Cycling champion Lance Armstrong is said to measure every ounce of food he eats. Top basketball players hire private chefs to make sure they avoid consuming junk. As for soccer, members of the London-based pro team Arsenal eat broccoli instead of chips and beer, based on manager Arsene Wenger’s philosophies on nutrition, which he developed while working in Japan. If you want to perform at your best in soccer, you can take a page from the elites and eat correctly, especially before and after the game.
If you are slated to play for more than an hour, as you do in an adult game of 90 minutes or more, you need to practice pregame eating, says Gloria Averbuch and Nancy Clark in “Food Guide for Soccer.” You need fuel for your muscles, and to deliver it, you should train your digestive system, just as you train your muscles and cardiovascular system. Experiment with pregame eating options to find the foods that work best for your body, and the timing and amounts that benefit you.
Prepare a pregame snack of carbohydrates, such as a bagel with peanut butter, oatmeal, a banana, yogurt or similar food. These can accompany a pasta lunch before an afternoon game or an oatmeal and raisins breakfast, according to Averbuch and Clark. A granola bar or half a sandwich can also work. If you have a morning game, a substantial dinner the night before or late-night snacking can boost your liver glycogen stores, although you run some risk of putting on body fat if you eat heavily at the end of the day.
The publication “F-MARC Nutrition for Football,” published by FIFA, the governing body of soccer, collects practical information on eating and drinking for soccer players. It concurs with the long-held view that carbohydrate loading before a competition prepares the muscles for the energy demands placed on them. The publication recommends about 8 to 10 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, which translates to 19 to 24 ounces if you weigh 150 pounds. Eat 1 to 4 grams per kilogram of carbohydrate, or 2.5 to 10 ounces if you weigh 150 pounds, during the six-hour period before exercise. Food items can include cereal, fruit juice, bananas, toast, bread, muffins, fruit smoothies, pasta and similar foods.
Recovery options after the game need to include carbohydrates to replace depleted energy stores and protein to rebuild weary muscles. For example, “Food Guide for Soccer” recommends eating trail mix, an apple and cheese sticks or a chicken dinner with rice and vegetables. Have your first snack within the first half-hour after the game and then continue every two hours for the next four to six hours.
- "Food Guide for Soccer: Tips & Recipes from the Pros"; Gloria Averbuch and Nancy Clark; 2010
- "Nutrition and Football: The FIFA/FMARC Consensus on Sports Nutrition"; Ron J. Maughan; 2006
- FIFA; F-MARC Nutrition for Football; September 2005
- Gallo Images/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.