Game-Day Nutrition

At youth levels, orange slices and apples are the norm in the locker room on game day. While better than nothing, there are better options. You want to address at least five things:

  1. Hydration maintenance
  2. Electrolyte replacement
  3. Carbohydrate topping
  4. Performance enhancing supplements
  5. Protein source for post-game recovery

Orange slices and apples really just cover #3 adequately…and even then there are better options. Here’s a very simplified overview of what to look for.

Hydration is pretty straight forward…drink what you lose. Check urine color if you don’t have access to more quantitative measures. Stay clear of juices and full strength traditional sport drinks. Carb type and / or ratios are sub-optimal. Diluted sports drinks are ok. Water is a great option but recognize that when you sweat you lose more than just water…you lose sodium as well.  That’s where the next point comes in…

Electrolyte replacement is necessary because too much water without electrolyte replacement can through off the balance of electrolytes necessary for muscle function. Diluted sports drinks would do the job as would electrolyte tablets or gels.

Carb replacement is important. If you’re going to go for 90 minutes you’re burning a lot of energy and to ensure that you can continue to push in the final minutes you need to refuel. Gels, diluted sport drinks and even easily digested fruits can work just be sure to test type and quantity before the match to see what you can tolerate.

The first three points are focused on topping off stores or replacing stores of what is used in a game. This fourth point is about enhancing above and beyond to assist with focus, vasodilation, fat metabolism, nerve conduction speed, etc. Caffeine is a great option for all of the above. Nitric Oxide is another possibility but research is mixed for healthy individuals.

After the match, or when someone comes out of the game, it’s important that players take in some protein and carbohydrate to facilitate recovery from the match. An easily digested protein is great and a mix proteins (casein, whey and maybe even soy) is even better.

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Mike Young

Director of Performance at Athletic Lab
Mike is the Head Fitness Coach for the North Carolina Courage and North Carolina FC. He is also the owner and Director of Performance at Athletic Lab sports performance training center. He previously served as the fitness coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Carolina Railhawks. He has a PhD in Biomechanics, an MS in Coaching Science, and a BSS in Exercise Physiology and has coached Olympic and professional athletes in Skeleton, Track & Field, MLS and NASL Soccer, PGA Golf, NFL Football, MLB Baseball and Olympic Weightlifting. He has lectured around the world and authored 2 books and dozens of research and coaching articles.
Category : Nutrition