Halftime Snacks for Athletes [How to Refuel]
Soccer players know how important it is to fuel your body well before, during and after a game. Half time snacks are often overlooked but are one of the most important elements of a soccer nutrition plan.
Soccer is a demanding sport that requires a lot of energy, power, endurance and skill.
You need to eat foods that provide you with carbohydrates, protein, fluids and electrolytes to keep you going strong for 90 minutes or more.
But what should you eat at halftime, when you have a short break to recover and refuel for the second half?
In this post, we will share some of the best halftime snacks for soccer players that are easy to digest, to fuel you for that second half. And we’ll tell you what to avoid so that you can play your best without running out of fuel.
We will also explain why these snacks are beneficial for your performance and health.
Whether you are on a club sports team, a recreational player or a parent of a young soccer star, you will find some helpful tips and ideas for your next game day
Why are halftime snacks important
Halftime snacks are important because as you play your game, your body’s fuel starts to run out. You may start to feel sluggish, unfocused and hungry.
By eating snacks and drinking sports drinks with carbohydrates at halftime you fuel your body with energy to top off your stores when you really need it later in your game. You’ll also be rehydrated so that you can focus on playing.
Goals for halftime snacks
The goals for halftime snacks are:
- Rehydrate with fluids
- Replace electrolytes
- Refuel energy with carbohydrates
Since some sports don’t have stoppage time to refuel and rehydrate during competition, eating halftime snacks will refuel and rehydrate when you need it most.
This is especially true for stop and go or endurance events lasting more than 60 minutes and at high intensity.
Halftime snacks resupply energy stores to keep you moving in the second half. Also, rehydrating with a sports drink will help you replace electrolytes lost through sweat.
Eating salty snacks can also help replace electrolytes and encourage your thirst helping you to drink even more.
What should you eat at halftime
At halftime, you should eat a snack that has about 30-60 g of easy to digest carbohydrates.
Good options to help you meet your carbohydrate, electrolyte and hydration needs are:
- Goldfish crackers
- Animal crackers
- Granola bars
- Fig bar
- Dried fruit
- Orange slices
- Sports drinks
- Fruit snacks
- Sport chews
- Half a peanut butter and honey sandwich
Since eating or drinking high carbohydrate snacks and sports drinks has been shown to improve performance in the second half of a game, you should plan to have snacks ready for halftime. (1)
You’ll want to eat something that has enough carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar (glucose) steady but that doesn’t cause stomach upset.
Because every athlete is different, you’ll want to try different foods to see what works best for you. Always try new foods on practice or rest days, not during a game.
Sports drinks for carbohydrate and fluids
Some athletes find that it too hard to eat food during a game or intense practice. In this case, drinking a sports drink containing sodium can be helpful.
Studies show that the combination of sodium and glucose (sugar) increase absorption and the desire to drink. (2)
Sports drinks that have 6-8% carbohydrate concentration and sodium and other electrolytes have been shown to be effective at both replacing carbohydrates and rehydrating to avoid dehydration. (3)
You should drink about 20-40 oz of a sports drink each hour. If possible, keep your water bottle near the sideline so you can take a few gulps every 10-15 minutes or when stoppage time allows.
What to avoid for halftime snacks
You want to avoid halftime snacks that cause stomachaches. Eating too much food or foods high in fiber, fructose and fat won’t digest quickly enough and will slosh around in your stomach during the second half.
Too much carbohydrate and high fructose. Since your body can only digest carbohydrates at the rate of about 60 g/hr, more carbohydrates are not better. In fact, eating too much can delay digestion and cause GI symptoms. (4)
Additionally, fructose (a sugar found in some fruits) slows digestion and can cause an upset stomach. So athletes should avoid foods high in fructose for halftime snacks.
Some fruits have higher fructose levels, so you may want to test how your body responds during a practice but never try a new food during a game.
High fiber foods. Eating foods high in fiber can slow digestion and cause cramping, bloating and stomach discomfort. Snacks low in fiber are best.
Fiber is essential for athletes and you can make sure to meet your daily fiber needs outside of your competitions and games.
High fat foods. Foods high in fat can also cause stomach upset since they digest slower.
Make a plan for halftime
Snacks at halftime are a key part of your game day performance sports nutrition plan. Test foods and sports drinks to see works best for you. You should choose easily digestible snacks that are low in fiber, fat and protein.
And don’t forget that fueling on game day takes more than one meal.
Check our our posts on pre game snacks, pre game meals and what to eat before a game so that you are ready to perform at your best.
What’s your favorite halftime snack?
Steph Magill, MS, RD, CD, FAND has over 20 years in public health and nutrition experience. As a performance nutritionist, Stephanie specializes in sports nutrition and provides simple and actionable information so that athletes can be well fueled for high performance on and off the field. Stephanie has a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.