Thursday, May 6, 2010

Fueling before soccer practices and matches

When it comes to preparation for soccer practices and matches, do you always count nutrition in? Are you “too busy”, too often? Learn why you shouldn’t neglect pre-soccer nutrition…

In fact, one of the biggest mistakes made by soccer players, particularly those who rush from school or work to practice, is to train on empty. Their biggest excuse is “lack of time”, but many times it is rather a lack of responsibility.
The same point of view is shared by Nancy Clark and Gloria Averbuch, in chapter 10 of Food Guide for Soccer: Tips and Recipes From the Pros, where they explain the importance of pre-soccer nutrition. Here’s a shot on their perspective:

• Pre-soccer food helps prevent low blood sugar
The carbohydrates in your pre-exercise bagel, oatmeal, banana or other carb-based snack help prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and its symptoms of light-headedness, needless fatigue, blurred vision and indecisiveness - all of which can interfere with top performance.

• Pre-soccer carbohydrates fuel the muscles
Pre-soccer food fuels your muscles, with both carbohydrate that you eat far enough in advance to get stored as glycogen and carbohydrate that you eat within an hour before exercise, which is digested into glucose and burned for energy. Fueling with carbohydrates before a soccer practice/match will feed not only your muscles but also your brain, to help you think clearly and concentrate.

• Pre-soccer food helps settle the stomach
For most of you, a pre-soccer snack may help settle your stomach, absorb some of the gastric juices and ward off hunger. However, you must be aware of that you cannot eat a hefty lasagna dinner instead of a light snack of some pretzels or graham crackers just 20 minutes before exercise! Here’s a general “rule of thumb” for digestion time before a hard practice:

• 3-4 hours for a large meal;
• 2-3 hours for a smaller meal;
• 1-2 hours for a blended or liquid meal;
• Less than an hour for a small snack, as tolerated.

• Pre-soccer beverages contribute to hydration goals

By drinking fruit juice or sports drinks before exercise, you can optimize your fluid intake, as well as boost your carbohydrate and energy intake.

Simply put, my message is the following: Just as you put fuel in your car before you take it for a drive, you want to put fuel in your body before you exercise. If choosen wisely, this preexercise snack or meal will help you perform at your best for a longer time.

Feel free to leave your comments and ask your questions, I’ll be glad to help you!

To learn more on this topic and others of interest please read:

Food Guide for Soccer – tips and recipes from the pros (
Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook (

Wishing you the best performance ever,

Diogo Ferreira, RD
Sports Nutritionist, Lisbon, Portugal
“Promoting best health and performance through nutrition”