“Oranges have traditionally been eaten at half-time by amateur footballers, but the main benefit of fleshy fruits such as oranges, pears and peaches is that they’re high in Vitamin C, which can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with the common cold – handy for this time of year,” says Dr Mayur Ranchordas, an elite sports nutritionist. “They also contain certain polyphenols – types of anti-oxidants. While this makes them worth eating in terms of general health, their benefits in and around games are limited.” So what should you be eating before, during and after a game?
Pre-match carb load: Dried Fruit
“Great for carb delivery, so perfect for a pre-match energy booster,” says Dr Ranchordas, who has worked with several Premier League footballers and a number of world champions and gold medallists. “Dried fruits are high in natural sugars and have a similar effect to energy gels used by long-distance runners. Try this out before training first – raisins, apricots, figs, anything really – as it might not agree with your stomach.”
Half-time boost: Banana
“Bananas provide glucose and fructose (fruit sugar) that is quickly used by the body,” says Ranchordas. “In other words, quick-release carbs. That’s why you often see tennis players eating them when they change ends during a match. Research suggests that glucose plus fructose equals better fluid delivery, meaning more carbs can be absorbed.”
Post-match recovery: Berries
Aching for hours, even days, after a game? Better reach for the berries. “Fruits such as cherries, blueberries and pomegranate are rich in polyphenols and anthocyanins, which can act as anti-inflammatories if taken in high enough doses,” explains Ranchordas. “Alternatively, pineapple contains bromelain, another anti-inflammatory which can aid recovery from injury. If you really want to push the boat out, though, get yourself a bottle of cherry concentrate, which contains an abundance of anti-oxidants to help repair the body."
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