Travel Soccer Meal and Snack Ideas for Optimal Performance

Travel Soccer is no cake walk especially if you are eating cake before the game! Travel soccer players often have to play two games a day and games are frequently on back-to-back days. The soccer player’s meals should provide adequete fuel, hydration, protein, and electrolytes and post-meals also need to replenish nutrients lost during the prior competition. Players want to eat these meals in a time frame that can help prevent hunger AND prevent GI problems due to undigested foods.   With the busy schedule and frequent games, sometimes deciding on meals and snacks is overwhelming. This post provides travel soccer meal and snack ideas. Whether you prefer to cook at home or need something you can grab and go, this post has it coverd.

Pre-game Meal Overview

The Pre-game meal should be high in carbohydrates (to maximize glygogen stores, which is the storage form of readily available energy), moderate in protein, low in fat, spicy foods, simple sugars, and fiber. The meal should be eaten 2-4 hours before the game. (I lean towards 2 hours)

During the Game Nutrients Overview

Hydrating with just water is recommended if your competition last for less than an hour. Since soccer is a one-hour sport, frequently drinking water throughout the game is usually preferable. If you are attending a long practice or an all day soccer camp, consume 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates after an hour to enhance endurance. Consume electrolyte-replenishing products like Gatorade or nuun tablets along with water when you are practicing for longer than an hour. When exercising for an extended period of time (marathon time frame), consume carbohydrates every 15 to 20 minutes. Ex: Gel packs, energy bars (See links below)

A Note about Electrolyte Replenishers

Note that limiting simple sugars is a pre-game recommendation to prevent GI distress, and yet some sports drinks contain simple sugars. This can be confusing since after an hour you will need electrolytes and carbohydrates, but you are also trying to avoid simple sugars. I have heard testimony from some runners that the simple sugars in sports drinks do, in fact, bother their stomach. Everyone is different, and some can tolerate simple sugars a little more than others.

Here are my thoughts on this subject. Ideally you will eat more complex carbohydrates and less simple sugars in your pre-game meals or between game meals and snacks. However, sometimes our bodies run out of energy. Have you ever seen a runner “hit the wall?” These runners have literally run out of fuel. They no longer have the fuel to be able to move! So in a crutch and when you don’t have the time to get the fuel from elsewhere, simple sugars found in sports drinks will do the trick.  Sports drinks have the needed carbohydrates, electrolytes, and water all in one place. Therefore, sports drinks are good to have handy in a pinch. Plus, if your glycogen storage (storage form of carbohydrates) is extremely low, these simple sugars are faster acting.

But…

You do have other options. Remember, when you are exercising for over an hour, your body is going to need more electrolytes, carbohydrates, and, of course, water. One option is to get your electrolytes and water through your beverage and your carboydrates through food. You can do this by using electrolyte tablets like nuun tablets in your water. Another option is to get your electrolytes and carbohydrates through food; then, drink plain water to rehydrate. Many energy bars contain electrolytes and more complex carbohydrates like oats. I also love no-bake energy bites as an electrolyte and carbohydrate source. You can find several excellent dietitian developed recipes below. In other words, sports drinks contain all three components: water, electrolytes, and carbohydrates. However, you can combine other options to get all three componets and still consume less simple sugars.

*Note if you have decreased kidney function, be sure to talk with your doctor before using electrolyte supplements or enerygy bars. When you have decreased kidney function, you may need to limit the amount of electrolytes in your diet.

soccer photo

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Ideas to Replenish Electrolytes During a Long Practice or All-day Camp:

 

 

Two Games a Day: Meal Between Games Overview

The goal of the between game meal is to replenish glycogen stores, replenish fluid loss, and replenish electrolyte loss. Your meal should be higher in carbohydrates and moderate in protein. You want the meal to satisfy hunger, but not cause GI distress. In other words, you don’t want to eat something too heavy between games.

Ideas to Replenish Electrolytes Between Games:

  • See above “Ideas to Replenish Electrolytes” 

Post Game Meal IF you do NOT have a game the next day: Overview

Your number one priority is to hydrate. The goal of this meal is to replenish glycogen, lipids, and protein lost during the game. You can replenish these adequately with a normal healthy meal. A healthy plate should be ¼ lean carbohydrates, ¼ lean meats, and half fruits and vegetables.

Post Game Meal IF you have another Game AGAIN the Next Day: Overview

The #1 priority is to replace fluid loss. If you have a game the next day, the meal should take place within 30 minutes after the competition. The meal should be high in carbohydrates to replace glycogen loss and moderate in protein. Make sure half your plate is filled with fruits and vegetables as well. THEN, if you are competing AGAIN the next day, you should eat 1 to 1.5 grams of carbohydrate per kg body weight every 2 hours for 6 hours.

Carbohydrates Ideas to Eat Every 2 Hours for 6 Hours (When playing AGAIN the next day)

  • Banana
  • Pita bread and hummus
  • Whole Wheat Crackers with babybel cheese

  • Whole Wheat Crackers with peanut butter or cheese

  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites (See Recipe)

Remember your pre-game meal, between game meal or snack, and your post game meal especially if your are completing AGAIN the next day should be high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein. Use the table below to pick a meal high in carbohydrate, moderate in protein, and low in spicy foods, simple sugars, and fat.

Pick a Carbohydrate Pick a Protein
Baked Potato Lean Turkey
Whole Wheat Pasta Lean Ground Beef
Whole What Bread (Sandwich) Grilled Chicken
Brown Rice Cheese
Whole Wheat Pita Eggs
Whole Wheat Soft Tortilla Nuts
Whole Wheat Bagel Thin slices of chicken
Banana (Eat a whole wheat carb as well; natural simple sugars are ok as long as they are eaten with a complex carb. Complex carbs last longer.)
Orange (Eat a whole wheat carb as well; natural simple sugars are ok as long as they are eaten with a complex carb. Complex carbs last longer)
Whole Wheat Greek Yogurt Pancakes

Recipe from Kelli Shallal, MPH, RD at www.hungryhobby.com

 

Sometimes you may not have time for a sit-down meal between games, or when your game is early. Below are some healthy on-the-go meal or snack options.

Use the table below to pick a On-The-Go meal high Carbohydrate, Moderate protein, low in spicy foods, simple sugars, and fat.

Pick a Carbohydrate Pick a Protein
Popcorn (It’s a whole grain!) Boiled Egg
Whole Wheat Bread Peanut Butter
Whole Wheat Bagel Lean Turkey Slices
Whole Wheat Pita Thinly Sliced Chicken
Whole Wheat Crackers Nuts
Whole Wheat wrap Cheese
Organic Boom Chick Pop Cream Cheese
Pretzels Hummus
Banana BabyBel Cheese
Orange Horizon Organic Cheese sticks
Low Sugar/whole grain cereal
If You Really Don’t Have time you can grab a Bar that has Both Carbs and Protein
Sustain Energy Bar Sustain Energy Bar
Power Bar Power Bar
ClifBar CliffBar
Unreal Bar Unreal Bar
Rx Bar Rx Bar
Gel Pack Gel Pack
No-Bake Energy Bites (See a list of Dietitian Developed Recipes Below) No Bake Energy Bites

No Bake Energy Bites

No-Bake Peanut Putter Cherry Trail Mix Bites from Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RD at www.bucketlisttummy.com

Protein Brownie Bites by Lara Clevenger, RD at www.laraclevenger.com

Pumpkin Pie Energy Balls from Dixya Bhattarai, RD at www.foodpleasureandhealth.com

Almond Pistachio Cocoa Bites from Amy Gorin, RD at amydgorin.com

Brownie Pistachio Energy Bites from Jennifer Mulr Bowers, RD at dr.jennbowersnutrition.com

Soccer photo

Pre-game, post-game, and Between Meal Ideas:

 (Remember pre-game and in between meals should be high in carbs, moderate in protein, and low in fats, fiber, and spicy foods. You don’t want the between game meal to be too heavy since they meal will probably be within 2 hours of the game. Incorporate high fiber fruits, beans, and vegetables in the post-game meal.)

