What Should Players Eat Before a Soccer Match?

13th February 2020
A soccer player's diet can make a big difference in a player's performance. What should players eat and drink before a match?

Lunch, breakfast, or even just a snack before a soccer match is important to help athletes maintain certain nutrients. One example is glycogen. What you eat before a soccer match can also help you to achieve an optimal level of blood sugar.

Aside from that, it’s important for soccer players to make sure they’re hydrated appropriately. Of course, stomach problems are no good during play, so they should avoid consuming anything that could cause this. So what can you eat to make sure you don’t have any issues?

First of all, you have to understand that soccer involves intense bursts of effort. You’re mostly going to be doing low-intensity exercise during competitions. During the match, you’ll be combining high-intensity sprint-like exercise with periods of rest.

General recommendations

This is the broadest recommendation with regard to consuming carbohydrates before a match:

  • Eat 3-4 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of weight during the 3-4 hours before a match.
  • Two hours before the match, your carbohydrate needs will fall to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight.
  • For the hour right before the start of a match, all you need is one gram of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight.

With regard to hydration, experts recommend that soccer players ingest six cups of water during the few hours before a match. Of course, these quantities will vary by individual and also depend on the environmental conditions of the game.

In order to ensure that you’re hydrated, you should monitor the color of your urine. This varies according to how hydrated you are. Also take the time of the match into account.

If you’re one of those people who leaves home without having breakfast, we’re sharing some information below, about the importance of morning nutrition. 

When you have a match in the morning

If you’re going to have a game in the morning, you should have breakfast two to three hours before the match. Some good options for this meal are:

  • You could drink coffee with some milk in it and have a fruit juice. As for food, a good option is a toast and fresh cheese.
  • Oatmeal is a good option too- eight tablespoons. You can put this into coffee or milk and have a piece of fruit or a fruit juice along with it. If you choose this option, you have to think about the possibility that you may upset your stomach.
  • You could also have yogurt or coffee with fruit salad and jam.
  • Finally, this one’s a little less healthy than the other options, but it gets the job done: coffee with milk and cookies.

In case you’re one of those people who needs to sweeten their coffee, you can use sugar or honey.

Various breakfast foods you can eat before a soccer match.

What to eat before a soccer match if it’s in the afternoon

If you’re going to play in a match during the afternoon, you should arrange to have your meal four hours before it begins. You can stick to your normal breakfast.

Your main meal should have carbs as its basis. It should also be low in fats and fiber. That’ll help prevent gastrointestinal issues. Some examples of such meals are:

  • Pasta with homemade tomato sauce and lean fish or meat. You could grill this or put it in the oven.
  • Spaghetti with tomatoes and an omelet. Add yogurt or fruit for dessert.
  • A turkey breast or chicken breast sandwich with tomatoes.
  • Another option is a bowl of rice with baked fish or a grilled potato.
  • Pasta salad with fresh cheese and a fruit salad.
  • A potato puree with grilled lean meat. Have a toast with fresh cheese for dessert.
  • Tomato salad with boiled potatoes and steamed fish.

After your meal, up until the last hour before the match takes place, there are some things you can eat. These are a piece of fruit, a yogurt, a cereal bar, or toast with jam. Don’t forget to drink a lot of water, whatever your choice of foods.

What to eat before a soccer match when it’s at night

If you’re going to have a game in the last hours of the day, you have two options. One of them is to have your meal three to four hours before the game.

Another option can be to have your dinner earlier. If you do this, the food you consume has to follow the same pattern as that of your meals.

A girl kicking a soccer ball.

The third option is to have a snack three to four hours before the game. This snack can be something similar to one of the options from the breakfast section. If you’re hungrier than that, though, you can just have a second meal at this point.

Food before a game: final thoughts

You have to keep in mind that every player has characteristics that are specific to them. That’s why each meal plan should take these individual characteristics into account. A nutritionist can help you to create this type of plan.

Also, it’s not a good idea to try out new foods right before a game. When athletes travel, they might be tempted to try out new foods. These choices can impact their performance.

When you want to confirm the effects of a particular meal that you eat before a soccer match, you have to have certain tests before the training session. With these tips, an athlete can improve their performance markedly. They’ll also be able to take full advantage of their soccer session.

  • Williams C, Serratosa L. 2006. Nutrition on match day. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16766498
  • Shirreffs SM, Sawka M, Stone M. 2006. Water and electrolyte needs for soccer training and match play. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16766499