What to Eat Before a Soccer Game (Prepare Like a Pro)

How you eat can undoubtedly impact how you feel and perform as an athlete. This is especially true for long, demanding soccer games. 

Despite the importance of nutrition, many players, parents, and coaches alike are not sure how to best prepare for the game. 

This leaves many wondering “what should I eat before a soccer game?” In this article, we’ll dive into soccer nutrition, including

  • Pre-game snacks and meals. 
  • Things to eat during a game. 
  • Post-game food options. 
  • Gameday preparation overall. 

Eating the correct food before playing soccer can make you a star player, let’s find out how.

Healthy Food On A Board Best For Soccer
Healthy Food On A Board Best For Soccer ○ Soccer Blade

What Should I Eat Before My Soccer Game?

Eating properly is a core part of preparing for your soccer game. It’s vital to get enough nutrients and fuel before you play. 

However, knowing what to eat before a game can be tricky, especially if you are on the go or have multiple games per day. 

Fortunately, there are many accessible, simple snacks and meals that can help fuel you for game day. Understanding these three macronutrients will help you to plan the most effective meals and snacks. 

TypeFunction 
FatsFat is the first macronutrient the body uses, and it’s vital for short, high-intensity actions like sprints. 
CarbohydratesCarbs are the body’s energy storage, and they are released slowly as fuel for endurance activities like soccer. 
ProteinProteins do not play the main role in energy use, and the body only uses them when very depleted. Instead, it is crucial for strength and recovery from intense physical exertion. 
Food Types and Benefits for Soccer

Check out this informative video from Crystal Palace FC on what the players eat throughout the week

What Food is Rich in Carbohydrates?

Before your game, you need to consume plenty of complex carbs to fuel you through the match. 

Sometimes it can be difficult to know where you can get all of these carbs from. While whole-grain bread is often a convenient option, it’s not your only choice. 

Here are some foods that are rich in complex carbs:

  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Barley 
  • Chickpeas
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Brown rice
  • Black beans
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Butternut squash
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Asparagus 
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Oranges 
Soccer Food Healthy Snacks
Soccer Food Healthy Snacks ○ Soccer Blade

What to Eat 3 Hours Before a Soccer Game 

Roughly three hours before the game is an excellent time for your primary pre-game meal. Ideally, you should aim to eat between 300 and 500 calories during this meal. 

The pregame meal should contain carbohydrates, a little fat, a little fiber, and ample protein. One example would be a grilled chicken breast with a side of rice and sauteed vegetables. 

What to Eat 2 Hours Before a Soccer Game 

In some situations, you may have to eat your pre-game meal only two hours before the game. In this case, consider that you will have slightly less time for digestion. 

Generally, you’ll still want to consume enough carbohydrates along with a little protein and fiber. However, you may need to eat a slightly smaller meal. Ensure that the foods you eat can digest fairly quickly. 

An example of a meal to eat 2 hours before the game would be a banana with oatmeal. 

What to Eat an Hour Before a Soccer Game 

One hour before the game, you shouldn’t be eating a full meal. Instead, this is the time to consume a snack. 

Choose a carbohydrate-rich snack that can help you refuel your tank without bloating you. 

Some snack options for an hour before the game include

  • A cereal bar
  • Some fruit
  • A yogurt 
  • Toast with jelly 
  • Pretzels
Oatmeal With Fruit Healthy Breakfast
Oatmeal With Fruit Healthy Breakfast ○ Soccer Blade

What to Eat for Breakfast Before a Soccer Game 

If you have a game in the early afternoon, then breakfast will be your pre-game meal. During breakfast, focus on consuming complex carbohydrates with low-fat protein. During this meal, avoid high-fat items like butter, fried food, etc. 

Here are some examples:

  • Eggs, whole grain toast, and low-fat yogurt. 
  • Whole-grain cereal with milk and a side of fruit. 
  • Vegetable and egg omelet with yogurt. 
  • Oatmeal with fruit and a hard-boiled egg. 
  • Whole-wheat bagel with low-fat peanut butter and an apple. 

Additionally, make sure to get plenty of fluids with breakfast. Consume at least two cups of water. Diluted 100% juice is also helpful, just make sure it is not loaded with added sugars. 

