Performance on the field is largely influenced by performance off the field – during the week, in the lead up to a match and post-match recovery. Competitive and elite players requiring a combination of endurance, strength, speed, agility and skill rely on well-functioning aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. No matter what level of football you play, providing your body with the right fuel is essential to get the best out of your game.

Nutrition for football

A healthy balanced diet will help to keep you firing both on and off the field. Include plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals, legumes, nuts, lean meat/chicken/fish and dairy foods. Try not to over-do it with foods that are high in fat/sugar or overly processed, as these can leave you feeling flat and fatigued.

Fluid needs

Good hydration is essential for sustained performance. Players should start training/games hydrated and replace their losses by drinking at each break time and in the hours after exercise. As a general guide, at least 2-3 litres per day should be consumed. On hot days, players will need to drink more.

What should I eat pre-game?

A low-fat, carbohydrate based meal 2-4 hours before the start of the game is ideal, eg. pasta/rice/noodles plus plenty of fluid. This should be followed by a snack such as a muesli bar, sandwich, nuts or fruit in the hour or so before the start of the game.

Examples of pre-game meals

  • Breakfast cereal with chopped almonds and low fat milk.
  • Chicken, almond and vegetable stir-fry with noodles.
  • Pasta with tomato-based sauce.
  • Liquid nutrition supplement.

What should I eat / drink during the game?

Plenty of fluid should be consumed during the game – water and sports drinks are good options. Some players may need extra carbohydrate, such as carbohydrate gels (taken with plenty of water), fruit or a muesli bar at half time.

What about recovery post workout / post game?

In the first hour after the game or training you should aim to consume both carbohydrates and protein. Suitable fluid options include water and sports drinks. Great recovery snacks include mixed nuts and seeds, fresh fruit, dried fruit, a muesli bar, a low fat apple & almond muffin. This should be followed up by a more substantial meal/snack within a couple of hours of exercise, which again should be carbohydrate and protein based.

Nuts that are particularly high in protein include pistachios, almonds and cashews, as are seeds such as pepitas and sunflower kernels (see the nutritional table which details the individual nuts and seeds that are highest in protein).

Other nutrition tips


Players need to be organized and carry snacks and fluids with them at all times as food available at training/playing venues may not always be appropriate for recovery. Nuts are a perfect choice. Try them mixed with seeds, dried fruit, added to fruit muffins, or simply on their own with a piece of fruit.

  Leading up to and during games, ensure a high carbohydrate intake is maintained throughout to maintain body glycogen (glucose) stores.
  Game times and venues may vary greatly, so planning for adequate meals and snacks before and after is essential. Sometimes it may be that the main meal is better at lunchtime or mid-afternoon.

Specifically talking nuts & seeds

Nuts are nature’s own vitamin pills - a small package of essential nutrients. Nuts contain a combination of 28 different essential nutrients and have a low GI effect, slowing the release of energy from carbohydrate foods which keeps you feeling fuller for longer. A healthy, well balanced diet should include a variety of different foods, including nuts and seeds, to ensure all essential nutrients are obtained for peak performance.

When a fat is a “good” fat …

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are “good” fats because they can help to manage blood cholesterol. Nuts are an excellent source of the “good” fats. So, don’t be scared to include a handful of nuts (30g) in your eating plan every day.

Values are approximate and may vary due to seasonal fluctuations.
Table is sorted in order of the protein value of nuts and seeds.


This information detailing the function of nutrients in the human body is based on the Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand Including Recommended Dietary Intakes. A qualified dietitian should be consulted for specific advice on individual requirements