Pre and Post Game Nutrition

By Mark Phillips – State Director Just 4 Keepers Idaho 208 600 7267

How many of you have had a after game pizza party with your child and their team to bond or celebrate a birthday on the team or simply because you are travelling and need to get some food after a game? I know that my daughter has with her team and coaches and every time it happens I cringe.

As a parent I want her to have that experience with her team mates and friends as she is 12 years old and it is an important part of childhood and developing personal relationships but for her recovery and helping to replenish her body of the depleted nutrients it is not good at all. As a professional goalkeeper coach working with young athletes on a weekly basis I know how important it is for them to get the right amount of carbohydrate into their bodies to allow them to train to the level I will ask them to achieve and perform their best at games.

But what is incredible to me is what I see when I watch professional soccer either live or on TV that I see professional athletes going down with cramp. In the English Premier League the players have access to the very best medical science has to offer they have specialists to help them understand what they should eat and when and they can even have their meals prepared for them.

These professional athletes are paid vast sums of money to perform on game day and they are going down with cramp, how can that be acceptable?

When I would with young athletes I emphasize the importance of stretching muscles and warming up properly and hydration. Making sure that they load with fuel for the body (carbohydrate) and keep hydrated to make sure that the moisture they lose as they sweat will not affect performance.

I remember when I was learning my trade in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s that drinking alcohol and eating whatever you wanted were common place. There was no thought of paying attention to the type of carbohydrate and when you eat and the quantities. I remember hearing Sir Alex Ferguson talking about the pre match meal he would instruct his Aberdeen players eat before a game of fish fillet and sliced bread this was a revolution in the early 1980’s.

According to the research conducted by the Mayo Clinic Cramp is caused by: Overuse of a muscle, dehydration, muscle strain or simply holding a position for a prolonged period can cause a muscle cramp. Mineral depletion too little potassium, calcium or magnesium in your diet can contribute to leg cramps. Diuretics — medications often prescribed for high blood pressure — also can deplete these minerals.

So if you are working at Peak Performance it is clear that muscle cramps are not going to permit Peak Performance and as such need to be avoided.

So how do you know what to do? It isn’t as simple as eating a bowl of pasta an hour before your game or practice and then you have all the energy you need and your performance will be stella. As with most things it is a little more complicated than that.

So let’s start at the beginning and assume that you don’t really understand the nutritional benefits of eating correctly. The first thing you should probably understand is the Glycemic Index of foods. The (GI) is a measurement used to track how a particular food increases the blood sugar levels over a 2 hour period after consumption.

For example if you consume a food that has a Glycemic Index or score of 30 this means that the food will raise the blood sugar levels by 30%.

As you can see a slice of white bread has a Glycemic Index of 80 which means it will increase blood sugar by 80% over the two hour period which means it is a high glycemic food.

So what does this mean in terms of you preparing as a parent or an athlete? As a rule the lower the glycemic value a food has the slower it will release energy into the blood stream and conversely a high glycemic value food will release energy into the blood stream quickly.

If you have ever wondered why your child becomes hyper active after you give them a chocolate donut (which does happen to my son) it is because the donut is highly processed (a simple carbohydrate and has a high glycemic value). These means that the carbohydrate stored in the food is immediately released into the blood stream and provides an energy boost that is instant but short in duration.

When planning your pre and post game foods and drinks choose foods that are designed to either provide energy over a sustained period (low glycemic value) for pre game meals and meals that will provide a quick release of energy after your game has finished to aid recovery (high glycemic value foods).

Pre Match Eating

Prior to match day or even training we are looking to build the energy storage in the liver and muscles as well as the blood stream to be released when we need it.

Studies have shown that if you choose high glycemic value foods up to an hour before training or playing the athletes body will release insulin to combat the increased blood sugar levels as they rise too quickly for the body to make use of the energy release. This reaction from the body is actually detrimental to peak performance and lowers the athlete’s blood sugar levels.

Choose foods considered to be complex carbohydrates with low to medium glycemic index values for your pre game meal and in some additional potassium based foods such as cantaloupe it has a glycemic index of 65 and is packed with potassium, so it will deliver energy and minerals to you while engaged in activity, anything that has been processed is unlikely to be complex in its carbohydrate make up.

