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As our players play in tournaments, numerous training sessions weekly, and more competitive matches on a regular basis, nutrition becomes an integral part of performing at the highest level possible. Read the articles below to learn more about how to train your body and intestinal tract to deal with the wear and tear of the 8-12 month soccer season. Nutrition can be the difference between a player performing at the highest level most consistently throughout matches all season long. It can be the difference between winning and losing, feeling better, recovery, personal well being, maintaining a positive attitude, removing soreness, and much more to lead to a player's optimal performance. It is not only about what happens on the pitch, but how we take care of our bodies through a diet that seeks to gain the most optimal results. Players at EFC are educated and parents are encouraged to help their children seek healthy choices to lead to a more healthy lifestyle with less injuries and more positive results. 

Recognize to Recover is aimed at promoting safe play and reducing injuries in soccer players of all ages. The first-of-its-kind, the program was developed with the help of medical experts to provide coaches, players, parents and referees with information, guidance and additional educational materials to improve the prevention and management of injuries.

Soccer Recovery

Dr. Don Kirkendall • For

A soccer game can take a lot out of you. When the final whistle blows, you are tired and sore, as expected. But there are things you can do to bounce back quickly from games. If you do them, you will have plenty of energy and less leftover muscle soreness by the time you practice again. If you don't do them, you might stay sluggish and tender a lot longer.

Nutrition tips
Nutrition is an important part of recovery. Nutritional recovery has three components:

1. Rehydrate
During games, you sweat, and when you sweat, you lose two important substances that your body needs: water and selected minerals called electrolytes (the stuff that makes sweat taste salty).
After games, you need to put these substances back into your body, in a little greater amounts than what you lost, sooner rather than later. Until you rehydrate, your body will have a hard time keeping cool and you may be prone to cramps and other problems.
Drinking water is just a start because it does not contain electrolytes. You're better off drinking a sports drink that has both water and electrolytes. Try to drink at least 12 ounces of sports drink in the first half-hour after the game ends. If it's a hot day, you may need to drink even more.
The goal is to drink 1.5 pints for every pound of weight lost over the next 24 hours, before the next workout. Your urine should be no darker than diluted lemonade.

2. Re-energize

You also burn a lot of energy fuel during games. The main energy fuel used in high-intensity sports like soccer is carbohydrate, which is stored in your muscles, liver, and blood. The human body cannot store very much carbohydrates. In a hard game, you can easily burn most of the carbohydrate fuels in your body.
It's important to quickly replace this carbohydrate. Until you do, you will not have much energy. Most sports drinks contain carbohydrates, so a convenient way to put energy back into your body is to get it from the same place you get your water and electrolytes. You can also get carbohydrates from foods like fruits, breads, starches, and certain vegetables. Muscles refill with carbohydrates the fastest immediately after exercise. Don't wait even as little as two hours after exercise to start, as the rate of refilling becomes slower.

3. Rebuild
Your muscles are mostly made of proteins. During games, some muscle protein can be damaged; this is the main reason your legs feel sore and weak after games. The good news is that your body is able to build new muscle proteins at two to three times the normal rate after hard exercise. All you need to do is supply the building blocks -- protein -- to do the job in the first couple hours after the game is over.
Most sports drinks do not contain protein, but some of the new ones are adding it. Using a sports drink with protein is a good way to go because of the convenience. You can get the water, electrolytes, carbohydrate, and protein you need for recovery all from one source. You can also get protein from foods like meat and cheese, but these foods also tend to be high in fat. When you eat a lot of fat after hard exercise, or even too much protein, it takes longer for the nutrients to get through your system to your muscles. This slows down the whole recovery process.
So a sport drink that contains protein is a better choice for post-game nutrition. It contains everything your body needs to bounce back fast, and without anything unneeded to get in the way.

