Match Day Nutrition

Match Day Nutrition

Nutritional advice and guidance is a hotly debated topic in all walks of life beyond the health and fitness industry. One area that is often debated is what an athlete should or shouldn’t eat prior to a competition or on the day of the competition. Like a lot of things within the health and fitness industry, there is a lot of misinformation around topics such as nutrient timing, meal sizes, caloric amounts and of course carbohydrate loading. This is not to say that some of these strategies are not based on sound science and rationale but a lot of them are based on outdated science, myths and poor understanding. What we are aiming to highlight in this article is that the ‘one size fits all method’ to nutritional guidance does not work for everyone.




We are all individuals and our bodies react and prepare differently leading up to the competition. I do not for one second consider myself to be an authority or expert on nutrition but I do have some knowledge in the area. As a former team sports athlete myself, my nutritional preparation on the day of the match was always more or less similar and I found it prepared me physically and gave me mental reassurance that I had fuelled myself appropriately. I had a firm belief that my nutritional and hydration plan was all part of a wider strategy to get me in the game ready mindset. Below is typically what I ate on the day and by no means is it revolutionary nor the best for someone else to use, this is just what worked for me:



(4-6 hours to competition)

Porridge with banana’s or frozen berries and Honey: X1 bowl (70-80g per serving)

+ 1 protein bar

+ 2 glasses of water



(2-3 hours to competition)

A small handful of nuts X1 (normally a mix you can buy from the supermarket)

X1 glass of water



(just prior to kick-off or during competition)

Energy drink (non-fizzy isotonic drink-low in sugar/calories)

X1 glass of water


Half time oranges (old skool) or chewy sweets


Post Competition:

(directly after the game)

Whatever was being served in the canteen for post-match meals (typically high in carbs and protein pasta, chicken, rice and some sort veg) or very similar packed lunch if there was no after game option


Potentially a takeaway later on (limited depending on how my week of training and nutrition has been)


This would pretty much be it for my own match-day nutrition and I used this strategy for a good 5-6 years at school, club and university team sports. It worked for me as it kept my energy levels up and I rarely felt sluggish due to the way I was eating on the day of the game. This strategy would change significantly if I were, say, an endurance athlete or weightlifter or was a track and field athlete. Competition nutrition is highly variable dependant on what the body requires and also the mindset of the athlete. I have coached and played with former athlete’s who have very different approaches to competition nutrition. There have been the ultra-specific scientific ones who weighed every gram of food, every calorie and macro was accounted for pre and post-competition. Then there have been the guys who couldn’t eat anything prior to competition. They just grab a high caffeine/energy drink and crack on with no detriment to performance (we do not advise this). Then there are the ones who need a lot of fuel and will eat upright till kick-off (usually the front rowers in rugby). As you can see from the above these are all different types of strategies and what works for one athlete could be completely wrong for another.


So why are we telling you all this? You are reading this blog to get tips and information on how to best prepare and fuel your body right? What we want to reiterate is that you need to find your own strategy to get yourself prepared. Food is only one part of it but the key take-home message is you need to find what’s best for you.


I have had these conversations a lot over the years with people I have coached and I decided to come up with a series of questions that may help an athlete build appropriate nutritional strategies for competition days and beyond. These questions if answered honestly can guide you in the right direction but they are not designed to give you immediate answers. This requires you to have to do the majority of the leg work and research yourself and that’s always better in my eyes than just giving you the answers on a plate:


  • Is your sports endurance-based or intermittent in nature? (I.e. mid-long distance running vs team sports)

  • Do you have specific sport/positional requirements? (i.e. expected to be strong, jump a lot, fast or agile)

  • Do you feel energised or sluggish after eating any meal? (within 1hour post-meal)

  • What are your physique goals? (I.e. build muscle, lose fat or get lean)

  • Do you rely on high caffeine/sugar energy drinks or pre-workout supplements to get through training/competition?

  • How many glasses of water do you drink a day on average?

  • Write down your current strategies (if you have one) for a competition/training days? (be as detailed as you possibly can)

  • Can you stick to a regular plan or do you find these difficult?


The questions above are not the most difficult for someone to get their head around. I often find that when an athlete is able to see a visual representation of their current strategies, they can then begin to highlight areas they may need to work on. But also areas they may have previously thought were weaknesses actually could be strengths. For a coach like me, this then starts to paint a picture of the requirements of the individual. Competition specific demands, current strategies and mindset. On a side note, I keep coming back to mindset as I am a firm believer that it plays a huge role in the success and failures of any individuals and team plans. Without the drive and the want to plan and then see that plan through it all becomes a bit pointless. Nutrition plays a role in mindset, quite a big one, but like most things, there are plenty of other factors.


Nutritional information is out there in abundance and this blog isn’t long enough for me to go through every variation that may or may not work for you. The advice we would like you to take away is that competition at any level is tough and meant to push you beyond your comfort zone. To allow this to happen your body needs appropriate fuel to help and to be in a prepared state. The prepared state also includes your mind, your mind has to be alert whether you’re running a marathon or a sprint. It is a simple fact that with the correct nutritional interventions and appropriate hydration then performance will increase. But do not fall into the trap of thinking someone else’s tactics will work for you. They might but do, but do some leg work and find what best suits you!



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