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Fitness & Health

15th Aug 2019

What do Premier League footballers eat before and after a game?

Wayne Rooney likes Coco Pops. Rio Ferdinand prefers Jaffa Cakes. When it comes to match day, this is what top footballers eat

Alex Roberts

Diet can make or break performance at the highest level of the beautiful game

So what do Premier League footballers really eat on game day?

Wayne Rooney once said “I tend to just have cereal before a game, probably a bowl of Coco Pops. The normal ones, not the Moons and Stars”. Rio Ferdinand was also spotted snacking on Jaffa Cakes at half time.

To an extent, Rio can get away with this in the middle of a high-intensity match, but for the most part, players stick to a nutrition schedule as meticulously-managed as their time on the training pitch.

Long gone are the days when players would wolf down fish and chips with a few pints of lager post-training. Diet and nutritional programming has progressed in a similar vein to strength and conditioning – an approach that owes a lot to Arsene Wenger in the late 1990s.

If you don’t want to reach for the cereal box or snack on biscuits before a match, here’s what most footballers eat (hint: it’s not just pasta and chicken).

  • Eggs
  • Oily fish
  • Spinach
  • Blueberries
  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli
  • Chia seeds

What goes into a footballer’s diet plan?

We spoke to PureGym Manchester personal trainer Phil Williams. Williams said: “Players will naturally reduce their calorie intake during the off-season as they’re not as active. But as pre-season begins, their energy output will increase, and more calories are needed.

“Some players have different approaches for the days they are playing and training compared to rest days, as a rest day will require less energy, they may choose to reduce their calorie intake.”

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.”

What are the best carb sources?

“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.

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.

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