Nancy, if I eat a banana five minutes before I play soccer, will the banana have time to boost my energy and get used for fuel?
Answer: Yes! Despite popular belief, eating a carbohydrate-based snack such as an banana, energy bar, handful of pretzels, or an apple, just 5 minutes before a workout can boost your energy. It might help you be as much as 10% to 20% stronger at the end of a one-hour soccer session. Eating 15 minutes before you exercise has been shown to be as effective as eating an hour beforehand.
Your body can digest food while you exercise and use it to enhance your workout, as long as you are exercising at a pace that you can maintain for more than half an hour. Because soccer is a stop and start sport, digestion will slow while you are sprinting, but will resume during the less active times. Because each person’s body is different, you need to learn what fueling patterns work for you—and what ones don’t.
Most athletes train at a moderate pace, hence they can benefit from a pre-exercise energy booster. If you’ll be doing an intense workout, you might want to eat an hour or two pre-exercise, so the food has more time to empty from your stomach. Your best bet is to experiment with different pre-soccer snacks, to determine when you can eat them without causing distress, and which ones settle best and help you perform at your best.
Eat wisely and be well,
Nancy Clark and Gloria Averbuch
Food Guide for Soccer: Tips and Recipes From the Pros