What Does a Professional Soccer Player’s Diet Look Like?

Soccer is about to take center stage around the globe as the World Cup gets underway in Qatar.


It all kicks off on November 20, and a day later, the USMNT are in action against Wales. It’s the first tournament that the national team have qualified for the first time since 2014, and hopes are high that Gregg Berhalter’s side could make the latter stages of the competition. The omens are good; in 2010, they shared a group with England, as they do in Qatar, and emerged as group winners.


The current crop of USMNT soccer players is young and exciting, like Sergino Dest, Christian Pulisic and Juventus forward Weston McKennie. McKennie is considered a key component of the team, but just a year ago, he was accused of needing to lose weight by his club manager, Andrea Pirlo. It was a strange claim, given that McKennie looked in great shape.


Of course, soccer players’ diets are closely monitored at the top level of the game, and any excess weight McKennie might have been carrying would not be because of his club-sanctioned diet. Indeed, the USMNT will likely have meal plans for their trip to Qatar, with every calorie counted.


Ahead of the competition, we decided to look at what type of diet regime a soccer player has to inspire any amateur players out there.


Pre-Game Meal

The first meal for players to consider is the pre-match meal. It will typically be the largest of the day to ensure they have the energy to get through the game; it will have plenty of carbs, significant protein and a little healthy fat. There are plenty of choices here, and for McKennie wishing to lose weight, that would be a good thing. After all, the most effective weight loss plans for men start with a proper diet which can be varied to suit tastes; it’s not all about eating a certain type of food. That’s why a soccer player’s pre-match meal can include grilled chicken, grilled fish, baked salmon, quinoa, granola with almond milk and banana or even a taco bowl with ground chicken, spices, corn, and lettuce.


Pre-Game Snack

The pre-game snack is usually taken an hour before going onto the pitch, aiming to top up the fuel reserves. Familiarity is the key here; a player must take a portion of food on board that they know they digest well, so again it ties into diet plans needing to be tailored to a person. Smoothies, fruit, or gluten-free pretzels with yogurt dip or hummus will all do the trick.



The reload is all about boosting energy and is usually taken on at halftime of the game. This is going to be a very specific snack that helps delay fatigue. Foods and snacks high in carbs, electrolytes, and fluids work best, so sports gels, oranges, coconut water and even applesauce packets can be used.



After the game it is all about reloading and recovery, and it might be easy to be undisciplined. Perhaps this is where McKennie, or other players who struggle with weight, are most likely to struggle. Immediately after a game, a recovery snack is recommended, with a follow-up meal an hour afterwards. Good recovery snacks include deli meat, fruit and veg, egg muffins or even pancakes. This snack helps replenish damaged tissue, and an evening meal will give a player the nutrients they need to go about the rest of their weekend or, in the case of the USMNT this fall, prepare for the next game at a World Cup.

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