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Soccer Nutrition with Dietician Linzy Ziegelbaum MS, RD, CDN

By Evan Unger, 04/16/20, 9:30AM EDT

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Soccer Nutrition: How to Maintain a Balanced Diet While Training at Home and Traveling to Tournaments

EDP Soccer spoke with Dietician Linzy Ziegelbaum about what to eat while stuck at home, and also the appropriate nutrition when traveling to tournaments.

Linzy is a former Clinical Nutritionist at Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan and specializes in sports nutrition, pediatric food allergies/ intolerances and weight management.


How to eat a balanced diet while at home

 

When routines change it can be a challenge to keep up with usual exercise and diet routines. It is important to remember that a healthy diet is important for all athletes regardless of if you are in season or not. Food is fuel, and a nutritious diet should include a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. The diet that a youth soccer player eats while not in season will be similar to their in season diet in terms of the foods that they are eating. However, with less exercise, quantities will be less.  For youth athletes that are used to eating a lot of take out or pre packaged foods, use this extra time off to enjoy more home cooked meals and snacks. This is also a good time to try and add fruits and vegetables to most meals and snacks if this is not something that you are used to doing.

While you are staying at home it can seem challenging to eat healthy. However, planning in advance and sticking to a meal and snack schedule can help. Try not to go more than 3-4 hours without having a meal or snack. Plan a schedule for each day, and start everyday with a nutritious breakfast to energize your body and mind for the day. It is also important to stay hydrated. Avoid sodas and juices and instead drink water throughout the day. Some snack ideas to keep you feeling energized include:  

  • Nut/seed butter sandwich with berries

  • String cheese and an apple/and or crackers  

  • Banana, apple or graham crackers with nut/seed butter

  • Hummus and crackers and/or vegetables

  • Trail mix

  • Greek Yogurt with fruit 

  • Cereal with milk/milk alternative

  • Granola bar with < 10 grams of sugar; > 3 grams protein; > 3 grams fiber

  • English muffin pizzas topped with broccoli 

 

Nutrition when traveling for tournaments

         

Sports nutrition is important for all athletes. It is easy to forget when traveling for tournaments that food gives us fuel, and eating well while traveling will impact performance. It can be tricky to know what to eat when you are out of your usual routine traveling for soccer tournaments and there are many nutrition challenges often faced. Some of these include:

  • Fast food options are often what is available

  • Being away from home and not knowing what options will be at the tournament or near the tournament

  • Waiting until you are starving before you eat

  • Limited time between games

  • Meals and snacks you are used to are not available

With some thought and planning, it is possible to overcome these challenges. Athletes need a combination of carbohydrates, protein and fats. Carbohydrates provide athletes with the fuel they need to play their best, proteins are needed for muscle strength and recovery and fats will help to absorb fat soluble vitamins, lubricate the joints and provide the body with essential fatty acids that bodies cannot make on their own. Bringing your own snacks with you can allow you to be sure that you will have healthy fuel available. Packing a small cooler with ice for the car or bus will allow you to even bring some perishable snacks. Some perishable snacks to consider include yogurt, turkey slices, turkey sandwiches, cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs, and fresh fruit. Non perishable snack ideas to consider include nut/seed butter packets to spread on bread, fruit, pretzels or graham crackers, trail mix, granola/protein bars, applesauce, jerky, oatmeal packets, or cereal. Snacks are essential when there is not a lot of time between games.

On tournament days it is important to think about a few things when choosing both meals and snacks.

 

Think:

 

  • What can I eat to provide my body with the fuel it needs to recover and play again?

  • How can I get the energy I need from carbohydrates to fuel my body and the protein my body needs to help my muscles recover?

  • How much time do I have before I play again?

Avoid baked goods, fried foods and heavy sauces as these will take longer to digest. These heavier foods can also lead to an upset stomach and feeling sluggish at game time.

Other than the food you eat it is also important to pay attention to what you drink. Avoid soda as the sugar, and carbonation won’t sit well in your stomach for games.  Be sure to have plenty of fluids available in the car or on the bus and start drinking the day before the tournament to be sure you arrive hydrated. Sports drinks will also be beneficial when exercising for more than an hour.

Linzy can be reached at Linzy@LNZnutrition.com and is available for virtual nutrition counseling! Learn more at lnznutrition.com.