This guide will go through exactly what to eat after a football match.
The best times to eat for maximum gains.
Protein and Carbohydrate post match guidelines.
Easy post match meal and snack ideas to help with recovery.
And how to rehydrate to help re-balance your fluid levels.
Lets get going…
The Basics of Post Match Nutrition
The key to surviving a long grueling season is adequate recovery and rest between matches.
Therefore, an important part of your footballer’s diet is the foods you consume after playing to repair your body and keep you healthy.
Post-match recovery actually starts before you kick off.
So make sure you plan what you’re going to eat before and during a match to get most out of your nutrition.
Now onto the specifics of post-match recovery…
Carbohydrates Are Key to Fast Refueling
Much like pre match nutrition, carbs are important for post match recovery too. Because after playing an intense football match your liver and muscle glycogen stores will be fully depleted.
Therefore, it’s essential you replace your energy stores immediately.
This is especially important after a tough match:
- Moderate training session = Partially depleted energy stores
- Intensive football match (or training) = completed depleted energy stores
The Effects of Bad Refueling on Daily Training
If you play football regularly, it is even more important to refuel after a match or training.
Proper recovery gives you the best chance to train as hard as possible the next day, perform better, and lower the risk of injury.
Here is a visual that shows how carbs effect your energy levels:
- High Carb Diet = Daily Glycogen (energy) Stores stay the same
- Low Carb Diet = Daily Glycogen (energy) stores deplete to almost half each day
Therefore if you don’t take on the right carbohydrates and train the next day, your energy stores will be around half of what you started with.
It gets worse…
If like most footballers you train again the day after that, your energy stores will be even lower, which will increase the chance of burn out and injury.
So what should you eat?
Before we delve into the best post match recovery guidelines here is a great post match meal idea from Fourfourtwo:
When Should you start refueling?
Taking on carbs after a match restores your muscle glycogen and absorbs blood glucose at a high rate.
The most important time to take on carbs is within the 2 hours after the match. This is known as the ‘window of opportunity’.
Delaying your post match meal outside this 2 hour period can lead to a 45% reduction in your muscles glycogen levels.
This slows your bodies recovery meaning longer periods until you are able to train again.
The First 30 Minutes is KeyYou first thought after the final whistle must be recovery. The 30 minutes straight after a match is the most beneficial. Unlike a pre-match meal in which you take on carbs that release energy slowly. This period is when you need quick absorbing carbs. These are the carbs high on the glycaemic index. These are known as simple carbs and are great for restoring your energy fast. The perfect amount of carbohydrate to consume is:
- 1-1.5grams per kg of body weight
Ideas for Post Workout Carbohydrates
Protein Intake After a Match
Protein’s Role in Post Match Recovery?
So carbohydrates replace the energy in your body, but what about repairing the muscles?
Well, that’s where Protein comes in.
After a tough 90 minutes, your body will be battered and your muscles are broken.
Now its time to repair.
During the post match window protein breakdown reduces and protein synthesis increase. Resulting in a positive muscle protein balance (basically your muscle will start to grow in this period).
However, this muscle growth can be improved further…
Consuming Proteins that cause high blood amino acid levels (Hyperaminoacidemia) increases amino acid delivery to muscles and cells, which can further improve muscle recovery and growth.
Proteins supplements such as Whey and Casein are proven to increase the blood’s amino acid levels greater than free form BCAA’s.
Check out our supplements section for a full rundown on safe supplements for footballers.
Protein Synthesis is how your body converts amino acids into proteins.
Similar to most body processes, it is effected by your diet. Therefore if you are not providing your body enough energy, protein production will be slower than the rate it is used up. This will cause a loss of muscle mass (catabolism).
- Whey Protein
- Casein Protein
- Soy Protein
But How Much Protein Is Enough?
During the 15-30 minute window after intense exercises you should look to consume:
0.2 grams of protein per kg of your body weight
Here are our favorite post-match snacks packed with protein:
Post Match Recovery Snacks
The following sections provides a few ideas of snacks that you can take on board after a match to kick start the recover process.
Our football nutrition plan has a large selection of pre during and post match snacks and meal plus a 4 week meal plan to help you get the most out of your training and give you maximum energy for matches.
The Ultimate Post Match Recovery Nutrition
So now you know the best Protein and Carbs to eat after your match you are all set to go.
You could enhance your post match recovery even further by combining these two macronutrients (Protein and Carbs).
The key is consuming a meal or snack that consist of a 3:1 ratio of Carbohydrates over Protein.
Don’t worry, we’ve provided some of our favorites below.
Post Match Recovery Snack IdeasBefore we list some easy and effective recovery meals, we have to give honorable mention to a simple glass of chocolate milk. Forget all of the expensive shakes and supplements, research has shown that Chocolate milk is one of the best recovery meals available. But why? Chocolate milk has the perfect combination of simple sugars and the correct amino acids to replace muscle glycogen stores and boost your muscle recovery. So after you finish your training, why not pop a scoop of nesquik into a glass of cold milk and reward yourself. Here are some other post match snack ideas to help speed up your recovery:
What About Fat for Recovery?
Carbohydrates and Protein are only two-thirds of the macronutrients needed for a healthy diet. The final nutrient is Fat.
It is not essential to replace fat after a match or intense training session. Your bodies fats stores are so vast, that they’ll never deplete during a match or a high-intensity training session.
So it’s just Protein and Carbohydrates you need to priorities for the perfect post-match recovery.
But what if I have an evening kick-off or an away match?
When it comes to proper nutrition remember these 6 words:
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
No matter your kick-off time, or location of your match, there is always a recovery technique to suit your situation.
Evening kicks require a slight alteration, however, it is still easy to get the carb/proteins you need before you sleep.
No doubt you’ll be tired after a long day and intensive match, and the last thing on your mind is cooking and eating a big meal before bed.
This is when a supplement meal and fruit (banana) or the trusted chocolate milk are perfect solutions.
They are quickly absorbed and will not affect your sleep patterns when you get home.
This will also help you rehydrate your fluid levels.
Check out our guide to hydrating like a pro for more info on the importance of fluid balance.