Healthy Breakfasts Before a Soccer Game
Young athletes do a lot of work to improve their performance. Yet healthy food choices on game day can also have a positive impact on quality of play on the field, sustain energy levels during tournaments, and help the body recover so that the athlete can get out there and play well again. Don’t underestimate the power of a healthy breakfast.
All athletes recognize that what they put into their bodies makes a difference to how they perform in their sport. For US Soccer Development Academy players, there are several foods that can help athletes be their best.
Alice Richer, team nutritionist for Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution, tries to focus on the basics. “I always tell players to focus on carbs, and to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables,” Richer told Men’s Journal. “Most of a soccer player’s daily calories need to come from carb sources that provide energy so they don’t get fatigued on the field. It’s just as important to have protein, but not to overdo it—young men tend to think protein is the most important thing. Yes, it is important—but you can load too much on that, so I try to teach them to mix it up.”
Start Game Day off Right
There are several good options for young athletes to begin with for a healthy breakfast on game day — no matter how early that kickoff time!
Start out with whole grain cereal with almond milk. The whole grains in the cereal offer protein, fiber, B vitamins, as well as zinc and copper. Choosing almond milk not only adds calcium, but also potassium and vitamin C.
Adding fruit to the cereal, such as strawberries or banana, is a good way to bump up vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and more. But, Richer cautions against overdoing it. “It’s still sugar,” she said. “It’s a healthy sugar, but it still adds up by the end of the day.”
You might also try a whole grain English muffin if cereal isn’t your thing. They get you healthy grains as well as a solid serving of the carbs that help your stamina and endurance.
Oatmeal is another quick, easy source of carbs (and you can add fruit to this one too). The complex carbohydrates help ensure your muscles have enough glycogen, this storage form of glucose is the compound your cells use for energy. Be wary of the high sugar count of some of the pre-packaged, flavored options, though.
Eggs are another excellent source of protein to get your football day off on the right foot. Since protein supports muscle growth, you can imagine why this will help you get through a strenuous game. Huevos Rancheros is a good way to get a healthy dose not only of eggs and vegetables, but also beans. Black beans are filled with both protein and carbs.
Another popular protein source is peanut or almond butter on, you guessed it, whole grain toast. “The nut butters are great because they offer quite a bit of relatively healthy fat and fiber,” Richer said.
What to avoid?
Bacon. Sorry, but that’s one of the big ones. Really, you want to avoid all high-fat meats and whole milk dairy products, which can slow your digestive system and make you feel sluggish. Also try to steer clear of gravy, cream sauces or oil-fried items to further minimize your pre-game fats.
Short on time?
Oversleeping happens. If you can’t get up early enough to prepare a full healthy breakfast before game time, focus on low- or nonfat dairy or carbohydrates that are low in fiber and are easily digestible, such as fruit. A fruit smoothie prepared with greek yogurt, milk and fresh fruit is a good option.
Also, don’t forget to hydrate. It’s essential that you drink at least two cups of water before a game while avoiding sugary, carbonated, and caffeinated beverages.