White or brown rice, pasta, yogurt oatmeal, milk, eggs are all good choices for a pre game meal. Add in an apple, pear or orange too and you are building your body to have the storage of energy it requires to play at its best level, if you wanted to add some lean protein grilled or baked fish or chicken / turkey with a vegetable mix will also give your body more complex foods to digest and breakdown again slowing the energy release process.  Choosing foods that are suitable up to one hour before training or match kick off will also give your body the opportunity to remedy any hormone imbalance.

If your athlete is likely to be nervous during the contest push the meal back an hour or two to allow the digestion process to be undertaken without the chemical imbalance caused by the nervousness.

Whenever possible avoid eating any foods immediately before the training session or the game, this is because the food in the stomach is subject to the digestive process almost immediately so that the nutrients can be gathered from the food before it spoils in the stomach. This results in an increase in blood flow to the stomach to deal with the processing of the food clearly this is not good when you are about to engage in vigorous exercise and strain muscles that will be demanding the addition blood flow for themselves.

When this happens the body will become nauseated and the body will attempt to cease exercise in an attempt to redirect the blood flow back to the stomach.

The only exception to this would be limited quantities of sports drink 5 – 10 minutes before the contest begins.

Post Match Eating

This in my view is the most over looked part in the nutrition cycle.

Soccer players can consume up to 250 grams of carbohydrate during competitive games or hard training sessions and it is vital to muscle recovery and fighting fatigue that the carbohydrate and protein as well as the vitamins and minerals is replaced as quickly as possible after the conclusion of the game or sessions. This factor compounds if there are multiple games a week and or tough preseason sessions that are building to the start of a competitive season.

Immediately following the conclusion you should try to consume chocolate milk, banana or dried fruits to restore the carbohydrate balance, help to remove the toxins in the muscles that have built up including the lactic acid which causes muscle soreness. Sports drinks suck as Powerade or Gatorade are useful for replenishing minerals and vitamins, or products such as vitamin water or Propel.

Within a couple of hours you want to eat a meal that is carbohydrate heavy, pasta, rice, bread, potatoes are all a good suggestion as well as simple sugar based foods such as cakes, cookies and pastries.

Do not be surprised if it take a while (up to 20 hours) to fully replenish the carbohydrate stores, so it is important to be aware of this especially in times of high demand with games and training sessions in quick succession or even during tournament play where you may be playing multiple games a day. High carbohydrate foods and drinks are critical during these periods to foster success and the peak performance.
Carbohydrate loading process

You may have heard of carbohydrate loading which is a process whereby long distance athletes will attempt to pack their muscle tissue with as much carbohydrate as possible.

The method requires the athlete to deplete the muscles and body of carbohydrate the week leading up to an event and this is done through exhaustive exercise programming and a low carbohydrate diet.

Two to three days prior to an event the athlete switches to a high carbohydrate diet and in the depleted condition the muscles take up more carbohydrate than they usually would giving the athlete a larger than usual store of energy.

This approach is usually unnecessary and a much more useful approach would be to steadily increase the carbohydrate in take in the days leading up to a match.

Finally, water consumption

We can see how poor nutrition and eating the wrong thing at the wrong time could have a significant impact upon performance and in extreme cases can prevent the athlete from taking part at all. Keeping your body hydrated is also important and the athlete should be drinking water at regular intervals during the day leading up to a game but not so much that they feel bloated or uncomfortable. If when they go to the bathroom their urine is clear or close to clear they are properly hydrated.  The recommended normal amount of water in a day is 64oz this may need to be increased in climates that are warmer than you are use too or if you are having multiple contests a day.


Your body is a machine, if you decide to put the wrong foods into your machine at the wrong times your performance will suffer. You wouldn’t put diesel fuel in your gas car and expect it to run as well as it would with the correct fuel in it so why do you expect that of your body? We now understand that goalkeeping is the most dynamic and explosive position on the soccer field, we have to change direction quickly react to situations that happen in front of us, fly through the air quickly and with complete elegance move quickly out to intercept through balls and take crosses high and low. It is a position unlike any other on the field and as such we have to pay more attention to how we treat our bodies when competing and working towards our own personal next level.

Good luck and thanks for reading.

Looking for a qualified goalkeeper coach for your athlete look no further than find the coach that will help you to achieve your own personal greatness today.

Like our facebook page to get more quality content click here to be redirected.