Preparing to play a soccer Game?---What to Eat

Pre-Event Eating: When and How Much?

Terry Weyman, D.C., C.C.S.P

Have you ever “bonked” or felt “flat” during your training or competition? There is a lot of hype and theories about pre-event meals but little scientific evidence to support them. This is probably because there are too many individual differences and other variables such as stress, age, time of day, exercise intensity, and duration to make across-the-board recommendations.

With intense exercise your body shifts 80 percent of its blood supply to the muscles in use. This shift deprives the stomach of the blood needed to digest food. This slows digestion and may cause an uncomfortable feeling in the stomach because of undigested food that is still present. A meal that is high in calories will take longer to digest than a lighter snack. It is suggested a three to four hour delay between high calorie meals and intense exercise.

During moderate exercise, the stomach is still deprived 60-70% of its normal blood supply due to muscle exertion. Athletes are recommended to wait 2-3 hours after a small meal and 1-2 hours after a blended or liquid meal. There are energy “boost” supplements such as PowerGel by PowerBar that are consumed by the athlete immediately before and during exercise. They can be easily digested and they provide energy during long-term events.

Tournament day is not the time to experiment with foods that are unfamiliar to your stomach. Eat foods that are familiar to you.

Eat meals that are reasonably high in carbohydrate and low in fat (avoid high fat sauces on pasta and fast food). Carbohydrates will help keep the energy level high, while fatty foods delay digestion.

Drink adequate amounts of fluid (avoid dairy). The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 17 ounces of fluid two hours before exercise, as well as enough fluid during exercise to replace the water lost through perspiration. A rule of thumb is to drink enough water to urinate clear prior to performance. For the first hour of aerobic exercise use water only. Use electro-light replacement drinks after the first hour of exercising.

Use caution with food that have a high sugar content (such as soft drinks and candy). Since athletes metabolism is higher than the average person they may experience a drop in blood sugar following consumption which can result in light headedness or fatigue and loss in performance.

Eat well the day before an event, especially if you tend to be jittery or unable to tolerate food on the day of competition.

Dr. Terry Weyman focuses his practice on the active person. He currently continues to be a competitive athlete and is sponsored by PowerBar, Dragon SunGlasses, Self Grip tape, and Synergy Therapeutic systems. His office, Chiropractic Sports Institute, is in Westlake Village , CA .

Pre-Event Fueling for Peak Performance

Jayson Hunter, Rd, CSCS

Some athletes avoid eating before competition because they think it will cause stomach cramps and nausea. Unless you eat immediately before your event this is unlikely to happen. Your performance may suffer though if you don’t eat before your game or competition. For those athletes that avoid eating a meal their liver glycogen storage (main source of glucose) can be decreased by as much as 80% depending on whether they compete in the morning or later in the day.

During exercise athletes primarily rely on pre-existing glycogen stores and fat stores. If your pre-event meal is eaten at the proper time then you will be assured that your glycogen stores are plenty full and this will optimize performance. Liquid meals can also be an advantage by digesting more rapidly than solid foods as well as provide hydration. Liquid meals can be eaten closer to competition because they are emptied from the stomach quickly. Pre-event snacks within 1 hour of competition or practice can be more beneficial to athletes that exercise longer than 60 minutes.

It is important to choose primarily carbohydrates before an event because they digest quickly and are readily available for fuel. You can still eat some protein and fat with your meal but high fat meals may leave you feeling sluggish and uncomfortable.

Here are some guidelines for when to fuel prior to your event:

Hours before event

Meal type


3-5 hours

large meal


2-3 hours

small meal


1-2 hours

liquid meal


0.5-1 hour



Some examples of meals and snacks are listed below.




Baked potato



Cereal Bars


Dried Fruit


Fig Newtons



Baked Beans

Graham Crackers



Whole Wheat Bread

White Bread


Both whole foods and liquid meals aid in maintaining optimal muscle glycogen storage and help with maintaining hydration. They also help maintain blood glucose levels during extended exercise bouts. Take advantage of what a properly timed meal can do for your performance.

For maximum energy and top performance --
Eating to Win!


How you play on game day depends on what you eat and drink for a few days before, not what you ate a few hours before. Tournament meals will replace some of the energy you've used up, but most of the energy you'll use in a game comes from what you ate the day before a game, not what you ate the day of the game.

Eat healthy all the time -- fruits, vegetables, salads, pastas, whole grain cereals and breads -- drink lots of water and get enough sleep and you'll be ready to play hard.

You should be eating lots of carbohydrates -- starches from whole-grain breads, pasta, cereal, rice and lentils and sugar from fruits and vegetables. Carbs are what give you power and stamina in strenuous exercise lasting longer than an hour (like a soccer game, duh!).

What you eat when is important

If you gobble french fries an hour before a game, you will feel like the soccer ball is in your stomach, not on the field! That's because when you're playing hard your heart sends a lot of blood to your muscles instead of to your digestive system. Whatever you ate just sits in your stomach, undigested, causing cramps and gas.
Here's a good rule for when to eat what:

Do the math.

For evening games, eat a good breakfast, fill up at lunch time with a big meal like pasta and salad or chicken and rice, (whatever you would usually eat for dinner) Then have a light "lunch" late in the afternoon.


For tournaments, where you usually have a morning game, you have to eat a good dinner and a bedtime snack the night before. Then have breakfast at least two hours before the game, just a snack if you slept in. Lunch between games should be light, something that will get digested before the next game. Unfortunately, that lets out pizza, which has lots of cheese and pepperoni (high-fat items that stay around in your stomach for three to four hours).


Hearty, Healthy Dinner
(high-carbohydrate, low-fat)

- Pasta
- Tomato Sauce with Meat
- Rice
- Lean Meat, Fish, Poultry
- Potatoes
- Cooked dried peas, beans or lentils
- Salad