Nutrition Advice for Youth Soccer Players — Have a Nutrition Plan in Place
Preparing for a soccer tournament and peak performance on the field requires fueling your body properly. Players, parents and even coaches can benefit from a nutrition plan for success.
Heather Mangieri, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN — Author of FUELING YOUNG ATHLETES and Food, Fitness and Nutrition Consultant at Heather Mangieri Nutrition, provides great suggestions for the athletes preparing to perform their best in a soccer competition.
Related Article: Hydration & Nutrition Advice for Soccer Players
Soccer News: You’ve been training hard – now it’s time for the big day.
Do you have a nutrition plan in place? Do you know what to eat and when to eat before an important game?
Hopefully, you’ve been practicing how to fuel and hydrate during training.
Game day is not the time to try new foods.
What may be different is the timing of your meals. Eating and drinking at the right time will help you stay fueled and hydrated from the beginning to the end of the game.
Nutrition for Soccer Players: Countdown to Game Kick Off
Youth Soccer Players: 3-4 hours before competition
This is plenty of time for food to eat, digest, absorb and metabolize a healthy meal.
Of course, what you eat may also depend upon the time of your soccer match, but here are basic guidelines for successfully fueling your body.
It’s important to eat foods that your body is familiar with. If you are traveling for a game, make sure to pack your typical foods with you or make sure you will have something similar available to you wherever you are staying.
Make sure to include complex carbohydrates such as:
- Whole-grain bread,
- Cereals and fruits,
And a moderate amount of protein such as:
- Low-fat dairy,
- Eggs or ham.
Because this meal is three to four hours before a meal, it might be necessary to top off glycogen stores before activity.
Youth Soccer Players: 1-2 hours before competition
As you get closer to game time, the amount of food that you eat should decrease, but the balance of the meal can be similar.
It’s still important to nourish your body and provide fuel to working muscles, you just want to make sure you choose foods that are easy to digest so that they have time to exit the stomach before the start.
Carbohydrates are critical to keeping you fueled from beginning to end and don’t forget hydration.
Keep the fat and fiber low as you get closer to game time.
Remember, the foods to avoid before game time are fat and fiber. Both can slow down digestion, making it more difficult for your body to access the carbohydrates needed to fuel you on the field.
- Fried foods and high-fat meats are a few examples of foods to avoid.
Youth Soccer Players: Immediately before a soccer game
How close to competition time you eat will depend on how well-fueled that you are.
If you planned right, you are prepared with fueled muscles and are well-hydrated.
But, even if you timed your meals perfect, it might be necessary to top off the tank.
Liquid nutrition such as sports drinks, milk, smoothies or juice can meet that need. Or, salty snacks such as pretzels or crackers are highly tolerated too.
Dried or fresh fruit, rice cakes, graham crackers or fig bars also provide a quick-digesting fuel source.
Youth Soccer Players: In the Game
Whether or not you need to fuel during the game will depend on how much action you get on the field. It also depends on the intensity.
Sipping water is recommended for all athletes, but some may require more.
Athletes that are heavy sweaters, salty sweaters or just get a lot of playing time may benefit from additional carbohydrates and electrolytes during the game. Sports drinks are an easy solution.
Youth Soccer Players: After the Game
After an exhaustive activity, it’s important to begin the refueling process.
This is especially important if you have back to back games in the same day. I always suggest packing a mini cooler to carry your post-workout fuel.
Portable milk or flavored milk, yogurt with fruit, a sandwich, cereal with milk, or a balanced smoothie are all great options.
Then, once you get home, you can have a full balanced meal.
Remember, the foods that you eat game should be practiced during training. Stick to items that are tried and true to prevent gastrointestinal or stomach issues during the game.
SOCCER LOVERS BOOK REVIEW: FUELING YOUTH ATHLETES
Fueling Young Athletes by Heather R. Mangieri is a GREAT READ. Available at Amazon.
Note: This article was published earlier and updated due to its popularity.