Refueling the Athlete

What's for lunch?

It depends on how much time there is between games. In a perfect world, 3 hours or more is always ideal. Carbohydrates should be the focus. Pasta, rice, veggies, potatoes (baked NOT fried), breads and cereals. Lean meats in very small amounts. Skip the sodas please. Water or a sport drink is better. Sub sandwiches are okay. Just go for the lean meats and avoid all the fatty extras like mayo, oil, cheese, etc. If you must have a burger (NOT recommended) - no cheese. And remember no fries either. Save that for the day after the tournament.

When you only have a few hours or less inbetween games, apples, bananas, raisins, pretzels, cereal (even dry), granola bars, bread sticks, fig newtons, bagels, english muffin, blueberry muffin, fruit juice, etc. Remember to avoid the foods that cause you stomach upset. And most importantly - Drink water!

Your Post-Game Meal

After the game, much of the glycogen in your muscle and liver tissue has been used up and the creation of new muscle protein slows. To promote glycogen recovery, consume nutritious foods and drinks that are high in carbohydrates. When you eat the right foods, your body can replace lost glycogen rapidly and normal creation (synthesis) of new proteins can resume.

Whole foods like cereals, whole grain breads and pastas are ideal for total recovery. These foods contain proteins, minerals and vitamins in addition to carbohydrates. You need these other nutrients along with high levels of carbohydrates for a complete, rapid recovery.

To assist in total, rapid recovery, you should eat nutritious foods and drinks as soon as you can tolerate them after an event or practice. Ideally, you should eat food within two hours after the workout. Remember to drink plenty of fluids, even if you aren't thirsty. 

PS - A general rule of thumb for water/fluid intake is 1/2oz for every pound of body weight. i.e. 100lbs = 50oz of water daily. Adjust your intake to your needs. Cold & dry weather can increase your fluid needs as much as hot weather. 


Plain, cool water is the fluid of choice when the actual exercise does not last longer than 60-90 minutes, including a tough practice session. You don't need an energy source in the fluid you drink to re-hydrate if you've been eating properly. 





However, in some situations such as soccer tournaments where several games are being played each day. sport drinks containing carbohydrates and electrolytes can be a boost. 

  • Drink plenty of water 24 hours before an event. 
  • About 15-30 minutes before the start of the game or practice, drink a cup or more of water. 
  • During the game or practice (if it's high-intensity) drink 4-8oz of water every 15-20 minutes if you can. Drinking too much can cause stomach cramps. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids after the game. 
  • Remember to drink BEFORE you get thirsty. If you're thirsty, your body may already be dehydrated. 

Signs of Heat Exhaustion

Weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, and fainting are all indicators of heat exhaustion. The skin may be cool & moist and the pulse rate will be fast and weak. One should drink cool beverages, rest, take a cool shower, bathe, get into an air-conditioned environment, and wear lightweight clothing. Heat stroke occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature and the sweating mechanism fails, leaving the body unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106 degrees or higher within 10-15 minutes.

Signs of Heat Stroke

An extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees), red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating), rapid and  strong pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and sometimes unconsciousness can be indicative of heat stroke. One should call for IMMEDIATE medical assistance & cool the victim immediately using whatever methods available. Sponge with cool water, spray with cool water from a hose, place in a cool shower, or immerse in a tub of cool water. 

Tracee Sidell  C.N.C., C.S.N.C. 

Certified Sports Nutrition Counselor