Get a head start on recovery
Using a sports drink with protein during games is also a good idea for two reasons. First, it will delay fatigue so you can play harder, longer. In one experiment, athletes who drank a sports drink with protein were able to exercise 24% longer than athletes who drank a regular sports drink with no protein.
Second, the protein in the drink will reduce the amount of muscle protein breakdown that happens during the game, so there is less rebuilding to be done afterward.

Other tips
While your muscles are still warm after a game, stretch your muscles. This will keep your blood flowing, helping to deliver nutrients to your muscles and to clear away built-up wastes. You can start drinking your sports drink while you stretch. Later in the day, you can massage your legs using your thumbs, and this will also help with blood flow.
After you play a game, try not to do anything too strenuous for the rest of the day. Your body requires rest in order to rehydrate, re-energize, and rebuild the muscles. At the very least, be sure to get plenty of sleep that night. During sleep, your body releases hormones that help your muscles rebuild.

The recovery checklist
After every game:
Stretch while your muscles are still warm
Drink at least 12 oz. of a sports drink containing protein
Monitor your urine color
Take it easy
Get a good night's sleep

Donald Kirkendall has a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology and is on the faculty in the Department of Orthopaedics at the University of North Carolina. He is a Fellow in the American College of Sports Medicine. He has coached soccer for ages U10 through college and is on the USSF Medical Advisory Committee. He's edited seven books in exercise science and sports medicine and has published numerous articles on soccer and sports sciences.

Healthy Post Game Soccer Snack

Andrew Reiner

Plenty of post-game snacks fill a soccer player's stomach after a game. Eating the right snacks refuels a player's body more efficiently and speeds up recovery for a player's next game.

Orange slices have become a traditional halftime or post-game snack for soccer players of all ages and skill levels. Fresh fruits offer plenty of vitamins and minerals lost through sweat during exercise; they also help rehydrate an athlete after a game. Oranges, apples, berries, and melons add high quantities of vitamins A, C, and E to a post-game snack, boosting a player's immune system after game-time high levels of physical exertion and stress wear down a player's immunity. Bananas offer rich sources of potassium, which helps fight off muscle cramps sustained during a strenuous game.

Within 30 minutes after a game, an athlete should eat a small snack to replenish depleted stores of glycogen, the body's inner fuel; the stores are often burned during the sustained exercise of a 90-minute soccer game. Athletes can find all-natural sources of useful carbohydrates from whole-grain breads, trail mixes, or energy bars, providing a moderate source of energy to restore blood sugar levels to normal and repair tired muscles.

While protein is not the main catalyst of muscle growth, it does aid in the process of muscle repair, making it an integral part of a post-game snack. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of an athlete's calorie intake should come from protein, which could be eaten in a post-game snack in the form of a serving of nuts, peanut butter, low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, or a protein shake.

A post-game snack is most effective at repairing muscles when eaten within 30 minutes of a game's conclusion, so soccer players should choose snacks that are pleasing to the palate and easy to digest. A post-game snack of 200 to 300 calories could include a piece of fruit and a slice of whole-grain bread, a cup of yogurt with fresh fruit and granola, or a protein shake mixed with low-fat milk and fresh fruit. A soccer player should drink plenty of water while she eats her post-game snack, then eat a regular meal within the next one to two hours.

Fueling for Soccer Practices:

Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD • For

Soccer players of all ages and abilities commonly ask me what they should eat before, during and after a game:

• When should I eat the pregame meal: 2, 3 or 4 hours beforehand?

• Are gels a good idea during half-time?
• What’s best to eat for recovery after a soccer game?

The same soccer players who worry about game-day fueling often neglect their day-to-day training diet. Hence, the real question should be: “What should I eat before, during, and after I train?” After all, you can only compete at your best if you can train at your best.

The goal of this article is to remind you to train your intestinal tract as well as your heart, lungs, and muscles.
To get the most out of each workout, you need to practice your fueling as well as your soccer skills. Then, come the day of the competition, you know exactly what, when and how much to eat so you can compete with optimal energy and without fear of bonking nor intestinal distress. Here are some sports nutrition tips to help you perform faster, stronger, longer.

