Proper Fueling for Youth Soccer Players

Proper Fueling for Youth Soccer Players

As the calendar switches, two things will happen this summer: kids sports will pick up, specifically soccer, and the 2018 World Cup takes place in Russia. The average professional soccer player will run an estimated 7+ miles during their 90-minute matches. While younger kids will run much less than that, fueling properly before their soccer games is still important. Here are some tips on proper fueling for youth soccer players.

Fueling Factors

There are several factors that determine proper fueling for youth soccer players. First, fueling depends upon your child’s position. Midfielders have a tendency to do the most running, and goalkeepers the least. Second, age also plays a factor in fueling your child before their soccer match. Older kids’ games not only have a tendency to last longer, but can be more intense, too. Thus, the older the child, the more fuel they need. Third, the time of the game is another important factor. There is more time to work with proper fueling if the game is at 2 pm versus 8 am. Also, all kids have different preferences (some can vary hourly) so some of the suggestions may not work with your child so experiment, preferably not before a championship game.

Proper Fueling Before a Soccer Match

Ideally, if you’re following good, solid nutrition tenets for your kids, there will not be much to be done in order to fuel for the game. However, if you need some tips on proper fueling for youth soccer in general, here are some suggestions.

Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially if your child has an early soccer game. It will be very important that for breakfast the child gets plenty of quality carbohydrate sources to make sure they have sufficient energy for the match. Quality protein and fats are also important to make part of the breakfast. Some good choices would be:

  • oatmeal w/ peanut butter & fruit
  • piece of toast w/ peanut butter & scrambled eggs
  • eggs, pancakes, fruit
  • meat, veggies, toast

Again, these are just some recommendations to use for your child. We understand some kids are picky eaters. The goal is to eat a little more carbohydrates than protein and fats. Eating too much protein and fats can be hard to digest right before a match. This could lead to the child feeling sluggish or having some other digestional issues.

Lunch and Dinner

The basic tenets for lunch and dinner are going to be similar as breakfast but amounts may vary. We are still aiming to get really good quality nutrients but depending on whether we are fueling for a game or recovering from a game dictates quantity. If it is an afternoon game, focus on smaller portions to not make the digestive system work too hard during the game or have your child feel sluggish. If your child had an early game, then lunch is a great time to aid in recovery. Carb choices in recovery can be a little bit more relaxed as the body is craving energy and will be used pretty quickly. Still try to choose healthier options but this may be a time to allow for a little wiggle room. If lunch/dinner is after a match, protein is a bit more important to help the muscles begin the adaptation process. Be sure to choose lean options. Heavier, fattier protein choices can make your child either feel more sluggish than usual or cause some digestive issues. Some good choices here can be:

  • peanut butter & jelly w/ fruit &/or cottage cheese
  • lunch meat sandwich w/ veggies or fruit and dip (hummus, guacamole, etc.)
  • pasta w/ meat & veggies
  • salad (lots of veggies) w/ protein

Snacks

Pre-game snacks are probably not necessary if your child has consumed a healthy meal within 2-3 hours of the start of the match. If that happens to not be the case, the goal is to get some quality carbs and a little bit of protein to give them a bit of energy for the game. Avoid highly processed junk food while in a pinch. They will give your little soccer star a burst of energy but it will be short lived and is usually followed by an energy crash.

Half-time snacks can be a great time to help keep your child’s energy levels up. Companies have jumped on board and made a bunch of snacks for during competition. Most are just candy bars (high sugar) dressed up in a couple of ‘healthy’ ingredients. But some really good options would be some fruit (oranges, bananas, watermelon, etc.) possibly paired with a small amount of protein (hard boiled egg, string cheese, or yogurt).

To learn more about nutrition for you and your family, come see me for a free nutrition consultation!

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Jason Liegl Certified Personal Trainer at Elite Sports Club - Mequon

Written by Jason Liegl, Certified Personal Trainer & AMP Program Director at Elite Sports Club – Mequon.

Jason re-joined Elite Sports Club-Mequon in 2008. He holds a BS in Fitness Management from UW-Parkside. Jason is a certified personal trainer through ACE. He is also certified by Titleist Performance Institute as a level 1 Golf Fitness Instructor, Functional Movement Specialist level 1, Functional Movement Systems level 1, Kettlebell Athletics level 1, and Precision Nutrition level 1 nutrition coach. Jason has experience in training athletes from almost every sport. His belief is that with a solid foundation and hard work, any athlete can get better!

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