What to Eat Before a Soccer Game [Essential Tips]
When soccer players know what to eat before a soccer game, they can ensure their energy stores are maximized for optimal performance.
Playing soccer is demanding on your body, requiring high intensity sprints, jumping, power and stop and go. Therefore, athletes need to make sure they’re eating enough carbohydrates to help them sustain 90 minutes of match time. (1)
Research shows that soccer players who start a soccer game with low muscle glycogen (energy) stores empty those stores by halftime.
But players who begin the game with high muscle glycogen stores cover more distance and spend more total time completing higher intensity runs. (2)
Do you want to learn how to start your game with your energy stores full? Learn how to build soccer nutrition habits for ultimate success. Read on for tips on eating for game day.
What is the best food before a soccer game
The best food before a soccer game is high in carbohydrate since carbohydrates provide the main source of energy to fuel your muscles.
Adding protein and fat to high, complex carbohydrates for pre game meals slows digestion and keep blood sugar steady. Additionally you should always add water to meals so that you’ll be well hydrated for the game.
What to eat 3-4 hours before a soccer game
When you have at least 3-4 hours before a game, you should eat a pre game meal high in carbohydrate, with carbohydrates covering at least half of your plate.
Include a lean protein or plant based protein, veggies or fruit and a small amount of healthy fats.
Some suggestions for a pre game meal include:
- Grilled chicken breast with sweet potato and steamed broccoli
- Whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce and lean ground turkey
- Brown rice with grilled shrimp and roasted vegetables
- Oatmeal with non fat milk and sliced banana
- Turkey and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread with fruit salad
- Baked sweet potato with black beans and avocado
- Quinoa salad with grilled chicken and grilled vegetables
- Whole wheat pita with hummus, grilled chicken, and sliced cucumbers
- Greek yogurt with granola and mixed berries
- Brown rice bowl with tofu, broccoli, and carrots
- Whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and sliced banana
What to eat 1-2 hours before a soccer game
When you have about 2 hours before a game, try to eat something high in carbohydrates with some protein. Here are some good examples:
- Turkey and cheese whole grain wrap with fruit
- Hummus with pita
- Low fat greek yogurt with granola and fruit
- Brown rice cake with almond butter and banana
- Whole grain toast with avocado and tomato
- Smoothie with low fat yogurt and fruit
- Energy balls/bars
- Oatmeal with fresh fruit
- Bagel with jam or cream cheese
- Smoothie bowl with granola
- Pancakes or waffles with nut butter
- Hard boiled egg and crackers
- String cheese and pita crackers
What to eat 30-60 minutes before a soccer game
When you have less than 60 minutes before a soccer game, choose high carbohydrate, low fiber and easy to digest foods like these:
- Rice cakes
- Energy gels or sports drinks
- Gummies, fruit snacks
- Fig bar
- Granola bar
- Dry cereal
- Rice krispy bar
- Animal crackers
When should I eat before a soccer game
You should eat a pre game meal at least 3-4 hours before a game because you want to ensure that you have adequate carbohydrate stores for game time.(3)
As you get closer to game time you want to eat less food, but eat easy to digest high carbohydrate options.
Depending on what time your game starts, adjust your meal times to maximize fueling your energy stores.
What should I eat before an early morning game?
Before an early morning game, eat at a light meal or snack with around 200-400 calories.
Easy to digest foods include:
- Granola and yogurt
For early morning games, choose high carbohydrate options like oatmeal, banana + fig bar, granola and low fat greek yogurt, smoothie, toast and peanut butter, bagel and cream cheese or pancakes.
You’ll also want to have a large meal the night before, including a bedtime snack. Check out our post on what to eat the night before a game.
Is it good to play soccer on an empty stomach
No, it is not good to play soccer on an empty stomach because you need fluids to stay hydrated and carbohydrates to top off your energy stores.
However, this is individual to every athlete, since some athletes may experience stomach aches, nausea, bloating, gas or diarrhea if they eat before a game.
What not to eat before a soccer game
Before a soccer game, you should not eat high fat, greasy, fried, desserts, creamy or rich foods since they take longer to digest and may cause stomach upset, bloating, gas, nausea or vomiting.
As you get closer to game time, avoid high fiber and high protein foods because they slow digestion and may remain in your stomach at game time.
Also, you never want to try a new food on game day. Instead eat foods that are tried and true. Use practice or rest days to test a new food.
Knowing what to eat before a game will set you up for success on the field. But a sports nutrition performance plan incorporates pre-game, post-game , and rest day nutrition so that athletes can maintain adequate energy stores.
Game day fueling is important, however it’s essential that athletes consume an “everyday” diet that meets their carbohydrate and protein needs.
This means athletes need to eat well balanced meals with adequate carbohydrates, protein, color and healthy fats.
You want to eat well during soccer training day as well as game days. Check out our posts on what to eat before soccer practice and game day nutrition.
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.