  •  Baked Potato with lean ground turkey and cheese
  • Whole wheat pasta with lean ground beef and tomato sauce
  • Whole wheat turkey sandwich with pretzels
  • Marinated grilled chicken with brown rice
  • Lasagna
  • Whole wheat bread with thinly sliced chicken
  • Omelet sandwich on whole wheat bread and a banana
  • Turkey and cheese wrap in a whole wheat soft tortilla
  • Whole Wheat Bagel with cream cheese
  • Pita bread (whole wheat) with hummus
  • Whole Wheat French Toast

 

On-the-Go Meal or Snack Ideas (great for times when you are in a hurry or in between two games):

  • Whole Wheat Bagel with Cream Cheese
  • Boiled egg, Pretzels, and a Banana
  • Popcorn and nuts
  • Turkey sandwich with pretzels
  • Peanut Butter or cheese with whole wheat crackers, or
  • BabyBel cheese and crackers

  • Total Cereal, orange slices and a boiled egg

  • Hummus on whole wheat pita bread
  • A ClifBar and a banana

  • Popcorn, nuts, and a banana

* Note: When stopping at a restaurant, try to follow the same meal guidelines. For example, when you are eating a pre-game meal, you may want to choose a grilled chicken sandwich without the fries. Fries are higher in fat and can cause more GI distress. Remember to try to avoid higher fat foods and fried foods.

For more details on why these meal recommendations are helpful for the soccer athlete, see “Sports Nutrition: What to Eat Before, During, and After Competition for Optimal Performance.”

 

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Sports Nutrition-Eating to Optimize Athletic Performance: What to Eat Before, During, and After a Performance, Game, or Competition

Sports Nutrition-

Eating to Optimize Athletic Performance: 

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What to Eat Before, During, and After a Performance, Game, or Competition

The Meal Before an Athletic Performance

 The goal of the pre-exercise meal is to maximize glycogen stores (which is the sotrage form of readily available energy), provide adequate hydration, minimize hunger, and minimize any undigested foods that can lead to GI distress. In order to meet these goals, the pre-game meal should occur 2 to 4 hours before the game/performance.

The pre-game meal should be high in carbohydrates; that is 60 to 70% of the calories from that meal should be from carbohydrates. A high carbohydrate diet is needed to maintain glycogen stores and blood glucose. Muscle glycogen is used for energy during exercise, and liver glycogen stores are used to maintain stable blood glucose levels during the athletic performance.

The pre-game meal should be moderate in protein. Only 10 to 25% of the calories in the meal should be from protein foods.

Finally, the pre-game meal should be low in fat, low in fiber, low in spicy foods, and low in simple sugars. Meals high in fiber may cause GI distress during a game.

Pre-Game Meal: Quick Reference 

  • Eaten 2 to 4 hours before the performance
  • High Carbohydrate (60 to 70% of total calories)
  • Moderate in protein (10 to 25% of total calories)
  • Low in fat, spicy foods, simple sugars, and fiber (To prevent GI distress)

Pre-game meal examples:

  • 1 cup of pasta, spaghetti, or rice and tomato sauce
  • Turkey sandwich and pretzels

  The “Meal” During an Athletic Performance

The most crucial essential nutrient during a performance is water so be sure to HYDRATE during the game. You should take 3 to 4 sips of water every 15 minutes. If the performance last for more than one hour, you should consume 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates to enhance endurance, and drink a beverage containing sodium.

Examples of “during performance carbohydrate snacks” are a banana (also a good source of electrolyte, potassium) or an energy bar like the  CLIF BAR – Energy Bar – Chocolate Chip – (2.4 Ounce Protein Bar, 12 Count) Each Clif bars contains the important carbohydrates and electrolytes needed for longer performances. You can also get both the sodium and carbohydrates needed by drinking a sports drink like Powerade Sports Drink Variety Pack (20 oz. bottles, 24 ct.) or BodyArmor SuperDrink, Variety pack – 7 flavors – Including Jummybo mints

If the performance last MORE THAN 3 HOURS, drink an electrolyte containing drink. Drinks like Powerade, Gatorade, and BodyArmor not only contain water, carbohydrates, and sodium, but also contain other electrolytes as well. These drinks will also work well for performances lasting longer than 3 hours. When exercising for an extended period like in a marathon, consume carbohydrates such as bananas, gel packs like PowerBar, Performance Energy Gel, Strawberry Banana Flavor, 24 Gel Packs, 1.44 oz or energy bars like Clif bars every 15 to 20 minutes. You can find Clif Bars by clicking on the following link. CLIF ENERGY BAR – Value Pack – Chocolate Chip and Crunchy Peanut Butter – (2.4 oz, 6 Count, 6 Pack)

Why is Salt Intake During an Athletic Performance so Important?