What to Eat for Lunch Before a Soccer Game 

If your game is later in the day, you may wonder what to eat before a soccer game in the afternoon. 

Even though this meal is for lunch, you still want to consume mostly carbohydrates with some lean protein and only a little healthy fat. 

Here are some example lunches:

  • Whole-grain rice with grilled port and an avocado. 
  • Yogurt with strawberries and whole-grain cereal. 
  • Whole-grain toast with shredded chicken, olive oil, and a few grilled vegetables. 

Again, be sure to drink plenty of water with this meal as well. 

Is it Good to Eat Before a Soccer Game?

Yes, generally speaking, it is important to eat before your soccer game. While the exact timing and amount of food may vary by player, many pre-game meals are set for 3-4 hours before the game. 

In addition to the pre-game meal, many players benefit from another snack or small meal consumed closer to the game time. 

Good nutrition is at the core of my success

Cristiano Ronaldo 
Cristiano Ronaldo Of Portugal Center Scores A Goal Against Morocco In Their Group B Match During The 2018 Fifa World Cup In Moscow Russia 20 June 2018
Cristiano Ronaldo Of Portugal Center Scores A Goal Against Morocco In Their Group B Match During The 2018 Fifa World Cup In Moscow Russia 20 June 2018

How Can I Get Energy Before a Soccer Game?

It’s no secret that you need a lot of energy to make it through a soccer game. According to an article by Harvard casually playing soccer for 30 minutes burns about 300 calories for someone who weighs 185 lbs. This is why energy drinks, coffee, and caffeine supplements can seem so appealing to soccer players. 

However, there are much better ways to get energy before your soccer game including

  • Eating a filling, balanced meal the night before. 
  • Get enough sleep the night before the game. 
  • Rest up during the day of the game so you don’t waste your energy reserves. 
  • Make sure to eat breakfast during game day, especially one with complex carbs. 
  • Drink enough water. 
  • Take a quick shower to help wake up. 

What Should I Eat Before Soccer Tryouts?

Soccer tryouts are often soon after school. It can be much more difficult to plan out a nutritious meal while on the go for tryouts, and you may not have much time between eating and playing. 

If you have tryouts after school, then your preparation should start at lunch. During lunch, try to consume between 70 and 100 grams of complex carbs.

Most school lunches will have suitable options, but if you are not sure then you could always bring some whole-grain crackers with lunch meat and cheese or a sandwich on whole-grain toast. 

After school, you’ll want a snack that helps fuel you without making you too heavy or full. Here are some ideas:

  • Dried fruit and a handful of nuts
  • A banana with low-fat peanut butter
  • A whole-grain bagel or sandwich 
  • Yogurt and granola 
  • A calorie-rich meal replacement drink with plenty of carbs 
Meal Of Junk Food
Meal Of Junk Food ○ Soccer Blade

What Should You Not Eat Before a Game?

Before your soccer game, there are some foods you may want to avoid. Here are some things to consider not eating close to game time:

New Foods

Have you been considering trying out sushi for the first time? Or whipping up a new recipe you found on Pinterest? Gameday is not the time to experiment. 

Avoid trying new foods on game day. You don’t know how they will impact your body. It’s best to stick with what you know when during pre-game meals. 

Spicy Food

Everyone has a different tolerance to spicy food, but it is not something most players find helpful. They are likely to irritate your stomach and lead to unpleasant side effects that can interrupt your play. 

While spicy foods may satisfy your taste buds, they should be avoided before exercise for a couple of reasons. Firstly, spicy food can result in indigestion or heartburn, which can leave you in pain and having to abandon a workout.

David Weiner training and nutrition specialist 

Processed Sugars

In a pinch, gummy candy or other sweets can help you replace electrolytes during play. But when it comes to pre-game consumption, it’s best to steer clear of foods with a lot of processed sugar. 

These foods are low in nutritional value and can drop your blood sugar leading to fatigue or energy crashes. 

For example, avoid

  • Candy 
  • Cereal
  • White bread
  • Chips 
  • White crackers 

High-fiber Food

Food with legumes, like hummus, is generally pretty helpful for athletes. However, it may not be the best right before the game. 

