know About Sports Nutrition
There are some things you need to understand when we approach the food we consume for a good performance on the field.
Not all food sources are the same, for one. Carbohydrates from a soda or a candy are not the same as a carbohydrate-rich meal containing fruits and oatmeal.
There are 3 macronutrients when it comes to food:
All of these macros are healthy! But before a soccer game, some macros like fat need to be avoided because of their digestive complications (they take too much time to digest).
Other macros, like complex carbohydrates, need to be consumed hours before to extract all that glucose and give us the fuel to run and feel light!
For soccer players, we should shift our focus on protein and carbs before the game, and dietary fat either after the game or very early in the day!
With that in mind, let us look at the best food to eat before a soccer game.
In soccer, success is often determined by the smallest margins, and pre-game nutrition can make a significant difference in your performance.
Selecting the right foods can provide a consistent source of energy, promote muscle recovery, and enhance overall endurance.
By incorporating complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, hydration, fruits, and vegetables into your pre-game meal plan, you can step onto the soccer field with confidence, knowing that you’re giving your body the best fuel to excel.
So, remember to make smart food choices and fuel your passion for the game with the right nutrition.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. How long before a soccer game should I eat my pre-game meal?
It’s recommended to consume your pre-game meal 3-4 hours before the match.
This allows your body to digest the food, absorb nutrients, and provide a steady source of energy during the game.
2. Is it necessary to drink water with my pre-game meal?
Yes, staying hydrated is crucial. Make sure to consume water or a sports drink with electrolytes to replenish fluids lost during the game.
Dehydration can significantly impact your performance and increase the risk of injury.
3. Can I combine the recommended foods into one pre-game meal?
Absolutely! Creating a balanced meal that includes complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and fruits or vegetables is an excellent way to ensure you get a mix of nutrients for optimal performance.
For example, a meal might consist of whole wheat pasta with grilled chicken and a side of spinach.
4. Are there any foods I should avoid before a soccer game?
It’s best to avoid high-fat, greasy, or heavily spiced foods before a game, as they can lead to discomfort and may slow digestion.
Additionally, foods high in added sugars can cause energy spikes and crashes, so moderation is key.