When you are exercising for an hour or less, plain water is recommended. However, if you are in an athletic competition for over an hour, you should begin replenishing your electrolytes, especially your sodium content. When we sweat, we lose water AND salt. We know that lack of water can be dangerous so we often make sure we are drinking plenty of water during an athletic performance. However when you replenish the water in your body WITHOUT replenishing the salt in your body, the sodium content in your body becomes diluted. In other words, the sodium to water ratio becomes out of balance. So the problem is not only that you lost sodium in your sweat, but that the sodium-to-water ratio becomes out of balance as you drink more and more water. This is called hypernatremia.

Unfortunately symptoms of hypernatremia are similar to symptoms of dehydration so someone may think they are dehydrated and drink more water when in fact they are actually experiencing symptoms of hyponatremia. Drinking more water WITHOUT sodium makes the hypernatremia worse. Symptoms of hypernatremia includes dizziness, lethargy, thirst, headache, nausea, cramps, irritability, and in severe cases even coma and death. Notice the similarity of the symptoms to the symptoms of dehydration. The take home message that water is crucial! We should drink water throughout any athletic event no matter how long the event. However, if the athletic even is over an hour, we should also drink a sports drink that contains water AND electrolytes.

During Performance Meal: Quick Reference

  • HYDRATE
  • Consume 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates and drink a liquid containing sodium if the performance last for more than one hour to enhance endurance. Example: a banana or energy bar like a Clif bar
  • You can get the needed carbohydrates, water, and electrolytes in drinks like Powerade or Allsport.
  • Drink electrolyte drinks if you will be exercising for more than 3 hours; Examples: Powerade, Gatorade, or BodyArmor (These are carbohydrate sources as well)
  • When exercising for extended period of time (marathon): Consume CHO every 15 to 20 minutes. Ex: Gel packs and energy bars like Powebar or Clif bar

* Put simply, drink 3-4 sips of water every 15 minutes if you are exercising for less than an hour. If you are performing for more than an hour drink an electrolyte and carbohydrate drink like BodyArmor SuperDrink, Variety pack – 7 flavors – Including Jummybo mints or Powerade Sports Drink Variety Pack (20 oz. bottles, 24 ct.). If you are performing for greater than 3 hours, drink an electrolyte and carbohydrate drink and consume a carbohydrate snack/drink every 15 to 20 minutes.

The Meal After Performance, BUT NOT Performing the Next Day 

During exercise, the body is breaking down glycogen, triglycerides, and muscle protein for energy; therefore, the body must restore muscle, glycogen, and lipids after the performance. The meal simply needs to be a normal healthy meal. One fourth of the meal should consist of healthy whole grains, one fourth of the meal should contain lean meats, and half of the meal should contain fruits and vegetables. Note this is the after performance meal when you do NOT have a performance the next day. However, the recommendations are slightly different if you are performing two days in a row.


After Game Meal, But NOT Performing the Next Day: Quick Reference

  • Hydrate
  • Normal Healthy Meal

The Meal After A Performance IF Performing AGAIN the Next Day

 If you have finished an athletic performance, and are performing again the next day, your after performance meal should take place within 30 minutes after you have finished competing. The number one priority should be replacing fluid loss.

The meal should also be high in carbohydrates. A high carbohydrate meal is needed to replace glycogen stores. If you do not replace the glycogen stores, your body will use muscle protein to replace the stores. Many think that eating high protein is crucial to replace or build muscle after a performance; however, you need to make sure you are getting enough carbohydrates as well. If your body does not have enough glycogen (carbohydrate stores); then your body is going to get glycogen by breaking down your muscles! You should eat 1 to 1.5 grams of carbohydrates per kg body weight every two hours for 6 hours! So if a person weighs 150 pounds, they could eat about 1.5 cups of pasta every 2 hours for 6 hours. So they would eat 1.5 cups of pasta three times in six hours for a total of 4.5 cups of pasta in six hours. Remember, you do not need to eat every 2 hours unless you are performing the next day. This is to build up your depleted glycogen store before your next day performance.

The Meal After a Performance IF Perfoming  AGAIN the Next Day: Quick Reference

  • #1 priority: replace fluid loss
  • High CHO: replaces glycogen; if you do not replace glycogen, your body will use muscle protein;
  • Eat 1 to 1.5 grams of CHO per kg body wt, every 2 hours for 6 hours. 

 

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