Nutrition on game day

Football is a high intensity intermittent sport, consisting of two 45 minute halves. Players can cover up to 10-11 km’s, accelerate 40-60 times, change direction every 5 seconds whilst making use of both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. As a result, a player’s fuel (glycogen) stores can be depleted leading to fatigue and consequently reducing an individual’s maximum performance capabilities.
There is no doubt that nutrition and hydration play an integral role in providing the player with adequate energy before, during and after a match and training sessions. Consuming the correct type, amount and timing of certain macro-nutrients will play a huge role in training adaptation, recovery and ultimately performance.


Pre-Match Nutrition Requirements

Match days are by far provide the greatest challenge for coaches and players. Careful consideration should be on the amount, type, and timing of nutrients that are being consumed. The pre-match meal should be consumed 2-4 hours before the match. It should be high in low-fibre carbohydrates and low in fat (to avoid gut discomfort). The meal should contain 1-2g carbohydrate per kg of body weight.
Examples for a 70kg male athlete include 280 – 350 grams CHO:
  • 2.5 cups breakfast cereal + milk + large banana
  • large bread roll or 3 thick slices bread + thick spread honey
  • 2 cups boiled rice + 2 slices bread
  • 4 stack pancakes + ½ cup syrup
  • 60 g sports bar + 500 ml liquid meal supplement or fruit smoothie
  • 1.5 cups of cooked pasta with a tomato based sauce




A light CHO snack in the 1-2 hours before a match may help provide a final ‘top up’ of fuel stores.
Examples include:
  • Fruit
  • Yoghurt
  • Cereal bar
  • Toast with honey


Pre-Match Hydration Requirements

  • A fluid intake of approximately 500 ml should be drunk during the 60-90 minute period before the start of the game.
  • 2-5L of water should be consumed >1hr before the game (previous day)
  • In training or competitions that cause heavy sweating without sufficient opportunity for fluid intake, players often benefit by drinking 300-600 ml of fluid during the 15 minute period immediately before the start of the event.
  • Fluid levels should be tweaked according to an individual’s tolerance. Remember trial prior to game day.




Half-time Nutrition & Hydration Requirements

About 50g CHO at half time can improve performance. Players with a higher workload will benefit from consuming a high GI carbohydrate snack at half time due to their heightened physical demand.


Examples include:
  • Chopped fruit
  • Muesli bars
  • Fruit juice



At half time, 400 – 600mL of fluid should be consumed to maintain hydration.
Sweat losses of 1-2 litres can occur during a match, thus replacing lost fluid is of paramount importance. Players may need more fluid depending on the climate as fluid losses via sweating will be higher in the heat.
Examples include:
  • Water
  • Sports drink
  • Juice
Ensure that fluids are not chilled, but less than body temperature in order to both encourage consumption and reduce gastric distress.





Post-Match Nutrition Requirements

Athletes often train up to four times a week in addition to playing a match. Appropriate recovery strategies are essential to promote optimal performance.   0.6 – 0.8 g/kg of high GI CHO immediately afterand about 30 minutes for 4-5 hours after the game.
If you want to eat less CHO, more protein can also help the rate of muscle glycogen synthesis. The recommended CHO to protein ratio is 3-4:1. Outlined below are the immediate food and fluid choices for a 70kg athlete to replenish glycogen stores.Calcium-Yogurt


Examples include:
  • One serve whey-derived protei shake + 300ml low fat milk.
  • 2 tubs of yoghurt and 2 cups of fruit salad.
  • A salad roll with 60g lean sandwich meat and a banana.
  • 600mL light Big M or Sustagen Sport with light milk.



Post-Match Hydration Requirements

Rehydration is an important part of the post-match recovery process.  If players have accrued a body mass deficit, they should aim to completely replace fluid and electrolyte losses prior to the start of the next training session or match. In most situations, water and sodium can be consumed with normal eating and drinking practices with no urgency. Drinking a beverage with sodium or eating sodium-containing snacks/foods helps replace sweat sodium losses, stimulate thirst and retain the ingested fluids.




Ourania Hatzopoulos

Graduated in Food and Nutritional Science from Deakin University.
Master of Dietetics from Victoria University

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