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How to eat and drink before an evening kick-off

Weekday matches are mostly played at night, which for many amateur footballers means after work. This can make it difficult for players to eat well around these commitments.

Daily meals
Breakfast and lunch should not be ignored, as they provide an opportunity to top up carbohydrate stores throughout the working day. Aim for 1-3 g of carbohydrate per kilo of body mass with each meal. Carbohydrate based snacks between meals will also top up energy stores.

Pre-match meal
For many amateur footballers, the pre-match meal can be difficult to have on a match day with a late fixture. The ideal time for this meal is around 2-3 hours before kick-off and will usually coincide with travelling home from work or actually travelling to the venue. This is the last time that you will be able to take on a substantial amount of fuel before the game. Aim to consume 1-4g of carbohydrate per kilo of your body mass.

A simple indicator of your hydration status is to check the colour and volume of your urine. If it is pale and plentiful then you are probably well hydrated (aim for lemonade colour); if it is dark (think apple juice colour) and low in volume then chances are you are slightly dehydrated. Note if you’re consuming large amounts of B vitamins or certain foods (e.g beetroot) they can affect the colour of your urine.

Solution: SiS Hydro
Going into a game in a hydrated state is critical to maximise performance. SiS Hydro contains key electrolytes like sodium, which increase fluid absorption and retention, preventing excessive urinary volume. Consuming one the evening before a game and one in the 1-3 hours before a game will help hydrate you effectively. Guidelines suggest taking 5-10 ml of fluid per kilo of body mass. For a 70kg player, this means taking on 350 – 700 ml in the hours before a game.

You will arrive at the pitch 60-90 minutes before kick-off. If you begin warming up 45 minutes before kick-off, this may be your last chance to take on fuel. Follow these warm- up nutrition guidelines and increase your physical performance

1. 500ml GO Electrolyte – consume this throughout the warm up to help provide both carbohydrate for energy and sodium/fluid for hydration

2. GO Energy + Caffeine gel or GO caffeine shot – Be cautious about taking a caffeine supplement later on in the day as this may affect sleep quality. Take one around 30 minutes before kick-off. Caffeine helps decrease the perception of fatigue, providing mental stimulation.

During the game
Due to the nature of the game, it is difficult to take on fluid and energy during the match. However, you can make it easier for yourself by placing a bottle of GO Electrolyte on your side of the pitch, if you are playing on the wing for example. Take advantage of natural breaks in the game to take on fluids.

During half time, you have 15 minutes to refuel and prepare for the final 45 minutes. After the first half, your carbohydrate stores will be over half way depleted, providing that you prepared well. It is crucial that you take on energy and fluids during this time. A common mistake made by footballers during half time is to consume a full energy drink and eat high sugar sweets. While this may provide energy, this will take time to digest and may cause gastrointestinal distress when you start the second half. Below are some half time options to help provide sufficient energy, fluids and electrolytes.

Option 1:

250 ml GO Electrolyte

1* GO Isotonic Energy Gel/ Caffeine Gel

Option 2:

250 ml GO Electrolyte

1* GO Energy bar mini

Being a substitute can be disappointing and de-motivating, especially when you have prepared for the full 90 minutes. Generally, you will prepare to come on in the second half. However, if injury strikes, you may be on earlier. Sip a GO Electrolyte throughout the first half. Half time is an ideal time to take on a GO Isotonic Energy Gel. Again, be wary about using caffeine supplements later in the evening and understand your individual tolerance.

Sore muscles in the hours and days after a game are common at whatever level you play at. Although nutrition cannot prevent the pain of knocks of bruises, it can help you adapt to the demands of the game and help you feel better sooner. With an evening game, you will likely finish late and want to get home to rest. Follow these nutrition tips to help accelerate the recovery and rebuild process:

Key advice

  • Your metabolism stays lifted for around 30 mins –2 hours post-exercise, so consume REGO Rapid Recovery Plus as soon as possible after finishing.
  • Consume a full meal within 1-2 hours of finishing. This can be earlier if you plan on going to bed as soon as you get home. Good choices include lean meats, high GI carbohydrates (e.g breads, rices and pastas) with plenty of vegetables.
  • If your game finished late and you are only going to consume one shake after a game, then REGO Rapid Recovery Plus is the ideal option. However, it is beneficial to consume an Overnight Protein shake 30 minutes before you go to sleep to ensure you feed your muscles with a constant stream of amino acids needed for muscle rebuild.
  • In the hours post game, aim to take on 150% of the fluid lost through sweating. Work this out by weighing yourself pre and post-game, or estimate this by weighing yourself pre and post training session under similar conditions. Electrolyte solutions like Immune and SiS Hydro can help the body absorb and retain the fluid more effectively.
  • Finally, make sure you get a good night sleep to allow adaptations to take place.
Written By

Professor James Morton

A professor of Exercise Metabolism at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and a Registered Sports and Exercise Nutrition Practitioner with the British Dietetic Association’s UK Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register (SENr), James is responsible for research and innovation at Science in Sport, overseeing the Performance Solutions Team.