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How Should You Re-fuel After a Soccer Game?

Success in Soccer: Refueling 

Ever wondered if you can wait until you get home from the game to re-fuel?  A recent study by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed that delaying carbohydrate intake by as little as 2 hours decreases muscle glycogen re-synthesis by 50%. In other words, your ability to rebuild carbohydrate stores in your muscles is greatly affected by how quickly you refuel.

The hormone insulin is probably responsible for the study results, as it is the gatekeeper for glucose, and its levels increase during exercise as well as immediately following. Insulin is the most effective at allowing the muscle to accept glucose during the initial 30 minutes post exercise.

In addition to timing, the type of nutrients you choose is critical for the recovery phase. In the study, a combination of carbohydrate, protein, and fat during the first 30 minutes post exercise provided the greatest effect on restoring muscle glycogen. This means eating carbohydrate, protein, and fat will give your muscles the greatest chance at being ready for your next workout or game.

Refuel within 30 minutes of an intense workout or game, then every 2 hours for 4-6 hours. An optimal post game snack includes a good source of carbohydrate, along with protein. While the specific amount may vary depending on your sport, weight, and time in the game, a good rule of thumb is to select three grams of carbohydrate for every gram of protein. Chocolate milk, and most other dairy products are great examples, but get creative in your refueling!  Enjoy a slice of leftover pizza, or munch on some granola with dried fruit. If you prefer supplements, a shake or bar that follows the above guidelines is a convenient and easy way to refuel.

In addition to macronutrients for energy, post game nutrition should include a plan for rehydrating. Especially during hot and humid conditions, athletes should pay attention to weight changes. A 1% loss of body weight can negatively affect performance, so drinking 16-24 oz of non-caffeinated beverages is critical for every 1 pound of body weight lost. Electrolyte replacement is also more critical in hot and humid environments. One pound of sweat contains about 80-100 mg of potassium and 400-700 mg of sodium. These amounts are relatively easy to consume. For potassium, choose fruits such as bananas and oranges, raisins, or yogurt. One serving provides more than three times the amount lost in one pound of sweat. Recovering with pizza, chicken noodle soup, or pretzels provides enough sodium to replace typical losses. If you would rather drink than eat after a game, a basic sports drink can provide fluids, sodium, and potassium.

Plan to include carbohydrates, proteins, and a source of hydration when you refuel by having a snack such as salted pretzels and fruit. Whatever you decide on, make sure you are rebuilding, repairing, and rehydrating for your next game!

-Jill Koegel, RD, CSSD, CDE
Omaha based registered dietitian, certified specialist in sports dietetics, and certified diabetes educator

Omaha Physical Therapy Institute provides Omaha with the most specialized soccer specific rehabilitation in the region!  Call 402-934-8688 to schedule an appointment today!