Your Ultimate Guide to Fueling During Pre-Season Soccer

Soccer pre-season camp can be a grind; all you do is eat, sleep, and breathe soccer for a few weeks. Today, you will learn how to fuel your body to thrive on the field this preseason!

The key to having a successful pre-season soccer camp is showing up to training ready to go, both physically and mentally. To accomplish this, a fueling plan that is unique to the demands of pre-season soccer camp is essential! By design, it is an intense, high-volume training period with substantially increased energy demands that are different than your typical in-season or off-season needs. Today, you will learn how to properly fuel, hydrate, and recover so you can get the most out of this year’s camp!

Fueling

Pre-season training has greater energy demands than other training periods. As you know, pre-season days are packed with two-a-days, fitness tests, scrimmages, and team meetings. Your body needs much more fuel during this packed schedule. It may be difficult to fuel on these busy days, so having a fueling plan is critical. 

A fueling plan doesn’t have to be complicated: meals don’t have to be elaborate to provide you with the fuel you need. The performance plate is a simple way of meeting your fueling needs at every meal. I always have my players use the performance plates to guide them in building their meals. Before training, I recommend you fuel up with a moderate plate 2-4 hours before practice. The post-training meal should be a hard plate eaten within 2 hours after training.

I recommend having a moderate plate before, and a hard plate after pre-season training sessions!

Something that commonly happens during pre-season is “under-fueling,” which is when you don’t give yourself enough energy for you to perform your best. With all of the training and team meetings, I understand it is sometimes hard to get in meals and snacks. However, this leaves you sluggish and more susceptible to injury. 

With that being said, some players may find it difficult to adjust to eating enough calories to fuel you for the increased demands of pre-season. One way to address this common issue is to add liquid calories to meals and snacks. Including liquid calories is a great way to make sure you are meeting your body’s energy needs, even when training seems to blunt your appetite. This can be as simple as…

  1. Adding a glass of juice or milk to meals/snacks.
  2. Choosing 2% or whole milk over skim milk. 
  3. Enjoying energy-dense smoothies, like this Banana Greens smoothie, alongside meals and snacks.
  4. Consuming a sports drink during training.

Refueling

Every time you refuel after your first session, think about it as fueling for your second session! Make sure to replenish all of the energy you used up during your first session. After finishing your first training session, you should refuel with a post-training snack that contains both protein and carbohydrates. Aim for a snack that has a 3 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein within 30 minutes of finishing training 

One of my all-time favorite post-training snacks is chocolate milk. It has the perfect carbs to protein ratio, can be found in shelf-stable varieties (meaning that it doesn’t need refrigeration), and it’s delicious! Sometimes you have to go from the field straight to watch a film or attend another team meeting, so this is an easy way to refuel after training.

Here are some other great post-training snack ideas that you can pack in your bag so you always have something on hand!

Snacks

Not only are snacks important after training, but snacks are also a great way to keep you fueled throughout the day! When choosing a snack you want to make sure it contains both carbohydrates and a protein/fat. 

Give one of these combos a try! 

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt + 1 cup fruit + 2 tbsp chia seeds 
  • 20 whole-wheat crackers + 2 string cheese
  • 1 cup pretzels + 4 slices of deli turkey

Hydration

Athletes start to show decreases in performance at as little as 2% dehydration (aka when you lose 2% of your body weight in water). To combat possible drops in performance, hydrate before, during, and after practice. You should aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces at minimum. For a 145-pound soccer player, that is about 72 ounces per day. This equates to roughly two and a half large (32 ounces) hydro-flask water bottles. 

Additionally, athletes need to drink more to replace sweat losses. Sweat is more than just water; it also contains electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. Electrolytes work together to maintain the fluid balance in your body. Sports drinks are an easy way to get electrolytes in around training but often don’t contain enough electrolytes to replenish the ones you lost during training. 

Because of this, I recommend prioritizing salty foods during pre-season and on hard training days. Some examples of salty snacks that will help your performance are

  • Pretzels
  • Salted nuts (almonds, pistachios, cashews, peanuts)
  • Dried or frozen edamame with salt
  • Salty whole wheat crackers

Another easy way to add electrolytes, is to add salt to your meals or while cooking. Having a meal high in sodium the night before a two a day will help you retain the water that you are drinking and keep you hydrated. Upping the sodium content of a meal can be as easy as picking up the salt shaker! A few tips to increase sodium in meals include…

  • Using soy sauce. It adds flavor and sodium!
  • Trying a new seasoning mix that contains salt. I like everything but the bagel seasoning!
  • Adding a pickle to the side of your meal.

If you need another beverage to sip on during training, give this homemade sports drink a try! Also, check out this post for a more in-depth guide on when and how to hydrate around practices.

Recovery

When training volumes are high, taking your recovery seriously is critical to staying healthy. After tough practices, rolling out and ice baths help keep your legs fresh. However, recovery goes far beyond the training room. Fueling is a huge part of recovery, especially when you only have a few hours between training sessions. This is why having a post-training snack immediately after practice is so important! 

Recovery is on-going, not just something that you do after training. This three-step recovery timeline starts before training with 15g of collagen + 50mg of vitamin C along with a pre-training snack. I recommend my players to add 1.5 scoops of Vital proteins collagen powder to a glass of orange juice. 

Tart cherry juice is another recovery aid that helps reduce inflammation and improve the quality of your sleep. I recommend having 8 ounces of tart cherry juice about 30 minutes before bed.

You can follow this pre-season soccer fueling guide, stretch, and ice, but if you’re not getting enough sleep you will never fully recover. Prioritizing sleep is a must if you want to recover and perform your best! 

Here are a few tips to help you catch those precious zzz’s.

  • Create a nighttime routine to help you wind down and signal to your body it’s time for sleep.
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.
  • Avoid caffeine 4-5 hours before bedtime.
  • Try to keep consistent bedtimes and wake up times
  • Keep naps short, less than 1 hour, and avoid taking them close to bedtime.

Sample Pre-Season Day of Fueling

You Got This!

There’s no question that pre-season soccer camp can be tough, which is why implementing a fueling plan is so important! Providing your body with the fuel, hydration, and rest it needs will allow you to perform at your best all pre-season long.

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