Have you been told that you should eat before soccer practice to improve performance?
Maybe you’ve been trying to figure out what you should eat because you don’t like having low energy, but you also hate feeling too full when you step on the pitch or field.
We get it. There’s no one size fits all. You need some simple tips to know what’s best for you.
We’ll explain the basics of soccer performance nutrition so you can understand when and what players eat before soccer practice.
And we’ll give you easy examples so that you can find what works for you. Then you’ll be on your way to feeling fueled and ready for playing soccer.
Keep reading to learn more.
Is it good to eat before soccer practice
It’s good to eat before soccer practice because eating before a practice:
- Fuels your muscles both with glycogen (your body’s storage of carbohydrates for energy) and readily available energy depending on when you eat
- Helps prevent low blood sugar which may cause you to feel sluggish, light headed and not alert
- Keeps you from feeling hungry and settles your potentially “growling” stomach
- Maintains focus on your activity and prevents injury
What’s the best food to eat before soccer practice
What you eat (or don’t) before your soccer practice can make or break your performance.
But there is no magic food, amount or timing because everyone is unique. What works for one person may not work for another and it takes some trial and error to find the right fit. The performance plate method for training day can help you make good choices too.
The best foods to eat before soccer practice are those high in carbohydrates and easily digestible. Great options right before practice include fig bars, whole grain bagels, pretzels, animal crackers, baked potatoes and yogurt.
Some athletes find a food that they know makes them feel good physically and mentally and becomes something they eat before every big competition.
Think about a time when you ate too close to an intense soccer practice. That food jostled in your stomach and you felt bloated, gassy and near ready to throw up.
Likely you wouldn’t make that food your go to choice before your next practice.
Also, you probably wouldn’t eat as close to practice again!
If you get a little nervous before games, that can slow digestion too. So, you’ll want to know what food works best for you.
How much food is the right amount
Stop and go sports like soccer require high levels of energy for sprinting, endurance training, jumping and power.
Therefore, players need adequate stores of glycogen to train and compete for long durations and high intensity. Without this, high performance can’t be achieved. (1)
Often you may have practices multiple days a week that may be more intense than games. Generally, you need to ensure that you are eating enough carbohydrates to meet the fuel requirements for your training and to keep your blood sugar levels steady.
In between practices you’ll need to ensure you are replenishing your stores.
Energy sources for athletes
All athletes regardless of sport should focus on balancing these fundamental nutrients. (2) Together these energy sources support an athlete to achieve high performance.
In general a diet for soccer players will focus on the right balance of these three energy sources.
General tips for what to eat before soccer practice
The ideal pre practice meal should be eaten 2-4 hours before practice and should be high in carbohydrate, moderate in protein and low in fat. You want to find the right amount of food that gives you high energy and doesn’t have any GI impact.
But also make sure that you’re eating enough so that you don’t have low energy. Check out our carb calculator to make sure you’re eating enough carbs to fuel your activity.
What should I eat before morning soccer practice
If practice starts too early in the morning it’s not practical to eat a regular meal. Instead, the night before eat a larger, high carbohydrate meal and bedtime snack. Check out our post on the best breakfast to eat before a soccer game for more ideas.
Before morning soccer practice, eat a light meal or snack around 200-400 calories. Some easy options include whole grain toast, oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, fig bars, granola bars or banana.
Experiment with a combination of quick digesting carbohydrates or one of your favorite sports drinks to see what works best for you, especially if you have a hard time eating right before practice.
What to eat before afternoon and evening practice
For events later in the day, eat hearty carbohydrate filled meals that include protein and healthy fats. As you get closer to practice time, reduce the amount of food and protein and fiber, instead eating more easily digestible carbs.
What to eat 3-4 hours before soccer practice
When you have 3-4 hours before practice, choose meals with complex carbs, moderate protein and healthy fats.
|Whole grain waffles or pancakes/syrup or jam/fruit/plant based sausage/walnuts
|French toast/fruit/syrup or jam, scrambled eggs
|Omelet with vegetables/toast/fruit
|Grilled chicken/rice/fruit or veg
|Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread/crackers or baked chips/carrots
|Spaghetti with lean meat/fruit or veg
|Burrito/bowl with lean meat or beans/rice/salsa/light on cheese, sour cream and guac
|Baked potato/veggies/lean meat toppings/light on cheese
|Thick crust cheese and veggie pizza
|Energy bar/sports drink (if you’re on the go)
What to eat 2-3 hours before soccer practice
When you have 2-3 hours before practice opt for slightly smaller portions and reduce the fiber and protein content so that you can digest the meal before your practice starts.
|Cereal/yogurt or milk/banana
|Bagel/Bread peanut butter and jelly sandwich
|Apple slices and peanut butter
|Protein and carbohydrate energy bar
|Hummus, crackers and veggies
|Sports drink (if you’re too nervous to eat)
|Toaster waffles/pancakes with jelly and/or peanut butter/banana
|Baked or roasted potatoes with easily digested toppings
|Fruit smoothie/acai bowl
What to eat 1 hour before soccer practice
Snacks eaten within an hour before soccer practice should be quickly digestible carbohydrates. Some good options include:
- Granola bars
- Animal crackers
- Fig bars
- Goldfish crackers
- Dried fruit
- Sports drinks
- Orange slices
What should you not eat before practice
Before practice you should not eat foods that take longer to digest and those that may cause heartburn, gas, bloating, nausea or vomiting. This includes foods high in fiber, fried foods and foods with fatty sauces.
Additionally, you may want to avoid carbonated beverages that can cause bloating and gas.
High performance in soccer requires adequate fueling. Soccer players should choose primarily carbohydrates before practices. Since they are easily digestible, carbohydrates become a ready source of energy.
Pay attention to timing of meals and the amount of food you’re eating as you get closer to practice. You want to have enough energy to feel focused, light and energetic.
Use practices to experiment with different foods and timing so that you’ll be locked in and ready for game day nutrition.
Check out our blog post on post game and post soccer training for ideas on how to recover.
What are you going to try first to help improve your performance?
Steph Magill, MS, RD, CD, FAND has over 22 years of experience in public health and nutrition. As a performance registered dietitian 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.