Understanding what to eat before a football match, can vastly improve your chances on the pitch. Football nutrition is more important than ever, as the margins in the professional game are so tight.
Players at the highest level can run over 12km 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 fuel up properly by following a plan footballers diet.
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.
Check out this great video by FourFourtwo on pre-match nutrition:
When Should Your Pre Match Nutrition Start
Daily Protein Needs
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.
This example shows a daily carbohydrate loading diet for a player weighing 70 kg (9kg per kg of body weight, totaling 630g)
What should you eat on a matchday?
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.
Pre Match Meal Ideas
Here are some examples of foods that provide 140g of carbohydrates for a pre-match meal (for a player of 70kg)
These examples show how a 70 kg player can reach 140 grams of Carbs in the 6 hours leading up to a match. Note: Other foods can be consumed on top of this amount.
Adjusting Your Carbs for 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 your 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.
Pre Match Snack Ideas
- Bagel with low-fat cream cheese
- Energy drinks
- Granola bar
- Protein bar
- Rice pudding
- Tropical fruits
- Tuna Sandwich
- Whole-wheat bagels
- Whole grain crackers
- Yogurt (Greek) + fruit
Post match recovery meal
How much fluids should you drink before a match?
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.
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 lost 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 lost from sweat will cause some discomfort in your gut and will mean you carrying extra weight throughout the match or training.
During match situations in hot conditions, you must use warm-ups, half-time, and any breaks in play to re-hydrate. The effects of dehydration are severely increased as the intensity of the match or temperature increases.
When should you drink sports drinks?
Sometimes in football drinking water just isn’t enough. If you play in the center 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 judgment 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.
Always check the labels for drinks that have 4-8% carbohydrates.
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 sports drinks with high sodium will decrease your chance of cramping.
Drinking Redbull before a match?
We often hear of players who drink a can of Redbull for a boost before matches and training. There are studies which show a positive effect of certain types of training, however, most studies show the benefits of sticking to a healthy diet and a planned training routine far outweigh any temporary energy gained from Redbull.
There may be days when you feel sluggish and need a ‘pick me up’, in these situations we recommend a lower calorie option of energy such as a REON sachet. With only 3 Calories per pack, this vegan-friendly option is a lot safer in the long run.
What to drink after a match?
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:
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 stay 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.
Example of Sweat Rate Calculation:
If you drink 600ml during a 90 minute and you pre match weight was 70kg and post match 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.
Now that you understand what to eat before your matches. Let us know how your pre-match nutrition is going. Leave a comment below with your favorite pre and post match meals.
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