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How to Effectively CompEAT for Soccer

30 Jul

How to Effectively CompEAT for Soccer

  At Performance Unlimited we have been asked by countless parents and coaches about the correct foods to eat before and after competition.  So I took it upon myself, before giving the answer to anyone, to revert the question back to them, “what do you eat/feed your athlete?”  Of the dozen, or so, parents/athletes/and coaches that I asked, there were a dozen, or so, different answers.  I can pretty much guarantee if I asked another dozen athletes what they ate before games, that I would get another dozen answers. So to answer the question in the shortest way, the “secret” of what to eat and what not to eat before a competition is not necessarily what you eat before competition, but what you eat leading up to competition.
In the world of sports nutrition, the pre-competition meal used to hold the spotlight in terms of how to enhance a player’s performance.  Now we know that the foods you eat every day to support your training do far more to enhance your performance than the foods you eat right before you compete.  It’s like comparing the pre-game warm up to the training during the previous week.  Kristin Reimers of the International Center for Sports Nutrition in Omaha, Nebraska says, “From a nutrition standpoint, there is little you can do in the few hours before an event that will drastically improve your performance.  Here is the best the pre-competition meal can do for you: help you stay hydrated, top off your energy, and leave you feeling physically and psychologically comfortable.”
Don’t get me wrong, when I say that the pre-competition meal is less important than the meals leading up to the game, the correct foods that you put in your mouth before a game may not have you playing like a pro, but the wrong foods (or not eating at the correct time) will send you into a spiral that could have you on the bench before half time.   Although there are no absolute rules for every player to follow when choosing the meal before a game, we do know that in an endurance sport, like soccer, it will help to “top off” the energy stores in your body with a high-carbohydrate meal, and it would be to your advantage to keep yourself hydrated with plenty of water and Powerade.
The two biggest questions that need to be answered for meal planning are “when to eat” and “what to eat”.  Most importantly, I recommend that every player make sure that the staples of the meal before competition contain foods that you enjoy and your body agrees with.   Ideally athletes want to include complex carbohydrates, such as whole wheat’s or grains and plenty of fluids.   Pastas are the ever-popular meal for most players, however can be too heavy for some.  Other meal ideas would be sandwiches with wheat bread, cereals or granolas (if it is a morning game), or bagels and fruit (if the game is between normal meal times). Other quality foods include starches, such as potatoes (never fried), rice’s, or fruits and vegetables. No matter what the choice of foods are, it is of utmost importance that they do not contain high amounts of simple sugars (candy/sweets) or heavy/spicy ingredients that would contribute to the player being uncomfortable during a game.
The pre-competition meal is not an experiment, this would not be the time to try new foods or drinks.  Make sure that you are comfortable with your food choices, ones that will be tolerable under stress.  Also, make sure that you plan ahead when you are on the road, it may be necessary to make your meal ahead of time and pack a cooler.  Some of the best players in the world are the most ritualistic, and some of their biggest rituals are pre-game meals, which are a big contribution to mental preparation as well.  Once you find something that works, it would be advantageous to repeat that meal as closely as possible in the future.
Recommendations for timing of meals before competitions are no less than 2 hours to ensure proper digestion, yet drink water at intervals until game time.  When eating over 2 hours away from playing, it may be necessary to eat a quick snack about an hour before, containing quick energy like fruit or an energy bar.  I know that sometimes, especially during tournaments, we may not have the most ideal timing between games. In cases where you do not have 2 hours before a game or you do not feel like having a meal, it is necessary to refuel with something small and effective, such as energy bars or real fruit /juice.  This will allow you to replenish as much of your energy stores as possible without making you feel uncomfortable and full.
What nutrients are important for young developing athletes?  There are two different scenarios that I want to talk about when giving recommendations on proper food and drink intake.  The first one is preparation and the second is recovery, and the priority of nutrient intake parallels in both scenarios.


Before training or competition, your priority as an athlete should be to replace fluids.  Did you know that water makes up about 65 percent of your body’s weight and it is vitally important for temperature control, energy production, and waste elimination?  During exercise your body is losing water through sweat, the lungs, and urine, but what is more important is that as little as a 2 percent drop in body water will decrease exercise performance.  So you can imagine that the players that begin a game already dehydrated are at a great disadvantage, and any greater loss can lead to heat illness or even death.  Dehydration tends to occur in a very short time, especially during the hot months of Charlotte, so fluids should be consumed, not just the day of competition, but a constant effort of before/during/and after training and games should be concentrated.
Unfortunately, thirst is not a good indicator of hydration because you are dehydrated by the time that thirst is onset.  Even when you drink to quench the thirst, you may not be hydrated, yet.  Veronica Mullins and Linda Houtkooper of the Dept of Nutritional Science at the University of Arizona says, “A good preparation is to drink 16 oz of fluids 2 hours before competing. Make sure that you are drinking regularly during exercise, as most experts recommend 4-8 oz every 15 minutes, although needs are more based on beginning hydration status, body size, and environmental conditions.”
It has been noted by research that if you become dehydrated during sport, it can take 24 to 48 hours to replace all the fluid that you have lost. Good choices of fluid replacements are Powerade/Gatorade, which contains sodium to help retain the water as well as replace necessary electrolytes.  The closer to finishing competition that you can begin replacement, the better, as your body will be more apt to absorption of the fluids


