With soccer becoming an increasingly popular sport and beginning to rival football in the number of participants, many parents and athletes want to start the season with healthy habits that will help a player compete at optimal levels. With its intense level of activity, soccer requires a high number of calories to fuel all of the running that happens on the field. Playing on a large area, a fast-moving ball, and rare substitutions mean soccer players can expect to log some heavy mileage over 90-plus minutes. Midfielders tend to run the most, sometimes reaching nearly 9.5 miles, according to some estimates. Both of my sons are midfielders and I want to make sure they have enough energy to finish strong and not feel sluggish during the game.
What an athlete eats a few hours before, an hour before and following the big game can make a big difference in how an athlete performs on the field. Balancing protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats will help in not only energy levels but muscle replenishment as well.
First, don't make the mistake of trying new foods on the day of the game. This can prove to be disastrous in that it can cause nausea and stomach discomfort if a player hasn't tried the food before exercise. Different foods affect people in different ways. One player may be able to tolerate a peanut butter and bagel half while another may feel sick after eating the same food.
Proper hydration is essential. I’m not a huge fan of many sports drinks because they have a large amount of sugar in them. However, I’m not totally against them if the athlete is playing for more than an hour and when the temperature outside reaches 70 or 80 degrees with high humidity. Making sure a player has adequate water before, during and after a game is crucial. Also, if you would like to make your sports drink and bring it with you, it can supply both the water and electrolytes necessary. Place all of these ingredients in a blender and drink. There is some sugar in this recipe but nowhere near what you’ll find in a commercial beverage.
· 3 cups chopped watermelon
· 1 cup of cold water
· 1 tablespoon lime juice
· 1/4 tsp salt
· 1 tablespoon honey
Carbohydrates are the most important fuel for an athlete. Carbs are stored as fuel inside muscles and athletes need full carbohydrate stores before activity. Carbs also are needed after a workout to get ready for the next day's events. Carbs are the only fuel that can be used for moves that require a lot of force and energy during a game.
You're also going to need to pay attention to the timing of your meals on game day. This will help a player to stay properly fueled and hydrated from the start of a game until the end.
3-4 hours before game time
This is plenty of time for food to eat, digest, absorb, and metabolize a healthy meal.
Of course, what you eat may also depend upon the time of your soccer match, but here are basic guidelines for successfully fueling your body.
Stick with foods you are familiar with. Pack foods if you happen to be traveling to a game, so you're not searching for something tolerable and accessible.
Make sure to include complex carbohydrates such as:
Whole-grain bread,Tortilla,Bagels,Cereals and fruits,
And a moderate amount of protein such as:
low-fat dairy,yogurt,eggs, ham or chicken breast
Because this meal is three to four hours before a game, it might be necessary to top off glycogen stores before activity.
Youth Soccer Players: Immediately before a soccer game
How close to competition time you eat will depend on how well-fueled you are. If you planned right, you are prepared with fueled muscles and are well-hydrated. But, even if you time your meals correctly, it might be necessary to top off the tank. Liquid nutrition such as sports drinks, milk, smoothies, or juice can meet that need. Or, salty snacks such as pretzels or crackers are highly tolerated too. Dried or fresh fruit, rice cakes, graham crackers or fig bars also provide a quick-digesting fuel source.
1-2 Hours Before Game Time
As you get closer to game time, the amount of food that you eat should decrease, but the balance of the meal can be similar.
It’s still important to nourish your body and provide fuel to working muscles; you want to make sure you choose foods that are easy to digest so that they have time to exit the stomach before the start.
Carbohydrates are critical to keeping you fueled from beginning to end.Keep the fat and fiber low as you get closer to game time. Both can slow down digestion, making it more difficult for your body to access the carbohydrates needed to fuel you on the field.
Avoid fried foods and meats that are high in fat!
During the Game
Whether or not you need to fuel during the game will depend on how much action you get on the field. It also depends on the intensity.
Sipping water is recommended for all athletes, but some may require more.
Athletes that are bulky sweaters, salty sweaters, or get a lot of playing time may benefit from additional carbohydrates and electrolytes during the game. A sports drink provides an easy solution to this.
After the Game
After intense activity, it's time to refuel.
Milk or flavored milk, yogurt with fruit, a sandwich, cereal with milk, or a balanced smoothie are all great options. Then, once you get home, you can have a full, balanced meal.