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Nutritional Advice

1 January 2013

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1 Day Before A Match

Leading up to a match you want to increase your carbohydrate intake slightly with each meal. Carbohydrate foods such as bread, pasta, cereal, potatoes provide energy to the muscles. It is important that the muscles are fuelled before a match, and this starts a day before the match. For example, the day before a match you would have 1-2 slices of toast in addition to your cereal for breakfast, you would have more pasta or more bread with your lunch and have more potatoes with your evening meal. So rather than eat large meals, you increase your carbohydrate portions with each meal. Don't forget to increase your fluid intake as well as your carbohydrate intake. See the table below for an example of a food menu:

  • Breakfast - 3 Weetabix + 1/2 semi-skimmed milk + 2 slices toast with jam
  • Lunch - 1 Jacket Potato + beans + cheese + 2 slices of bread + 1 yoghurt
  • Dinner - Spaghetti Bolognaise + fruit salad + low fat custard
  • Snacks - Nutrigrain bar, low fat flapjacks, dried fruit, fruit, milkshakes
  • Fluids – Sports drinks, fruit juice, milkshakes, diluted squash, water

Pre Match Meal

Chicken sandwich - chicken slices (3-4 slices), bread (3-4 slices), lettuce (1-2 leaves), tomato (2 thick slices), potato salad (1/2 cup), apple, yoghurt

Tuna Pasta Bake

Pasta shells (1-2 cups), tuna (1 tin), low fat cheese (2/3 slices), pasta sauce (1/2 jar), Italian herbs (1-2 tbsp), sweet corn (1/2 cup)

Post Match Nutrition

Immediately After

The quicker you have carbohydrates and protein after training the quicker your muscle and body will recover. At the end of a game your immune system is more susceptible to colds and infections so it is vital that you have a recovery drink or similar food immediately after a game.

The best recovery nutrition immediately after a match is a milkshake:

500 ml Milkshake (e.g. Nesquik + 1 pint skimmed milk) + 1 Banana

Milkshakes contain milk which is high in protein, sugar, and calcium. These ingredients make milkshakes ideal after matches.

2-4 Hours After

2-4 hours after a match you should eat a complete meal that includes plenty of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats and vitamins and minerals. It is also important to drink enough fluids to replace lost sweat. A pint of cordial is ideal to have with your meal. Sugary cereals with milk are great for recovery if you cannot get hot meals.

Suitable Meals -

Pasta with chicken

Spaghetti Bolognaise

Soup and bread

Sugary Cereal with milk

Baguettes and sandwiches


Rice and meat

Rice with meat and vegetables

Baked potato with tuna/chilli/beans + cheese

Beans on toast


Fatty Foods, Fried Foods, and fast foods such as McDonalds, KFC, Burger King etc.

Excessive Caffeine (a cup of tea or coffee is fine but no more than that)

Nutrition and Injury

If you are suffering from an injury whether it is acute or chronic, it is important that you maintain good nutrition!

Tips For Quicker Recovery

1. Increase calcium intake. This can be done by having 1-2 yoghurts per day or having a milkshake (skimmed) 45min before bedtime

2. Increase protein intake. This can be done by having a bit more meat or fish with main meals, or alternatively you can have a milkshake 45min before bedtime. 

3. Drink 1-2 pints more water. Water helps flush the toxins and waste products out of your system.

4. Eat oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines three times per week. Oily fish contains omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce inflammation caused by injury.

Long-Term Injury

If you are out of training/competition for longer than 7-10 days, it is important that you decrease your carbohydrate portions. Reduce portion of foods like bread, pasta, potatoes, cereal as these foods provide the body with energy – as you are not training as much your body does not need as much carbohydrate. This is important because when you are not training your body does not need as much fuel.  You might gain body fat if you eat more food than your body needs. 

Hydration and Football

It is important that you develop a drinking routine that works for you. You should not rely on drinking when you are thirsty as that is an indication of dehydration.  Your body is about 70% water. If you lose 1-5% of body weight through sweating (up to 4.5 kg in hot humid conditions) it will impair your performance. Scientific studies show that a reduction of 1% in body weight can result in 10% reduction in work capacity! In addition, water loss will also cause mental functions to deteriorate perhaps resulting in you making mistakes and increasing the chances of injury. It is therefore important that any sweat loss is adequately and promptly replaced through fluid intake, whether this is through water or sports drinks.


Firstly, it is important that you are well hydrated before a match and you can start this 1-2 days before. For example, an extra litre of fruit juice or squash may be drunk the day before. On match day, you should have plenty to drink and drink even when you are not thirsty. Ideally, you should drink around half a pint-1 pint (250-500ml) of fluid 2 hours before kick-off (this should optimise hydration while allowing enough time for any excess fluid to be excreted as urine before the game starts).

During a match

If you need to, you can drink small amounts of water or sports drink at regular intervals.


You don't want to drink too much at half-time but you want to ensure you drink enough to replace some of the lost sweat. 250-500ml of sports drink or water should be enough.


After exercise, the major considerations are to restore carbohydrate and fluid losses. You should immediately drink adequate fluids to replace sweat losses during exercise. This can be a milkshake and banana. Avoid fizzy drinks because it can cause stomach discomfort. The quicker you start to drink fluids after a match, the quicker you will recover.

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