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Nutrition for Players

What Should Soccer Players Eat?

Good nutrition is essential for athletes at any age to perform at their best. Improper nutrition can lead to poor performance and can even result in sports injuries. This is why it’s so critical to ensure that proper nutrition is maintained.

Eating Before a Soccer Game

It’s best for players to eat around 3-4 hours before the game to avoid the effects of an insulin response that will make the players feel drained.

Carbohydrates are the best type of food for the day of the game. Below are some examples of great foods to choose for breakfast before a big game:


‍Players typically do not like to play with uncomfortably full stomachs; and the more calories that are in a meal, the slower it will be digested and leave the stomach.  Since fat is higher in calories than carbohydrates, it should be avoided as much as possible prior to a game.  So, a player should eat a carbohydrate heavy meal early in the day before a game.  As previously stated, food should be avoided in the last hour leading up to the game as this could adversely affect performance.

Eating After a Soccer Game

During the game, players use up a lot of carbohydrates so these must be replaced. It is best to eat within the first two hours after the game. Fruits are a great post-game snack as they tend to be light, easy to consume, and provide some good carbohydrates. Protein is also very beneficial for helping the muscles recover after exercise. With this in mind, it would be a good idea to have a protein bar or shake on hand for the child to consume after the game.

A Quick Reference List of the Best Foods for Youth Soccer Players

When players need to get a quick carbohydrate fix before a game or for refueling between games, here are some 
good options to consider:

Pancakes, pasta, breads, potatoes, toast, waffles – these tend to be higher in complex carbohydrates, but, if you think about how they’re typically eaten (pancakes with syrup, pasta with sauce, toast with jelly, etc.), a small amount of simple carbohydrates are often incorporated to provide a nice mix

Dry cereals that are not totally concentrated with whole grains and are lower in sugar – in other words, balanced cereals

Oranges, grapes, bananas – these fruits are high in natural sugar, but contain fiber, which slows their digestion

Sports drinks, fruit juices, strawberry and chocolate milk – these are  higher in simple carbohydrates but are more balanced than drinks like soda

Which Foods Should Soccer Players Avoid?

Below is a list of foods that a youth soccer player should try to avoid when possible:

Soda (replace these with juices)
Low-calorie foods such as sugar-free jellos – active soccer players need calories to perform optimally
Large portions of meats and fats – protein is important for muscle development, but lean protein is best
100% high grain foods – too many complex carbohydrates will weigh a player down
Extreme high fiber foods with low sugars / simple carbohydrates

The Importance of Proper Hydration

Proper hydration is extremely important for players and will have a positive impact on the following:

Muscle function

Good hydration can also reduce the risk of injury. On the other hand, when a player is dehydrated, his/her performance and health can be negatively affected. Water is the most recommended drink for sports hydration. Ensuring your player is properly hydrated can have a great impact on their performance.

Information provided is general guidance and not meant as medical advice. Please speak to your physician for any medical concerns or conditions.

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