5.JUN.2018 3 MIN READ | 3 MIN READ

Your favourite footballers need to refuel properly after every strenuous match. Here’s why it may be relevant to you if you are an athlete.

On average, a male outfield football player will cover around between 10 – 13km during a match, with a mixture of walking and low-intensity and high-intensity running. That’s a lot of exercise!

So it’s no surprise they need to eat right, before and after a match, to prepare their bodies and to recover properly.

You might not be doing as much running around as the average footballer (or maybe you are!), but regardless, eating right after training is just as important for your body’s recovery.

With the World Cup ongoing, take inspiration from your favourite football players with these nutrition tips.

What should I eat?

What to eat after a workout
Did you know that carbohydrates are made up of sugar? Glucose, to be precise, and this is what gives us energy. Any leftover glucose we don’t use for energy is stored in the body as glycogen and fat.

When we exercise, our bodies start to use up these stores and may break some down muscle proteins to give us more energy. Depending on the intensity and duration of exercise, our bodies may also use stored fat for energy. So, it’s no surprise we often feel hungry after a workout – our bodies want us to replenish these glycogen stores and to restore muscle proteins, so we can refuel and recover properly.

To enable your body to do this, sport dietitians may recommend following the 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio after exercising. Research shows this is more likely to boost your glycogen stores than just eating carbs by themselves.

Need some ideas on ways to do this? You can create your own ratio-friendly snacks and meals by combining any of the following:

  Quantity Carbohydrates Protein
Non-fat plain yoghurt  230g 17g 13g
Blueberries 100g 14g 0.7g
Oranges 100g 12g 0.9g
Apples 100g 14g 0.3g
Bananas 100g 23g 1.1g
Almonds 100g 22g 21g
Oats 100g 66g 17g
Hummus 100g 14g 8g
Peanut butter 100g 20g 25g
Brown rice 100g 23g 2.6g
Wholegrain crackers 1 2.7g 0.35g


When should I eat?

When you eat does make a difference to your body’s ability to recover and the time it will take to do it. Research shows that eating anytime in the first 30 minutes after your workout is better, as it results in more stored glycogen.

So, if you know it’s going to take you longer than 30 minutes to get home from the gym, make sure you pack a snack to take with you.

It’s not always easy to find the time to prep exercise-friendly snacks and meals like the ones listed above. When you’re in a rush, it’s sometimes easier to grab something quick and go. Of course, you could just reach for a banana and a handful of nuts and seeds, but what if you’re craving something slightly more filling?

Drink a smoothie after a workout
Try a drink or smoothie. In fact, these options are often easier to digest and quicker to absorb, which means your body will get the nutrients it needs faster – perfect if you’re trying to make that 30-minute window!

What should I drink?

Drink water after a workout
Flavoured milk, surprisingly, is a handy option for this. Not only does it have the right ratio of carbs to protein, but studies have shown it can enhance recovery in sports players faster than regular sports drinks do.

Don’t forget to drink plenty of water. You’ll lose lots through sweat when you’re exercising. If you’re not sure how much you should really be drinking, hop on a scale before and after your workout to measure how much water your body loses. As a general guide, drink 1.5 litres of fluid for every kilogram of weight lost during exercise.

You may benefit from sports drinks for rehydration if you are involved in moderate to high intensity sports of longer duration. Remember not to drink too fast!


Article reviewed by Natalie Goh, chief dietitian at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital


Bailey, M. (2015, August 20). Footballers’ Food: What Do Premier League Stars Eat Every Day? Retrieved 25 April 2018 from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/11807652/Footballers-food-what-do-Premier-League-stars-eat-every-day.html

Bangsbo, J. (2014, June). Physiological Demands of Football. Retrieved 25 April 2018 from https://www.gssiweb.org/en/sports-science-exchange/Article/sse-125-physiological-demands-of-football

Jones, J. ( 2018, January 4). What to Eat Before and After a Workout, According to a Registered Dietitian. Retrieved 25 April 2018 from https://www.verywellfit.com/after-exercise-recovery-foods-and-drinks-3120680

Quinn, E. (2018, March 5). The 8 Best Post-Exercise Recovery Foods and Drinks for Athletes to Buy in 2018. Retrieved 25 April 2018 from https://www.verywellfit.com/after-exercise-recovery-foods-and-drinks-3120680

Semeco, A. (2016, September 20). Post-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat After a Workout. Retrieved 25 April 2018 from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/eat-after-workout#section1

Natalie Goh
Chief Dietitian
Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital

Ms Natalie Goh oversees the Dietetic Services of Parkway Hospitals in Singapore.