Best Soccer Snacks for Energy on the Field
With demanding training and game schedules it is important for soccer players to have a sports nutrition plan in place to ensure they have the energy needed to perform at their best. Well-planned soccer snacks can provide athletes with a quick source of energy when time is limited.
Let’s take a look at the energy demands of soccer. We will then explore the best soccer snacks for athletes to eat before, during, and after competition.
Energy Demands of Soccer
Soccer is a high energy demand sport that requires both physical endurance as well as speed. Depending on position, a soccer player may run between 5-7 miles per game1. The running is interspersed with sprints and sudden changes in directions requiring quickness and agility. Having a sports nutrition plan in place is a key component to optimal performance on the field.
Pre-Game Soccer Snacks
Based on the high energy demand of the sport, it is important for soccer players to go into the game well fueled. Carefully planning pre-game soccer snacks can help ensure that athletes have the energy needed for the upcoming game.
Pre-Game Soccer Snacks: >1 Hour Prior to Competition
Carbohydrates provide the energy the body needs to perform at its best. Therefore, athletes want to focus their pre-game snacks on carbohydrate-rich choices. When soccer players have a few hours prior to competition, they should choose a snack that is high in carbohydrates, contains moderate amounts of protein, and is low in fat.
Example soccer snacks include:
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with sports drink
- Fruit smoothie
- Turkey wrap with fruit
- Trail mix (made with pretzels, dried fruit, breakfast cereal, nuts) and sports drink
- Breakfast bars with nut butter and a banana
As you get closer to the start of the event, the size of your snack should decrease and your focus should be on consuming carbohydrates for energy. Eating foods that are high in fat, fiber, and protein too close to the competition may cause GI distress during the activity2.
Pre-Game Soccer Snacks: < 1 Hour Prior to Competition
When there is less than an hour before the start of the competition, many athletes find it most comfortable to stick with easily digestible carbohydrate-rich snacks or liquids. The simple carbohydrates will provide your body with the quick energy needed for competition.
Example soccer snacks include:
- Sports drink
- Sports chews
- Sports gels
- Applesauce squeeze
- Small piece of fruit
- Dried fruit
- Pretzels, pita chips
- Mini bagels
- Low-fat granola bar
Athletes want to start the soccer match in a hydrated state. Dehydration can negatively impact sports performance and increase the risk of heat illness2. Thus, focusing on hydration with your pre-game soccer snacks is important.
In regard to pre-event hydration, it is recommended that athletes drink 5-7 mL/kg of body weight of fluid approximately 4 hours prior to the event3. For most athletes consuming approximately 2 cups (16 fl oz) of fluid with the pre-game soccer snack can assist you with meeting this goal.
Additionally, consuming foods that contain sodium with the pre-game soccer snack will help your body hold onto the fluid you consume. Salty foods also make you thirsty, which can further assist with meeting your pre-game hydration needs3.
In the hour leading up to the soccer match continue hydrating. Aim to drink another 4-8 oz of water or a sports drink during this time period.
What About Energy Drinks Prior to Competition?
Athletes may be tempted to grab an energy drink prior to competition thinking it will help them stay fueled throughout the game. Energy drinks are often marketed with the claims of having a unique “energy blend” to help increase alertness, focus, and boost energy levels, all of which sound appealing to athletes.
However, athletes need to be aware that many energy drinks are sold as dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are not regulated in the same way that food is by the Food and Drug Administration. Many energy drinks contain added ingredients that are not necessary prior to competition.
What’s in an Energy Drink?
Energy drinks come in a variety of sizes ranging from large, 16 oz cans, to small shots that are <2 oz. Energy drinks contain caffeine along with a proprietary blend of ingredients claiming to increase energy levels. These energy blends may include ingredients such as: taurine, B Vitamins, guarana, green tea extract, L-carnitine, ginseng, ginger root, and chromium.
The combination of ingredients in the drink may have a synergistic effect in the body and lead to health concerns. For the reasons above, athletes should use caution with energy drinks.
Alternatives to Energy Drinks
If you feel you are lacking energy, consider eating a carbohydrate-rich snack, such as a piece of fruit or a granola bar. In addition, make sure you are getting enough sleep each night to allow your body time to rest and recover. Finally, consider meeting with a Sports Dietitian Nutritionist who can create an individualized meal plan to meet your specific sports nutrition needs.
Half-Time Soccer Snacks
It is important for soccer players to take advantage of the half-time break to refuel and rehydrate. Athletes who played substantial minutes during the first-half should place particular focus on half-time nutrition. Consuming carbohydrates, fluid, and electrolytes during the half-time break can give you the energy needed to perform at your best through the end of the game.
Consider the following half-time snack ideas:
- Sports drinks – Provides fluid, electrolytes, and carbohydrates for energy
- Sport chews or gels – Drink water when you consume chews or gels to help avoid an upset stomach.
- Fresh fruit – Orange slices, banana, grapes
- Applesauce Squeeze
- Pretzels, pita chips, or snack crackers
- Carbohydrate based sports bar
For additional information on planning half-time snacks, check-out my recent blog: Planning the Best Half-Time Snacks for Athletes.
Recovery nutrition is particularly important when athletes have limited time between events. Soccer players frequently compete in tournaments where they play multiple matches close together. I encourage athletes to pay particular attention to recovery nutrition when they intend to compete again the same day or the next.
There are three key areas athletes should focus on when it comes to recovery nutrition.
- Fluid and electrolytes: Rehydrate to replace fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat
- Carbohydrates: Refill energy stores used during the activity
- Protein: Build and repair muscles
Recovery Nutrition – Hydration
Following your workout, it is important to replace the fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat. Weighing yourself before and after a workout can help you determine how much fluid was lost. For each pound of weight lost during the activity, you should aim to drink 20-24 oz of fluid2.
Consuming sodium, during the recovery period can help your body replace the sodium lost in sweat. In addition, the sodium will help your body better retain the fluid you drink after exercise. Consider adding salty foods such as pretzels, pita chips, deli meat, cheese, pickles, and jerky to your recovery nutrition snacks3.
Recovery Nutrition Soccer Snacks
Packing soccer snacks that athletes can enjoy once the game is over can hep athletes get an edge on meeting their recovery nutrition needs. Consider the following recovery nutrition soccer snack ideas:
- Low-fat chocolate milk with granola bars
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with low-fat milk
- Greek yogurt, berries, and granola
- Sliced cheese, turkey, and whole grain crackers
- Pita chips with hummus
- Sports bar with sports drink
Athletes should follow-up their post-workout soccer snack with a well-balanced meal in the next couple of hours. The meal will help to further support the athlete’s recovery nutrition needs.
Practice Your Soccer Snacks
Just as you practice your moves on the soccer field, it is important to practice the soccer snacks you will eat before and during competition. Take time to figure out what foods and beverages work best for you. Having a well-practiced sports nutrition plan in place can provide you with confidence on game day that you are fueled to perform at your best.
You are now set with ideas for planning soccer snacks to provide you with the energy needed to compete at your best. If you are interested in additional sports nutrition tips, check-out my recent blog: 5 Keys to Building the Ideal Athlete Meal Plan.
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About the Author
Mandy is a Sports Dietitian Nutritionist in the San Antonio, TX area. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a Licensed Athletic Trainer, and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Mandy believes the key to reaching one’s full potential, both in everyday life and in sports performance, relies on a healthy nutritional foundation. Learn more about the work Mandy does here.
- Rosenbloom, C. A., & Coleman, E. J. (2012). Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals (5th ed.). Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 48(3), 543–568. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000000852
- American College of Sports Medicine, Sawka, M. N., Burke, L. M., Eichner, E. R., Maughan, R. J., Montain, S. J., & Stachenfeld, N. S. (2007). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 39(2), 377–390. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0b013e31802ca597