The big day has arrived, you’re packing your kit bag and making sure your soccer boots are clean. Everything’s packed and you’re ready to go. But, what should you be eating before a soccer game?
The answer to that question isn’t a simple one. But, to give a brief answer, you should probably eat what you normally eat before practice.
A game is basically just like training. If you don't eat anything special for training days, why would you change it for game day? Why would you even consider messing with your body's delicate chemistry right before an important game?
It’s super important for a soccer player, or any physically active person to eat a consistent diet that is packed with protein, complex carbs and vitamins.
In short here’s what to eat before a soccer match to help you achieve peak performance:
- Peanut Butter
- Chicken & Rice
- Chocolate Chip Cookie
But that’s the short answer. The longer answer is much more involved and I’ll attempt to answer that in depth in this article.
What To Eat Before A Soccer Game
it’s not as simple as stuffing your face with as much food on the list as possible, you have to be structured in when and what to eat.
You may notice that I’ve not included PASTA, PASTA AND MORE PASTA in the list. That’s because you don’t really need to do the whole carb loading thing anymore.
Attention all soccer players, it’s time to jump off of the carb loading train. Eating your body weight in pasta may seem like a good idea, but you have to remember that, that mindset is almost 60 years old.
Marathon runners used to swear by ramping up the carbs prior to race day, but even they don’t do it anymore. There was an interview where rural Kenyan runners mentioned that they drink a special herbal tea before setting off on their 26 miler.
Consistently Balanced Diet
If you’re eating well consistently throughout the week prior to a game you’re already doing much better than the vast majority of players.
You need to get a consistent diet and not change it up specifically for game day. What I’m getting at is that it almost requires a lifestyle change.
Yes, of course you know it’s game day and it’s different to a practice game. But, that’s your mind, your metabolism will still work at the same pace regardless of a real game or a training one.
Another factor to consider is that during a game there are periods where you’ll be walking or stopped completely, essentially these are like your recovery periods. You won’t need loads and loads of carbs as you simply won’t burn it all off, you’ll just get fat.
Spend a few weeks finding out what food works best for you in terms of a consistent diet. But, if you don’t want to completely change your nutritional intake, make some small adjustments in 3 days leading up to your soccer game.
To help you figure out what to eat, I’ve added a few headings below, this is what I would normally eat in the build up to a soccer game.
Two Or Three Days Before
It’s really important to get some real good complex carbs into your system around three days before a soccer game.
I know I said you don’t really need to carb load, whilst that is true. You will still need some carbs in your system. How else are you going to have the energy to run up and down the pitch for 90 minutes or more?!
A great meal option three days before a soccer game would be to have a pasta bake. It’s simple, budget friendly and most of all, it’s delicious.
One of my favourite pasta bake recipes uses Gnocchi. If you haven’t tried it, it’s basically a slightly healthier alternative than traditional white pasta. It’s made with potato, which gives it a much more delicate, fluffy texture.
Most importantly of all, it’s really, really tasty. I would describe it as being a true example of what makes Italian cuisine so popular.
Gnocchi pasta bake contains all of the major food groups. Carbohydrate, protein, fibre, vegetables and some great fats. Throw in some chicken to increase the protein quantity.
Drizzle over some amazing quality extra virgin olive oil and some fresh basil. Extra virgin olive oil has been known to have strong anti-Inflammatory properties and could even help prevent strokes.
The Night Before
If you weren’t able to make some changes to your nutritional intake three days before, then this is the last opportunity to give yourself a fighting chance to help you perform optimally.
An ideal meal to have the night before would be a fish dish. White fish provides a whole host of macro and micro nutrients, including lean protein and healthy fats.
It also contains plenty of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. Don’t forget the vitamins, it’s got A and D. Both of these have been shown to be low in competitive athletes.
Which fish dish then? Well for starters you'll want something that’s super tasty, go for something like grilled fish with lemon and a side serving of new potato salad.
Fish has been shown to help athletes improve a lot of key performance measures including their running.
It’s been reported that improved lung function both during and after exercise was found in young, healthy wrestlers who took 1 gram of EPA and DHA omega-3’s. And, I don’t know about you, but improved lung function would help me alot, especially as I liked to play as a wing-back, you’re running up and down the wing all game with little respite.
The new potato salad also has loads of carbs, keep the skins on to increase the amount of good stuff you’re getting. Potato skin contains B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, calcium, potassium and other nutrients.
The Best Breakfast Before A Soccer Game
The big day’s arrived. No, not your wedding day. It’s the day of the game and you’ll need the best breakfast possible to get you through your soccer game. STOP, before you reach for the bacon and eggs have a think about what you’ll be putting your body through.
Whilst eggs and bacon are packed full of great protein and fats, they lack complex and simple carbs that your body will need. Your body can convert protein to carbs but it’ll need those carbs right away, so give it a helping hand.
What do I suggest then? Well for starters, there’s nothing better than a hot bowl of oatmeal on a cold morning. Mix up some rolled oats, plant based vanilla flavoured milk and a pinch of brown sugar and simmer it until it reaches your desired consistency.
The oats will give you those complex carbs, the brown sugar gives you that instant hit of energy and the plant based milk gives you a calcium boost.
Now you can reach for the bacon! Toast up a slice of brown, seeded bread and layer on 3 or 4 slices of bacon.
I also normally reach for a cup of black coffee. My stomach and digestive system can handle it but I know some people are sensitive to coffee. It can make some people need the toilet immediately, so if you are normally sensitive to caffeine, give it a miss.
You could instead opt for a glass of chocolate milk, just make sure it’s a good few hours before kick off. You don’t want to have milk sloshing around in your stomach whilst chasing down that fast striker.
2 Hours Before
I perform better if I’ve been to the toilet before a game, I don’t want to feel bloated and have a Gary Lineker incident on the pitch. To help get things moving along, I usually have a small meal 2 or 3 hours before.
This meal will consist of a protein, a small amount of complex carbs and some vegetables packed full of fibre.
What does this meal look like then? Well an example meal could be, grilled chicken breast, brown rice and blanched spinach. Washed down with plenty of water.
Be strict on portion size though, you don’t want roadside diner proportions. At the same time, you don’t want a tiny portion that’s only going to leave you hungry, keep it balanced. You don’t want food sitting in your stomach whilst you're (literally) busting a gut to get back into position to stop an attack.
40 Minutes Before Kickoff
Time is ticking and the nerves are kicking in, you’re about to do your warm up but make sure to get something to eat that’s not going to slosh around in your stomach.
I tend to eat a large banana or a chocolate chip cookie 40 minutes before kickoff. A banana is the perfect choice really, it’ll take anywhere between 60 - 90 minutes to see the benefit. This means it’ll really help your energy levels towards the closing stages of the game.
If your body can tolerate the simple sugars in the chocolate chip cookie, give it a go. It could give you a good boost of simple sugar energy, which will get working right away which is perfect for kick-starting your game from the moment the referee blows his or her whistle.
A banana is also a great option at half time, it’ll help start the recovery process as by the time the games finished, the half time banana will just have started to digest.
What To Eat Before A Soccer Game
To summarise then, you can eat well on a budget and you don’t have to be a chef. You can make delicious, healthy food that’s going to get you through an arduous game of soccer.
You’ll be firing on all cylinders if you start eating well consistently for at least three days before a game. Better still, try and make a lifestyle change and eat well for the overall health benefits and not just your weekend soccer games.
I’d be really interested in hearing your thoughts on what you eat before a match. Check the contact us page and send me an email using the form. And, before you leave, I've embedded a YouTube video to an awesome pasta recipe, check it out.
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