When and what should I eat before I exercise?
Each person has a different tolerance with pre-exercise food. I often talk with soccer players who report they don’t eat before they exercise because they’re afraid the food might cause intestinal problems. Then, they needlessly suffer through major energy problems during the session. That’s why they need to practice not only what they eat but also when and how much to eat before they exercise. From Day 1, I recommend you start training your intestinal tract by nibbling on a pretzel, a cracker, or other fuel that will enhance stamina, endurance, and enjoyment of the entire soccer experience.

You don’t need to wait around for a pre-exercise snack to digest.
You can grab a small snack just five minutes before a practice session and the food will get put to good use. That is, you might not want to eat much five minutes before a hard workout, but you could enjoy a banana before stretching and warm-up, and then be ready for practice. Research suggests you can eat an energy bar either 15 or 60 minutes before moderate exercise and gain a similar energy boost.
In general, most soccer players prefer to wait two to four hours after having eaten a full meal before a team practice. The meal will have plenty of time to digest and empty from the stomach, particularly if they don’t stuff themselves with high-fat foods (cheeseburgers and fries) that take longer to digest than a carb-based pasta-type meal.
The rule of thumb is to consume:
Time pre-exercise Grams carb/lb Calories/150-lb athlete
5-60 minutes 0.5 g/lb 300 calories
2 hours 1.0 600
4 hours 2.0 1,200
For a 150-lb person, 300 pre-exercise calories translates into:
two packets oatmeal or a Dunkin Donuts-size (4 oz.) bagel within the hour before your morning practice
4 Fig Newtons and a banana at 2:30 in the afternoon when you plan to practice at 3:30.

When and what should I eat during a long workout?
If you plan to practice for longer than 90 minutes, you should plan to consume not only a pre-exercise snack (to fuel the first 60 to 90 minutes of your workout) but also additional carbs to maintain normal blood sugar. Your brain relies on the sugar (glucose) in your blood for fuel. If your blood sugar drops, you’ll bonk—lose focus, lag on energy, yearn for the workout to end, fail to get the most from your effort. Many a coach has learned that planning a mid-workout fueling session pays off in terms of happier athletes and enhanced ability to train harder at the end of a 2+ hour team practice. Athletes in running sports such as soccer that jostle the stomach commonly prefer to drink liquid carbs — i.e., sports drink – during breaks.

The goal is:
30-60 g carb (120-240 calories)/hour of exercise that lasts 2-3 hours
(Note: the pre-exercise snack will fuel the first hour.)
Some soccer players choose the convenience of engineered sports foods(i.e, Sports Beans, Clif Chomps, PowerGels)plus water. Others save money by choosing “real” foods (raisins, gummy candy) that cost less and often taste better. All are equally effective.

When and what should I eat after a long workout?
Rapid refueling is most important for soccer players who do double workouts, are in a tournament, a pre-season training camp or will be exercising within the next six hours. Your muscles are most receptive to refueling within an hour after a hard workout, so the sooner you refuel, the sooner you’ll be ready to roll again.
If you have a full day to recover before your next training session or if you have done an easy workout and have lower recovery needs, you need not get obsessed with refueling immediately after your workout.Yet, I encourage all soccer players to get into the habit of refueling soon after their workout. Chocolate milk is a great choice. It offers the right balance of carbs, protein, sodium, water, good taste, and affordable price! You will not only feel better and have more energy with proper refueling but also will curb your appetite. If you are trying to lose weight, a post-exercise snack can ward off the Cookie Monster…
To avoid over-indulging in recovery-calories, plan to back your training into a meal. For example, enjoy an early dinner right after your afterschool practice workout instead of waiting to eat at 7:00 pm. Remember: You haven’t finished your training until you’ve refueled!

Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) is co-author with Gloria Averbuch of Food Guide for Soccer: Tips and Recipes from the Pros. She counsels both casual and competitive athletes in her practice at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill, MA.