For endurance activity, lasting longer than an hour, carbohydrates are just as important as fluid replacement.  When you consume the correct carbs, your body breaks it down into glucose molecules that are absorbed in to the blood.  Glucose in the blood is the main fuel source for the brain and muscles.  Unfortunately, your body only has a small capacity of storage for this energy, so it is important to maximize the storage in competition by regularly replacing carbs in beverages and foods.  Take note that fat cannot be used to replace glycogen stores, so be conscious of the nutritional content of that meal.  A soccer player regularly needs 60-90 minutes of energy to perform well, this is the typical length of glycogen stores in the body until you need to replenish from the likes of Powerade or some other source.  Your diet needs an ample amount of carbs, 55-70% of your calorie intake or around 600g (whichever comes first) should be from carbs in order to replenish your fuel.
When carbs are not adequately replaced and muscle glycogen is depleted, athletes “hit the wall”.   When liver glycogen stores become depleted, blood sugar drops below the normal level and the brain does not get adequate fuel, athletes may become light-headed, confused, and uncoordinated.
Powerade and other sports drinks that contain 4-8% carbs are great while in competition, but after competition the stores need to be replenished.  With an adequate carb intake, it takes about 20 hours to fully replenish glycogen in depleted muscles.  Now you can see the impact when we play 3-4 games within 24 hours.  It is best to replace carb losses within 1-4 hours within a workout to maximize the rate of glycogen replacement.
Intake of carbs should be equal to .5g of CHO per lb of body weight every 2 hours for 6 to 8 hours.  For example, a 150lb athlete should consume 75g of CHO (150x5g/lb = 75g) every 2 hours for 6-8 hours.  Liquid and solid carbs are equally effective in replacing losses.  Good sources of carbs are whole wheat’s such as breads, cereals, crackers, pastas, rice…real fruit juices, powerade, fruits, and vegetables also contain good amounts of carbs


  • High in complex carbohydrates (cereals, breads, potatoes, rice, other starches, fruits, juices, vegetables, ect..)
  • Adequate water (two quarts/day water, low fat milk, real fruit juice, ect…and more if sweating excessively)
  • Moderate protein (lean meat, fish, chicken, low fat cheeses and vegetable sources of protein: dried beans, seeds, nuts, ect…)
  • Include good fat (Omega 3 and 6, as well as unsaturated forms) found in fish, flax, olive and other vegetable oils, nuts, and avacados.
  • Low in bad fat, especially cholesterol, saturated fat, and fried foods
  • Low in sugar, alcohol and caffeine


  • Soft Drinks
  • Candy
  • Anything high in unnatural Fat/Sugar
  • Anything with High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Unnatural Sweeteners
  • Chips or anything fried

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And I’m back!

6 Feb
The start of each semester leaves me a frazzled mess, hence the near month long delay in posting…..regardless, I have a moment to breathe and I have some down time at work, so I thought I’d give a little love to the people…er, love to the person….
I’m still figuring much of this blog stuff out, but if there’s one thing I want to get accomplished today is to link to John’s kick a$$ website.  Ultimately, I’ll have a link directly from my page,  but until then: is where it’s at…literally and figuratively. Check it out…you will learn something and come away a more informed athlete and human in general.

As for the purpose of my blog, here’s some things that I am working on for school projects, research and such that I plan on sharing with the whole. wide. world.  Or the one to two family members that may end up ever reading this 🙂

In no particular order:

1.  Experimental research on the effects of non-dairy milk peformance in baked goods.  Specifically, soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk and almond milk….and how those suckers change, make inedible or rock out a dandy piece of cake.

2.  Factors attributing to a high rate of disordered eating patterns in collegiate athletes.  This project is pretty exciting for me and although I won’t be conducting any research per say, I’ll be constructing a meta-analysis of sorts to give a snapshot of the research that has already been completed on this topic.

3.  I’ve been lucky enough to get the opportunity to work with the National Ski Patrol and provide them with nutritional guidelines related to pre- and post shift fueling, hydration at extreme elevations, and fueling on the go. 

4.  Tropical oils (coconut and kernel oils) and HEALTH!  Yes coconut oil is getting a lot of praise these days, but how do the food technology and manufacturing industries keep up with consumer trends?  (This, alas, is boring to me, but it must be done!)

5.  Doing some work for Performance Unlimited to advise athletes on the best recovery post-workout drinks and snacks.  I would imagine I’ll post that information later this week if school doesn’t hog all of my free time …..

I’m very excited about getting to do some “real” nutrition things as I step one semester closer towards completing my MS in Nutrition degree…which by the way is slated to finish in May ’12!!!!!!  That actually doesn’t seem that far away.  Time is flying!

Hopefully I’ll be back on Friday with some project updates and real nutrition tidbits to share….until then, make it a great week!!

background needs some work

23 Dec

Sooo, this is my first time working with wordpress and have yet to master it, hence the very “blah” layout of this blog.  I will make it my mission to ensure this changes as soon as I can crack the code.  Until then, Happy Holidays!!

Hello world!

22 Dec

Hello blogosphere!  I am a master’s in Human Nutrition student and work as a Nutrition Editor for  Here’s where I’ll post answers to questions submitted by site followers and other exciting nutrition facts, news and need to know info….