One of the most common questions that is asked from youth football players and their parents is what sort of meals or snacks should be ate pre-training or pre-match?
Most people know carbohydrates as the main fuel source that football players use when they are going to be performing, and do their best to ensure that is a part of their nutritional strategy leading into training or match day.
However, from experience, simply saying "you must eat carbohydrates before training or matches" is enough to see any real practical application.
There is an overwhelming amount of information (much of it contradictory) available to us at the click of a button, which has made it tricky to find a clear and simple strategy when it comes to nutrition in general, never mind a young player.
A youth players nutrition should be simple, and it can be.
Let’s look at food types in a simple manner to get an idea of what result each food type in a meal will give us:
Carbohydrates = ACTIVE FUEL
Protein = MUSCLE RECOVERY
Healthy Fats/Vitamins = HEALTH BOOST
By simply looking at these three categories you should quickly be able to identify which we should make a priority on our plate in preparation to play or train.
*These are the categories we use which are taken from the elite sports nutrition education platform ColourFit, which is used by the EPL youth and senior squads.
YOU NEED FUEL!
Hopefully, you can quickly rhyme off some carbohydrates off the top of your head. If not, a quick reminder, foods such as breads, pastas, rice, potato, fruit and cereal are the most commonly used sources of carbohydrates.
Even if you simply stick to these foods prior to training, you will be on the right track without thinking too much more about it.
However, if you want the best from your nutrition, keep in mind that when choosing your fuel source, how much time you have before exercising will play a factor in your choice.
Some carbohydrates provide instant fuel (these are often called HIGH GI foods) and others are slower releasing fuel (these are known as LOW GI foods).
So when do you eat which?
“I Only Have 1-2 Hours Until I Start” – Choose HIGH GI!
It’s a crazy rush around after school and you have no time to eat before training!! Y
You need energy. What do you do?
You now know you need foods that are quick to digest and will provide you fuel quickly.
What foods are those?
These foods will have to light and that you could quickly know won’t be bouncing around in your stomach as your sprinting by the back four to nutmeg the keeper.
Usually these are going to have to be foods you can eat on the go if you are rushing around and haven’t been able to get your pre training meal in.
- rice cakes and jam, vegemite or peanut butter
- fruit juices or smoothies
- toast or muffin with jam, vegemite, or peanut butter
*For players who have ate earlier these can also be a good top up of fuel sources if they feel like they need it
“I Am Well Prepared and Have Several Hours Before I Start” – EAT LOW GI
Due to you being a model young professional, you’ve planned ahead. You have 3 hours until your session starts.
Here you will eat the foods commonly these are the foods that you are usually encouraged to eat breads, wraps, muffins, rice, oatmeal, pasta or potatoes.
Here are some ideas:
- Wholegrain Wrap with shredded chicken breast + some salad
- Brown, Basmati or Wild Rice with turkey mince
- Sweet or White Baked Potato with tuna and sweetcorn
- Oatmeal with some berries, reduced fat milk or yoghurt
- Pasta with a light tomato sauce and a lean meat of choice
- Chicken Stir Fry with Quinoa
- Pumpkin Soup with Some Bread Rolls (Wholegrain, Mixed Grain, Rye)
Keep the ACTIVE FUEL as your main food source on the plate. MUSCLE and HEALTH food sources should be kept lower pre match (due to digestion) and should be spread out in other meals throughout the day to boost muscle recovery and health!
Nutrition is highly individualised to suit YOUR needs. If you eat a meal and you don’t feel right in the game because of it. Change it.
If you eat a meal that you don’t like the taste of. Change it.
Food should be tasty, fun and an enjoyable part of your day!
With that being said, to get the best out of your performance, stick to the main principles by eating the right type of ACTIVE FUEL based meals around your training and matches.
Closer you are the lighter your food option should be (High GI Snacks)
With time to spare you can more chance of eating a full meal (Low GI Meal