What to eat before a soccer match – Match Preparation

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We have all done it. An hour before leaving for a match you get offered tasty breakfast or sumptuous dinner and decide to indulge. Only to feel like you are carrying an extra organ by the time you start playing.

You felt lethargic and unable to engage your core muscles with any intensity. Too much running around might have even made you feel queasy. Lesson learned and you know not to eat right before matches. So what exactly can you eat and how long before your match?

The following has been formulated over 10 years after many attempts at refuelling without bloating.

How long before a soccer match should you eat

The recommended time to eat before a match is a minimum of 2 hours. Anything closer than that is running the risk of feeling bloated and heavy. You need to allow your body enough time to digest the food.

What should I eat before my match?

We have found the best combination is a hot drink, to help wake you up. And a light carbohydrate based food such as toast or a croissant. The key thing is to have only 1 slice of toast, and maybe not a whole croissant. Whatever you eat, try to eat at those proportions. A banana and/or a fruit is also good. The key thing is that has to sustain you for the 90 minutes but not make you feel full. After the match you will be pretty hungry. Some players swear by coffee but a cup of tea, caffeinated or herbal is fine.

toasted sandwich with orange jam

Which foods should I avoid before my match?

You should avoid eating a large amount of food. It is more about the amount than anything. The lighter the better.

Anything with meat, oil and other refined ingredients may make you feel lethargic and sleepy. Foods with high amounts of sugar may also make you feel a “sugar crash” later. If you wish to get a decent level of sugars in your blood, try adding a little honey to your tea or toast.

Other foods light enough to eat before a football match:

  • Toast (with peanut butter or jam)
  • Croissant – Avoid chocolate
  • A mini baguette –  No more than 10 cm long
  • A small pastry – Not too sweet
  • A Flapjack (small – oats act as slow release energy)
  • Half mug of soup – Nothing too chunky. A light soup will digest much easier while playing
  • A Banana – Ensure you hydrate while eating the banana
  • 3 or 4 Cream Crackers
  • ½ of a small bowl of granola – with minimal milk

The night before

What you eat the night before is just as important as the am. Eating that curry at 11pm after a night out doesn’t give your body enough time to process that food, and you may wake up feeling full, bloated and even gassy. You may even get the feeling of needing the toilet right before or during the match! So avoid eating heavy the night before, avoiding too much heavy meats. You can have a liberal amount of carbohydrates (e.g. Pastas, Rice) as you will be using it as fuel over the next 12-18 hours. Try to go for something light and easily digestible like soups, pastas and lighter meats such as fish and chicken. The key is that you don’t eat after 9pm.

sauced penne pasta dish on bowl

With all that said, I have had teammates eat a kebab 30 minutes before a match and run rings around defences. Everyone’s body is different and being slimmer allows you to eat more without feeling the effects. So take your time and try different options to see what works best for you. And remember, the best preparation you can have for a match is a good night’s sleep!

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