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Eat for every occasion

A professional footballer doesn’t have to worry about what to buy on their weekly shop. Their clubs take care of all that.

The resident chef makes sure the canteen is stocked with top nosh. Sports scientists hand out nutrition guides. Some clubs even offer cooking lessons to the players’ families to make sure their prized assets are getting the right fuel.

But who helps the amateur player? There’s no regimented meal plan laid out for them. They’re left to decipher confusing food labels as they rush between work, home and football (and the pub).

That’s why FFT pulled up a pew with elite sports nutritionist Kerry Kayes and asked him to give us a simple guide to help you shop better, eat better and play better.

Kayes covers all bases – from what to eat for an energy boost ahead of your midweek 5-a-side, to drip-feeding your muscles fuel on a Sunday morning.

Kerry Kayes was talking at the World Football Academy: UK National Symposium. For more information visit

Also see:
The ultimate matchday meals
Pre-match winter warm-up meals
Get the babies on board
How to eat for a game
Five-minute big game meals
Eating out before the big game

"Hopefully, you've eaten correctly mid-week. Then Sunday morning when you get up, you've got to eat some of what we call complexed carbohydrates.

That is foods that are complexed in structure, so that when you ingest
them, your body has to take time to break them down.

Because it takes time to break them down, that energy from the complexed structure is being time-released, slow-released throughout the game, which gives them a constant energy throughout the game.

The problem with eating enough complexed carbohydrates is that some people can't eat maybe half an hour before the game; some people can't eat an hour before the game.

Really, in an ideal world, you want to be eating a minimum of about an hour before the game.

Unfortunately, you know and I know a lot of young kids will give all the effort in the game, but do little effort two hours before the game to eat the right foods.

When I say complexed carbohydrates; whole grains. The perfect meal would be a big bowl of porridge.

First thing in the morning is no different from the guy that's played football; he should be trying to be consuming some good whole grain cereal.

That whole grain cereal should be porridge, Weetabix, shredded wheat, a little bit of milk with that will give a little bit of protein, which is great.

Three hours later, maybe lunchtime, he needs to eat a complex carbohydrate, but from starch, which would be potatoes, rice, or pasta, but trying very, very important, trying to get some leafy vegetables with it.

Those leafy vegetables are very fibrous, and that would slow down the release of carbohydrates so he's getting trickle-fed into the blood stream; giving him timed release energy.

More importantly, you would get a lot of minerals from those carbohydrates, which would help him combat cramping, and things like that.

Obviously, he should be drinking plenty of water, because when you eat carbohydrates, you need to carb up, and your body needs to store carbohydrates in the muscle as glycogen.

The body can't do that without water. You need water to convert carbs to stored energy, so maybe a couple of liters of water.

I work with a lot of boxers, and a boxer will weigh in at 6:00, and he could be fighting at 8:00, so you're not going to get a boxer to eat a bowl of porridge, Weetabix, or shredded wheat; he's got nervous energy.

You want something that he can eat that will give him timed-released energy, which is a complexed carbohydrate, but is convenient to take to the venue or convenient to take to the game.

Probably the perfect scenario in that would be apples. Apples are a very good carbohydrate, on their own. I would say snack on apples."