Fuel Up Properly for Soccer Tournaments

Use these guidelines to create a plan to help you stay fueled and hydrated during day-long soccer tournaments.

Soccer tournaments make unique demands on your body, requiring you to plan and prepare above and beyond what you normally would for a 90-minute game. Players have to be prepared to play at least two to three games in one day, sometimes more.

Nutrition plays a key role in tournament performance. Too often, players feel flat after their first or second game, which not only impairs their performance but increases their likelihood of suffering an injury. Sticking to a plan that will help keep you fueled for performance will help you stay FAST, FIT and FUNCTIONAL through the whole tournament.

RELATED: Game-Day Nutrition for Soccer Players

Soccer Tournament Nutrition Checklist

  • Eat breakfast in the morning. Focus on protein and whole grain carbohydrates to prep your body for action.
  • If your first game is early in the morning, start small with a pre-game snack like granola and yogurt. Something is better than nothing!
  • Pack simple snacks to eat during the tournament. Simple prepped items like trail mix will help keep you topped up and ready to play.
  • Have a post-game snack. Refueling from one game to the next is important to maintain performance and prevent injury. Focus on protein and carbohydrates. Liquid nutrition can be easier to consume straight after a game. Chocolate milk or a recovery shake are good options.
  • Keep it simple. The best foods to consume during tournaments are those you can quickly eat and then get ready to go. Stay away from fast food and heavy and fried foods like hamburgers and French fries. They will slow you down and could make you feel sick.
  • Bring plenty of water! Performance is impaired after only 2-percent dehydration. One ounce per pound of body weight per day is a good guideline for the amount of water you should drink. But remember, on game day you will need more because you will be sweating.
  • Sports drinks are good for long tournaments because they keep your body supplied with electrolytes, but don't forget that water is just as important to keep you hydrated.
  • Don't try anything new on game day. Stick to what you know works best. If you want to experiment with new foods and drinks, do so during the week before the tournament so you will know how your body reacts.

Soccer FIT – Performance Hydration

With summer heat in full force, soccer players need to spend extra time thinking about hydration. Weekend tournaments can be all-day events, and players have to be prepared to play through at least two to three games in one day, sometimes more! The foundation for top level performance on the field starts with how efficiently your body is working internally. Good hydration strategy is one of the simplest ways to ensure maximizing your performance potential on the day.

RELATED: Fuel Up for Soccer Like the U.S. Women's National Team

With as little as 2-percent dehydration, performance begins to suffer. Most of the chemical reactions that take place during a game require water to work effectively. Hydration status plays a key role in how your body manages anaerobic waste products like lactic acid and how efficiently you flush them out of your muscles. Once you pass the 2-percent threshold, these processes slow down and fatigue begins to set in faster. Depending on the intensity of play, you can lose between one to four pounds of water per hour.

Combating the effects of dehydration is simple. What goes out, must come back in! Build a hydration strategy that you can implement systematically during training and competition. It should look something like this:

Pre-Game: Drink at least 12 fluid ounces of water before you start to train/play. This will ensure you'll be hydrated before you start activity. Below is a size guide to different bottles of water.

Soccer Nutrition Guidelines

During Play: Drink 6-10 ounces of water every 20 minutes during play. If you are sweating a lot, you also need to replenish electrolytes. Drink 5 ounces of water and 5 ounces of a sports drink like Gatorade. Ten fluid ounces look like this:


Post-Game: Dehydration continues after you stop playing. Don't stop drinking water just because you stop moving. Take in another 12 ounces of water after you finish playing. You can stay on top of hydration by checking your urine. If it looks more like apple juice than lemonade, drink more water!

Use these basic tactics to develop a hydration strategy to make sure you perform at 100 percent during training and competition.

Soccer FIT – Tournament Nutrition Cookbook

It's important to create a plan for tournament nutrition so you can stay fueled and perform well the whole day. You also need an easy way to apply your plan and stay on track. Knowing what to pack in your cooler before you head out to the field will increase your chances of success. Depending on how much time you have to prep each meal, choose the option that fits best.

RELATED: 10 Basic Nutrition Rules Soccer Players Should Live By


Breakfast should be simple. This is where your body gets its first burst of energy to start the day.

10 Minutes: Cinnamon Cottage Cheese with Sliced Apple

Sprinkle ¾ cup nonfat or low-fat cottage cheese with cinnamon and serve with 1 sliced apple for scooping. Cottage cheese is heavy on protein and light on artery-clogging fat, and a sprinkling of cinnamon helps jazz up the taste.

Nutrition info: 250 calories, 25 g protein, 2 g fat, 36 g carb, 5 g fiber

5 Minutes: Greek yogurt with fruit

Greek yogurt has twice as much protein as traditional yogurt, so it's the perfect foundation for a substantial morning meal. Enjoy a 6-ounce container of nonfat Greek yogurt (plain or flavored), topped with 1 tablespoon of chopped, toasted nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, or any other variety) or 1 to 2 tablespoons of crunchy whole-grain cereal. Add half a banana, 1/2 cup berries, an orange or another piece of fruit on the side.

Nutrition info: 260 calories, 22 g protein, 5 g fat, 38 g carb, 3 g fiber


Lunch should be mobile and easy to eat quickly. It's easy to succumb to fast food when it seems like a lot of prep is involved.

10 Minutes: 10 Minute "No Chop" Chili


  • 1 pound lean ground beef (or turkey)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup prepared salsa (I used Pace Mild)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a medium saucepan, combine the ground beef and all of the spices.
  • When the meat is cooked through, add the salsa.
  • Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Optional garnishes: red onion, cilantro, avocado, lime, cheese, sour cream, corn, peppers
  • As a side dish, bring some simmered pinto beans or black beans

Nutrition info: 229 calories, 9 g fat, 2.25 g net carbs, 33 g protein

5 Minutes: Peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

2 slices whole-wheat bread, ¼ banana, sliced, 2 tbsp. peanut butter, 2 tbsp. cereal (natural wheat and barley flakes)

Nutrition info: 357 calories 14 g protein 19 g fat 40 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber


Load a bag with quick snacks that keep you away from candy and sugar.

  • Trail Mix (individual bags)
  • Sliced apples (or other fruit)
  • Mixed nuts
  • Granola Sports Bar (e.g., Clif Bars, Powerbar, Tigers Milk)
  • Fruit and Beef Jerky

These are some easy guidelines to create a tournament day meal plan. Use these recipes as a starting point to develop good habits in prepping food before tournaments. Never forget to pack water and if you are playing multiple games. A sports drink to sip during half-time and between games would be a good addition.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock