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What to Eat Before a Football Game?

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Understanding What to Eat Before a Football Game, can vastly improve your chances on the pitch.

Football players at the highest level can cover over 10km in a single match. As well as running, players
also perform jumps, tackles, sprints and quick changes in direction which all use energy to perform. One of the most important aspects to performing well is to make sure your body is properly fueled.

When Should Your Pre Match Nutrition Start?
Pre Match Protein Needs for a Player
What Should Football Players Eat on a Matchday?
How to Adjust Your Carbohydrate Intake for a Morning or Evening Kick Off?
How Much Should a Football Player Drink Before a Match?
How to Stay Hydrated Throughout a Football Match?
When Does a Football Player Need to Drink More than Water?
Monitoring Your Salt Levels Throughout a Match
How Should a Player Rehydrate After a Football Match?



We receive numerous emails from players regarding nutrition, but the main three are:
What is the best pre match meal?
When is the best time to eat before a game?
How much should I eat before a game?

As we mentioned in the Footballers Diet article, there is no one size fits all answer to football nutrition. The same can be said about the perfect pre match meal.

However, we have some advice below that will put you in the best condition for optimum performance and recovery.




When Should Your Pre Match Nutrition Start?

First off, let’s take a look at the best times to start your pre match nutrition prep.

In the days leading up to your match you should increase your intake of carbohydrates. If you do not, you are likely to run out of energy on the pitch as your glycogen levels decrease. This can lead to being subbed off early or even worse injury. Another important area to consider in the days leading up to a match is your body’s salt and water levels.

Carbohydrates are digested via the stomach and small intestine. After digestion your the glycogen stores in your liver and muscles will increase.

meals-to-eat-before-a-football-match




What to Eat Before a Football Game – Protein Needs

Your body’s protein needs tend to stay the same in the days before a match. So aim to keep these at the level you would if performing semi-intensity training.

Football Players Daily Protein needs:

1.2 – 1.6g of Protein per kg of your body weight, per day.

The food you consume on a match is all geared towards your performance. This is where you can include any sports specific fitness food in your diet as they can often help more than your everyday diet.

What to Eat Before a Football Game _ Carb-Loading

If you play at an intense level of football, it’s important to increase your carbohydrates a few days before a game. Professional players and athletes do this using a technique called carb-loading.

This involves increasing the amount of carbohydrates you eat in the 2-3 days before the match. This increase in carbs will lead to higher levels of glycogen stores in your muscles.

Example of pre-match Carb-Loading:

8 AM Breakfast: (150 g)
2 cups cereal with milk
250 ml fruit juice
1 banana
2 thick slices toast and thick spread of jam

10.30 AM (50 g)
750ml sports drink
12 noon-2pm Lunch (150 g)
1 large bread roll
1 medium muffin
fruit smoothie

3pm Snack (50 g)
200 g flavoured yoghurt
250 ml fruit juice

6pm Dinner (200 g)
3 cups cooked pasta
2 cups fruit salad
2 scoops ice cream
500 ml sports drink

9pm Snack (30 g)
50 g chocolate

This example shows a daily carbohydrate loading diet for a player weighing 70 kg (9kg per kg of body weight, totalling 630g)

pre-match-meal-for-football

What Should Football Players Eat on a Matchday?

In the 6 hours leading up to the match, you want to consume foods that settles your stomach and stop your hunger. A lot of football players have the same pre match nutrition routine which they stick to. We suggest to find a routine you are happy with. It’s important for your body function and psychology that you do what works best for you.

Carbohydrate loading may not be necessary for goalkeepers, players who do not do a lot of running, or if you do not train often (less than 3 times a week). However, active or elite players should eat foods rich in carbohydrates in the build up to your match day.

During the 6 hours leading up to your match you should aim to consume:

1-4grams of Carbohydrates per Kg of your body weight.

This depends on your current level of football. With amateur players around needed 1kg per Kg of body weight and elite players at 4kg per kg of body weight.

Failure to provide your body with enough carbohydrates before or during a game means the body will rely on the liver breaking down fat and protein into glucose for energy. This process is very slow, and will shorten your chances of maintaining your energy levels throughout the whole 90 minutes.

Some examples of foods that provide 140g of carbohydrates for a pre match meal (for a player of 70kg)

Pre Match Meal 1:
2 scoops of breakfast cereal
Milk
1 x Banana

Pre Match Meal 2:
3 thick slices bread and honey

Pre Match Meal 3:
2 scoops boiled rice
2 slices bread

Pre Match Meal 4:
4 pancakes
Spoonful of syrup

Pre Match Meal 5:
60g sports bar
500ml liquid meal supplement or fruit smoothie

These examples show how a 70kg player can reach 140 grams of Carbs in the 6 hours leading up to a match. Note other foods can be consume on top of this amount.

How to Adjust Your Carbohydrate Intake for a Morning or Evening Kick Off?

You should be aware that you will need to eat different pre match meals for different kick off times.

First thing in the morning your glycogen levels are low due to not consuming food for 8 hours. During a normal day your glycogen will increase throughout the day as you eat food. Therefore if you have a game before midday, it is important to increase your cards in the morning, as you window for carb loading is shorter.

If you have an evening kick off it is a little easier to ensure you hit the correct carbohydrate levels as you can consume throughout the day. You will need to adjust the team you consume your pre match meal to allow enough time for your body to get rid of unwanted waste before kick off.

What to Eat Before a Football Game – Pre Match Snack

After you have consumed your pre match meal and leading up to the final 60 minutes before kick off, your body may benefit from a last minute snack. This snack should provide a mixture of carbohydrate, protein and fat. In the past players may have eaten chocolate or cakes to get an extra energy boost, however you should consume foods low in fiber that will release energy slowly.

High carbohydrate pre game snack ideas:

Bagel with low-fat cream cheese
Cereal
Energy drinks
Granola bar
Pretzels
Protein bar
Rice pudding
Tropical fruits
Tuna Sandwich
Whole-wheat bagels
Whole grain crackers
Yogurt (Greek) + fruit

Remember to drink fluid with any snack or meal.

Post Match Recovery Meal

After an intense match your body’s glycogen levels are going to be very low. Therefore it’s important to replenish these as soon as possible (especially if you had another match or training the same week).

The ideal meal would be high in carbohydrates and eaten within 90 minutes of the full time whistle. Try to consume foods high in on the glycemic index. Usually if you have an away game, players will eat a pot of cold tuna pasta which is prepared before the match. This will replace the energy used in the match.

You can also choose foods such as:
Bananas
Bread
Potatoes
Rice
Plus carbohydrate drinks and shakes can easily be consumed post game.

pre-game-meal-for-footballers

How Much Should a Football Player Drink Before a Match?

It is important you drink water the day before and on the matchday itself, to ensure you are fully hydrated at kick off. However, do not drink excessive amounts, as this can have a negative effect on your body.

The following pre match hydration guidelines can be adjusted to your size and weight where appropriate. Always assess your playing environment and make sure you take on more water during hot weather. Try not to sit out in the sun before playing.

You should aim to drink about 500ml of fluid in the 60-90 minutes before kick-off. This ensures you have enough time to urinate any extra fluid before kick off, so you are not carrying more weight than needed.

In hot weather matches where you may sweat a lot, you will benefit from drinking an extra 300-600ml of fluid, 15 minutes before the start of the session. Youth and female players should scale this amount down as your smaller frame will not require as much hydration.

What to Drink Before a Football Match

Every Time you train or play matches, you can lose as much as 3 litres of sweat, especially on a hot day. However, on a cold day, you will sweat a lot less, whilst playing at the same intensity. When calculating your hydration needs, you must remember that everyone is different and your hydration needs can change throughout the course of the season.

Check how hydrated you are with this urine colour chart!

You must train your body to rehydrate during practice sessions so you are not experimenting during matches. Understand that you need to take on more fluid in hot weather or intense training sessions is key to regulating your body’s hydration levels. Use your training as a chance to understand your sweat rates and the amounts of fluid you need to drink to feel refreshed and alert.

You are not looking to replace all the sweat that is loss during intense exercise. However you must aim to keep your sweat loss below 2% of your body weight. If you drink more fluid than is loss from sweat will cause some discomfort in your gut and will mean you carrying extra weight throughout the match or training.

Players must keep body fluids lost through sweat at less than 2%. For Example:
1kg of sweat loss for 50 kg player
1.5 kg of sweat loss for 75 kg player
2 kg of sweat loss for a 100 kg player

During match situations in hot conditions, you must use warm-ups, half-time and any breaks in play to rehydrate. The effects of dehydrations are severely increased as the intensity of the match or temperature increases.

Click here for the best tips to stay hydrated

When Should You Drink Sports Drinks?

Sometimes in football drinking water just isn’t enough. If you play in the centre of midfield or you are an extremely active player, you may need to drink more than just water to reach the desired levels. Your energy stores can decrease rapidly, and may need high carbohydrate drinks to enhance your performance.

Managing your fluid levels throughout a match can be the difference between winning and losing. Fluid intake can affect your skill and judgement as well as helping you run faster and cover more ground for the full 90 minutes.

Remember the last 10 minutes of games are when the majority of cramps and injuries occur, so you need to be aware of your fluid levels to prevent early fatigue.

Sports or Carbohydrate drinks (image of sports drink with (4-8g/100 ml)
Drink between 20-60g per hour during a match

Always check the labels for drinks that have 4-8% carbohydrates.

Best post training hydration supplements

Monitoring Your Salt Levels Throughout a Match

If you are playing or training for longer than 90 minutes you should also take on sodium in the form of fluid as you will lose salt when you sweat. If a visible salt ring appears on your clothing post workout then you may be what the experts call a “salty sweater”.

Historically these players are more prone to cramping in matches and training, due to the high salt loss. If this affects you, aim to consume food and drink with a little extra salt. Specific sport drinks with high sodium, will decrease your chance of cramping.

What to Drink After a Game

Your match or training preparation starts the minute you finish the previous match. You should be looking to replace the water and salts lost from sweat straight away. The recommending guidelines are:

Drink 1.2 – 1.5 litres of water per kg of weight lost during match or training.

If you haven’t already eaten, you should aim to drink fluid containing sodium to replace the salt and sports drinks containing electrolytes.

Estimating your sweat after training or a match is really important to staying on top of your hydration levels.

How to Measure Sweat Production

The process for measuring sweat production involves weighing yourself before and after exercise. It is important that when you step on the scales you are wearing minimal clothing and barefoot.

How to calculate your sweat rate

Example of Sweat Rate Calculation:

During a 90 minute match you may drink 600 ml of fluid. If you pre match weight was 70kg and post game weight is 69kg then:
Players Sweat Rate is: (1 + 2) ÷ 3
1 = Weight change throughout the match: 70 kg – 69kg = 1kg
2 = Amount of water consumed during the match = 600 ml
3 = Match length = 90 mins which is 1.5 hours
Therefore the players sweat rate is: (1000 + 600) ÷ 1.5 hours = 1.7 liters/hr
If math is not your strong suit, you can use this sweat rate calculator to do the work for you.

What next…

Now that you understand what to eat before before your matches. Let us know how your pre match nutrition is going. Leave a comment below with your favourite pre and post match meals.

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