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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14 thoughts on “Travel Soccer Meal and Snack Ideas for Optimal Performance”

  1. I had never even thought about this (not being this level an athlete when growing up), but this post is such an important topic! – I never learned about a lot of these things until a) a college level athlete (Div III), and then b) training for my first century bike ride. Thanks for these GREAT tips to keep young athletes fueled!

    1. Thank you! I agree! Many young athletes don’t think about the impact nutrition can make on their performance and endurance.

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