Gameday Nutrition for Young Soccer Players

Photo (2)Something that I struggle with is figuring out the right foods to feed my soccer girls.  They seem to be starving at all times and it can be difficult to sort through what they want to eat vs what they need to eat to play at a high level.

I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist (or an expert of any kind!), but I’ve always made sure to feed my girls what I consider a healthy breakfast/lunch before playing as well as bringing healthy snacks, but recently I decided to do some research about optimal nutrition for gameday.  I was kind of surprised by what I found…

Pre Game (The night before and 2-3 hours before playing)

I always thought that the optimal pre-game meal would include a balance of whole grains, protein and carbs.  After reading numerous articles, I found that I was wrong!  Our soccer kids don’t need what we think of as a “balanced” meal, but rather one overloaded with fuel or carbohydrates with lower amounts of fat and protein.  The closer to game time, the more simple the carbs need to be.

“Preloading” Meal Ideas:

  • Pasta
  • Pancakes (with light syrup and/or fruit)
  • Frozen Waffles
  • Toast
  • Bread
  • Potatos
  • Rice
  • Fruits (especially bananas, oranges, grapes)
  • Strawberry/Chocolate milk
  • Creme of Wheat cereal
  • Hard boiled egg (eaten along with carbs)

Post Game Snack

I hadn’t really thought about the importance of eating right after playing.  Evidently there is a crucial time right after playing that kids need a snack to rebuild their muscles.  According to Dr. Kirkendall (see link below) “Muscles are most ready to receive a fresh supply of fuel during the first hour or two directly following exercise. The smart coaches and parents supply food that will start refilling muscles with carbohydrates at just that time.  A proper supply of carbohydrates is needed. It can come from a carbohydrate replenishment drink or other foods like bagels with jelly, pretzels, raisins or other dried fruit. This is even more critical between tournament games when the time between games is even shorter.”  Other sites recommend making sure there is some protein in the post game snack.

Post Game Snack Ideas (within 30 minutes after playing)

  • bagel with jelly
  • pretzels
  • raisins/dried fruit
  • granola bar
  • trail mix
  • fruit
  • peanut butter and crackers
  • chocolate milk

Staying Hydrated

PixlrIt’s important for our kids to drink even when they don’t feel thirsty!  Staying hydrated is essential for optimal performance.  Make sure they drink before the game as well as during as frequently as possible. I’m still not sure what I think about Sports drinks- many of the articles recommend them, but I try to have my kids drink mostly water with some sports drinks mixed in.  I think I’m going to have to dig deeper into that topic another day!

 

Foods to Avoid on Game Day

Using common sense, it’s pretty easy to figure out what NOT to eat on game day.  Especially avoid these foods on a day with multiple games.  Pretty much anything they sell at the tournaments qualifies…lol

  • Soda
  • Hot Dogs
  • High Fiber foods
  • Large portions of meat
  • Cupcakes
  • Donuts
  • Greasy/Fatty foods

So…now that I’ve done all this reading I’m in in no way an expert, but I think I’m better prepared for game day.  Now I just need to find a food that will make their cleats smell better!

Use the links below to start your own research…

Four Common Myths About Nutrition Among Soccer Players by Dr. Donald T. Kirkendall

Soccer Player’s Struggle with Nutrition

Soccer Nutrition- What Should Soccer Players Eat?

Top Ten Nutrition Tips For Kids Playing Sports By SUZANNE NELSON, SC.D.,

 Recovering from Hard Exercise: How to Refuel

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