Soccer is a sport that requires a lot of energy, endurance and skill. You need to run, jump, kick and dribble for 90 minutes or more. (1) That’s why it’s crucial to eat the right foods and know what to eat before a soccer game to optimize your sports performance.
But what are the best foods to eat before a soccer game? How much and when should you eat them? And what foods should you avoid at all costs?
- The benefits of eating high-carbohydrate foods
- The best pre game meal ideas for different time frames
- The common mistakes to avoid when eating before a game
- The answers to frequently asked questions about pre game nutrition
By following these tips, you’ll be able to start your game with full energy stores, maintain your stamina throughout the match and perform at your best level. (2)
Ready to learn how to fuel your body for soccer? Let’s get started!
What is the best food before a soccer game?
The best food before a soccer game is food that is high in carbohydrate since carbohydrates provide the main source of energy to fuel your muscles.
Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver, and they are used as fuel during exercise. When you run out of glycogen, you feel tired, weak and sluggish.
Best complex carbohydrates before a game include
- Starchy vegetables
- Legumes and beans (best to avoid too much before a game)
- Fruits, fresh and dried
- Milk and yogurt
- Breads and pastas
Adding protein and fat to high, complex carbohydrates for pre game meals slows digestion and keep blood sugar steady.
Protein helps repair and build muscle tissue, while fat provides essential fatty acids and vitamins.
Good choices for protein sources before a game include
- Chicken, turkey
- Tuna, salmon, shrimp
- Lean beef
- Soy milk
- Chickpeas (if you can tolerate beans before a game)
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?
Include a lean protein or plant based protein, veggies or fruit (color) and a small amount of healthy fats.
Pre game meal to eat 3-4 hours before a soccer game
- 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
- Whole grain pancakes, blueberries, syrup, lean chicken breakfast sausage
These meals provide a balanced mix of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that will fuel your body for soccer. They are also easy to digest and won’t cause any stomach discomfort or cramps.
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, lower in fiber and fats.
Best foods to eat 1-2 hours before a soccer game
- 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
These balanced pre game snacks or mini meals provide quick energy that will keep you going until the game starts. They also contain some protein that will help prevent muscle breakdown and support recovery.
They are low in fat and fiber, which can slow down digestion and cause gastrointestinal issues.
What to eat 30-60 minutes before a soccer game?
- Rice cakes
- Energy gels or sports drinks
- Gummies, fruit snacks
- Fig bar
- Granola bar
- Dry cereal
- Rice krispy bar
- Animal crackers
- Peanut butter and honey sandwich
These foods provide simple sugars that will give you an instant boost of energy. They are also low in volume and won’t fill up your stomach or make you feel bloated.
Also, they are ideal for when you don’t have much time to eat or when you feel nervous or anxious before a game.
When should I eat before a soccer game?
As you get closer to your soccer game time eat less food volume, sticking to easy to digest high carbohydrate options that are low in protein, fat and fiber.
For example, if your game is at 10 am, you can eat a pre game meal at 6 am, a snack at 8 and 9 am and a light snack 30 minutes before the game.
If your game is at 4 pm, you can eat a pre game meal at 12 pm, a snack between 2-3 pm, and another light carb snack at 3:30 pm.
The exact timing and amount of food you eat will depend on your individual preferences, tolerance and schedule. You may need to experiment with different foods and timings to find what works best for you.
What should I eat before an early morning game?
Easy to digest high carb foods include
- Granola and yogurt
For early morning games, eat a light breakfast with 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.
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.
If you have a sensitive stomach, you may want to avoid foods that are high in fat, fiber, protein or spices before a game. You may also want to eat smaller portions and drink more water.
You can also try some ginger tea or peppermint candy to soothe your stomach.
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 causing you to have an upset stomach, bloating, nausea or vomiting.
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 or food combination.
Foods to avoid before a soccer game
These foods can interfere with your performance and make you feel uncomfortable or sick during the game.
- Ice cream
- Brussels sprouts
Hydration before a soccer game
Hydration is essential for soccer players, since dehydration affects your performance, concentration and health. To stay hydrated before a soccer game, you need to drink enough water throughout the day and before the game.
Tips on how to pre hydrate for soccer games
- Drink water regularly during the day to avoid thirst and dehydration. A good rule of thumb is to drink about 8-10 cups of water per day, or more if you sweat a lot or exercise in hot weather.
- Drink about 16-20 ounces of fluids 2-3 hours before your game. This will help you replenish your fluid stores and prevent dehydration during the game.
- Drink another 8-10 ounces of fluids 30-60 minutes before your game. This will help you top off your hydration and avoid cramps, fatigue, and headaches.
You can choose water or a sports drink that contains electrolytes and carbohydrates to boost your energy and hydration.
These are general guidelines that may vary depending on your individual needs and preferences. Adjust your fluid intake based on your body weight, sweat rate, urine color and thirst level.
You can also practice drinking fluids closer to game time gradually to get used to it and avoid any stomach discomfort.
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.
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.