Search icon

Fitness & Health

27th Mar 2019

What you should eat before a football game, according to a top nutritionist

In a ditch with your diet? According to a top nutritionist, this is what you should be eating and drinking on match day to enhance your performance

Alex Roberts

It’s fair to say that football’s approach to nutrition has come on immensely since the days of fast food and booze

Ever wondered what food and drink you should be putting away on a game day to perform at your best? Rest assured that help is at hand.

Joshua Dyson is a nutrition consultant at the Manchester Institute of Health and Performance (MIHP) who has also worked with NFL side Seattle Seahawks, Sri Lanka Cricket and Sale Sharks Rugby Academy.

Dyson told JOE what footballers should be eating and drinking on match day.

JOE: What should a pre-match meal look like?

Dyson: “The goal of the pre-match meal is to top up carbohydrate energy stores.

“Around 2-3 hours prior to kick off, consume a meal rich in carbohydrate with moderate protein. To minimise the risk of gastro-intestinal issues (e.g. bloating, stomach cramps) during the match ensure this meal is low in fibre, lower in fat and moderate in protein.”

See what JOE’s football writer Reuben Pinder ate when he trained with Fulham FC

What are the best carb sources of food to eat?

“Example carbohydrate sources include: oats, cereal, rice, pasta, couscous, potato, bread, wraps, beans, fruit juice, flavoured yogurt or fresh fruit.

“If expenditure (the calories you burn) is going to be high, consider an additional carbohydrate snack 60 minutes before kick off to further top up energy stores e.g. flapjack, granola bar or banana.”

If you’re playing a full 90 minutes rather than five-a-side, this would be a wise move.

Which supplements enhance footballing performance?

“Your overall diet provides the biggest influence on your performance on the pitch. Once this is addressed, there are certain evidence-based supplements that may be considered.”


“This can aid alertness, enhance reaction time and decrease the perception of effort.

“To take advantage of the benefits, research suggests consuming 3mg per kg of body of mass around 60 minutes pre-match. So for example, a 70kg male would consume 210mg of caffeine.”

The source of caffeine can be based upon individual preference. Common sources include: coffee, caffeine shot, caffeine gum, caffeine gel and caffeine tablet.

Creatine Monohydrate:

“This supplement plays a role in energy production for short-term repeated high intensity activity -think sprints, jumps etc.

“Supplement with five grams per day for several weeks.”

Creatine can also help you gain lean muscle mass and strength.

How should footballers recover after a game?

“To optimise recovery following a match, simply remember the 3 Rs.”


“Look to consume around 20-30g of high quality protein (rich in essential amino acids) to optimise the muscle building process. Additionally, the inclusion of fruit, salad and vegetables is encouraged to further assist muscle recovery.”


“To kick start your recovery, include a carbohydrate serving within your post-match nutrition.”


“It is important to replace fluid lost during match play to restore a hydrated state. To rehydrate appropriately individuals should also replace electrolytes lost during activity.

“With regards to fluid options: consider milk or flavoured milk (natural electrolyte content) or an electrolyte tablet added to water. Alternatively season your post-match meal with salt.”

If you can’t wolf a meal down immediately post-match, a whey protein shake or pint of flavoured milk will still tick all the boxes.

Read more: