Youth soccer game activity, showing importance of being fueled with pre game meal

Make the Pre Game Meal Essential for Youth Athletes


The pre game meal question

“What should I eat before my game, mom?” A common refrain heard across most homes with a youth soccer athlete. And you wonder…what is the best pre game meal…

As a mom you’re always thinking ahead and planning for the day. Weekends can get crazy with early morning soccer games, multiple kids at multiple games and fields. How do you plan for a pre game meal that will keep everyone fueled and ready for the day?

Pre-empting the pre game meal question

First, keep in mind that fed is best. So if nothing else, ensure that your soccer player has had a pre game meal or snack. And that you do too—this prevents you from having fatigue, hunger pains and potential overeating later in the day.

Planning ahead sure makes the weekend smoother, so when you can, take stock of a few things:

  • What do we have going on today?
  • How many games?
  • When do we have time to eat a pre game meal?
  • What are my athlete’s favorite snacks and pre game foods?
  • What can I make ahead of time?
  • What might I need to pack if we’re on the go?

Why is it important to have a good pre game meal?

Whether young or old, your soccer player needs a healthy pre game meal. While the younger athlete isn’t going all out for 90 minutes, they still need energy to sustain their activity and to help them focus. 

Teen athletes will need help in planning ahead to eat the right foods for their pre game meals so that they have energy and stamina to carry them through the full 90. They may need to add in some healthy snacks mid competition which we’ll cover in future posts.

What should you eat before a game?

When it comes to pre game meals, there isn’t a single food or magic combination that works for every athlete. Athletes respond differently to foods during exercise and competition, and it takes some trial and error to find the right mix of timing and foods.

The ultimate goal of the pre game meal is to find the right mix of foods that provides the energy needed to play without causing stomach distress or running out of steam. 

In the end, most athletes perform better after eating a small high carbohydrate snack an hour before an event or a  regular meal with a focus of high carbohydrates and some protein and color about 3-4 hours before a game.  

Healthy tips for pre game meals

  • Eat tested and tried foods. Never try a new food before a race or competition. On those days, rely on tried and true foods and timing. And when trying something new, introduce it slowly, trying it a couple times to see how it’s tolerated.
  • Eat easily digested foods as game time approaches Crackers, toast, banana, yogurt. This will vary for athletes and athletes should experiment to see what works best for them.
  • Eat the right amount of food. Timing meals and snacks and eating enough of the right food will help prevent hunger and low blood sugar during a game. Low blood sugar can cause fatigue. Eating too much food can cause stomach cramps, nausea or stomach distress.
  • Eat high carbohydrate, moderate protein, and low fat. Carbohydrates digest faster than protein or fat. Eating some protein will help to stabilize blood sugar and prevent low blood sugar from affecting performance.
  • Avoid high fat, gas producing, and sugary foods. Fat digests slowly and can cause stomach cramps or diarrhea. Sugary foods can cause blood sugar spikes with crashes, hastening fatigue.
  • Eat a full meal focused on carbohydrates if there’s plenty of time before the game starts.The further out the competition, the more opportunity to digest and absorb energy and nutrients.

Best pre game meal ideas for early morning games

Cereal and milk + banana
Yogurt and granola + strawberries
Oatmeal with raisins and milk
Toast with peanut butter and jelly
French toast + jelly + banana
Waffles or Pancakes + jelly + blueberries
Mango smoothie + toast

Best pre game meal lunch ideas

Turkey and cheese sandwich + fruit
Strawberry smoothie + half sandwich
Chicken noodle soup with side of toast/bread + fruit
Rice bowl + protein + veggies
Pasta with tomato sauce or pesto + veggies or fruit

Importance of developing health habits for overall health

While a good pre game meal could improve stamina and endurance for a game, one meal doesn’t take the place of an adequate well balanced eating plan for your growing athletes.

Healthy pre game meals are a great place to start building healthy habits and the understanding of how important it is to fuel for life and performance.

Start your athlete off right with a healthy pre game meal and start adding more healthy eating habits along the way.

What will you try for your next pre game meal?

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