Eating right isn’t just important for the pros. What should a grassroots footballer be eating on matchday?
Emmy is a Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register (SENR) qualified sports nutritionist, working with footballers on everything from weight loss and muscle gain to fuelling strategies. Whether you’re a rising academy star, a semi-pro player or just enjoy a run out for your local team, she can help you to fuel your performance and get the most out of your ninety minutes.
Gone are the days when you would nip to the pie van outside the ground for your pre-match meal. With the rise in popularity of sports nutrition, players are becoming more interested in what they eat before and after a game. And while fuelling strategies were once seen as something for only the professional footballers to think about, the importance of a good feed before a game is becoming more and more recognised at all levels.
Getting your fuelling strategy right will undoubtedly help to improve your match day performance, affecting everything from how far and fast you can run to your passing accuracy and decision making. It really can be the difference as to whether or not you make that fingertip save or get your head on the end of the cross. Get it wrong, and you’ll likely be running on fumes by half time and seeing points dropped throughout the season.
So, what should a grassroots footballer be eating on matchday?
Think of your body like a fuel tank: the more you eat, the fuller the tank is and the fuller the tank is at kick off, the better and longer you can perform. The key is to make sure the tank is filled with the right kind of fuel. For footballers, this is carbohydrates. To make sure your tank is filled with carbohydrates, fuelling has to start the day before and continue into game day, too. Take a look at the meals below for an ideal fuelling strategy for footballers of all levels.
Remember, what you eat doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy, just simple options that tick all of the right boxes: high in carbs, a good source of protein and plenty of fluids.
The Night Before
Fuelling has to start the night before to get enough energy in the tank.
Chicken and tomato pasta with garlic bread and a large glass of juice.
Granola with 0% Greek yoghurt as a bedtime snack.
A high carbohydrate pre-match meal eaten 2-3 hours before kick-off is a must on game day. Keep this low in fat and easy to digest to prevent stomach pains.
Porridge made with semi-skimmed milk with banana, berries, honey and a glass of orange juice
Cajun chicken and rice with a bread roll and a glass of fruit juice.
This is your last chance to top up your energy stores and make sure you’re hydrated.
Sports drink or energy gel
Water and a handful of jelly sweets.
Energy stores and fluids will need to be topped up at half-time to keep your performance up for the second 45.
500ml sports drink
500ml water and three Jaffa Cakes.
Recovery needs to start when the final whistle blows. A nutritious snack in the changing rooms followed by a full meal in the 1-2 hours after is ideal.
Chocolate milk and a banana.
Followed by homemade chicken curry with rice, a naan bread and water.
Emmy currently works remotely with players across the country, so if you’re looking for some support with your nutrition then please feel free to follow @nutritionemmy and get in touch!