While legumes have a good amount of protein, they also contain a lot of fiber. Many athletes find that a lot of fiber right before a game can contribute to bloating and indigestion. 

Carbonated Drinks

Avoid carbonated drinks, including sodas and energy drinks. Carbonated drinks often contain excess sugar, and carbonation alone can cause bloating. Try to avoid these drinks before the game. 

Dairy

Dairy is high in fat, which is important for athletes, but not right before the game. They break down slowly, which doesn’t mix well with a soccer game. Aside from the fat content, dairy causes indigestion for many people and may not help you feel your best. 

What to Eat During a Soccer Game

Even with a balanced pre-game meal, it’s hard to fuel the body sufficiently for a full 90-minute game. Many athletes find it helpful to eat a small half-time snack. Doing so can help replenish muscular glycogen, helping you to fight fatigue. 

But what should you eat during the game? You don’t have much time, which means you should opt for items that are light and quick to digest. 40g of carbohydrates is ideal. 

Here are some options:

  • A banana
  • A handful of dates or dried fruit
  • 1 sports gel 
  • 500 ml of isotonic

Additionally, most players do not drink enough liquids during the game. Therefore, you should also be sure to consume enough water and electrolytes. Keeping water at various points along the sideline and near the goals can help. 

Kyiv, Ukraine - October 14, 2019 Cristiano Ronaldo, Captain And Forward Of Portugal National Team During The Prematch Training At The Olympic Stadium
Kyiv, Ukraine – October 14, 2019 Cristiano Ronaldo, Captain And Forward Of Portugal National Team During The Prematch Training At The Olympic Stadium

What to Eat After a Soccer Game 

After your soccer game, you need to replace the carbohydrates that your muscles used throughout. The body is most receptive to replacing carbs within two hours after a workout like a soccer game. 

Your post-game meal should contain carbs, protein, and healthy fats. It should also be sufficient in calories to help you refuel. If you cannot eat a full meal right away, start with a small snack that contains all of the necessary macronutrients. 

Some examples of things to eat after a soccer game include

  • Chocolate milk
  • Oatmeal
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Avocado toast
  • Peanut butter
  • Pineapple 
  • Grilled chicken with rice or pasta and a vegetable 
  • Burrito or burrito bowl that contains meat, beans, rice, and vegetables. 
  • Carrots and hummus

Here is a very helpful video about game day nutrition

What is the Best Thing to Do Before a Soccer Game?

Preparing for your soccer game is crucial for feeling and playing your best. Gameday preparation will vary depending on the circumstances and your preferences, but a few key pieces are always vital. 

Here are some helpful things to do before your game:

  • Properly fuel your body with sufficient nutrition and liquids. 
  • Pack game-day snacks for during, after, and between games if applicable.
  • Pack plenty of water and some electrolytes as well. 
  • Prepare your uniform, including any necessary items for very cold or very hot weather. 
  • Address any injuries or discomfort you may have (ie tape your ankle).
  • Foam roll and do a light dynamic stretch. 

Some athletes, like USWNT Crystal Dunn, also find journaling or goal-setting helpful on gameday.

Eating Before Soccer

Properly fueling your body will help you play and recover better. Even when on the go, there are great options for getting the nutrients you need. 

Ideally, you should eat around 3 hours before the game, making sure to get enough complex carbohydrates. Closer to the game, and potentially during the game, a small snack can help give you the boost you need.

Following the game, focus on restoring your carbohydrate storage while also intaking enough protein and fat. 

Now that you have some ideas for game-day meals and snacks, you can elevate your game even more! 

What are the worst foods to eat before a soccer game?

Some foods to avoid eating right before you play include:

  • Candy
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Simple sugars/processed sugars
  • Legumes
  • Dairy 

Is peanut butter good before a soccer game?

Peanut butter can be good before a game with whole-grain bread or crackers. However, opt for peanut butter without added fats and sugars. 

Are eggs good before a soccer game?

Yes. Eggs are good to eat before a soccer game because they are packed with protein 

How do you get hyped before a game?

Every player gets amped up for their game differently. A few things that can help you get hyped up include:

  • Ensuring you have enough fuel. 
  • Listen to music that hypes you up.
  • Dance in the locker room with your teammates. 
  • Perform a team cheer. 

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