In football, night games are just magical.
No, we aren’t talking about Champions League matches here – we’re on about your regular 5-a-side meetup with colleagues, or that post-work kickabout on a Tuesday evening. Additionally, the majority of team training is held on evenings in the middle of the working week.
In short, if you are serious about playing football, you will often have to play after work. This means figuring out a strategy to fuel and recover that works around your career, family life and football.
In this article, we take a brief look at how to play your best football after work.
It All Starts Between 9 and 5
Your average football team will usually feature players from a wide range of careers. Your goalie is a police officer, your left back works in sales, and your striker is a brickie.
Whatever you do during the day, you can start preparing for your night games in work.
The most important preparation tactic is to drink water throughout the day so that, come evening time, you are hydrated and ready to go.
On average, aim to drink at least two litres of water over your day. If you work in a particularly dehydrating environment (a hot, humid, or physical job), add electrolytes to your water to boost your hydration. Our Hydrate90 tablets provide both electrolytes and B vitamins with no sugar, so they are perfect for drinking throughout the day.
Another thing you can do to prepare is to eat a good meal at lunchtime, with plenty of slow-digesting carbohydrates to fuel your muscles ahead of your active evening. Base your meal around wholemeal pasta, brown rice, wholemeal bread, or rolled oats, for a sustained supply of energy.
Prepare Your Body Physically
Whether you work in a call centre or are heaving bags of cement around, your body will need to be prepared to safely move from work mode to football mode.
This is particularly important if your job is office-based, as reaching out to collect a loose pass is different from reaching for a stapler. As such, you need to warm up properly to avoid injuries.
Warming up is an art in itself and you can read more on this in our guide to warming up effectively. In brief, you want to gradually build yourself up from sitting mode to match pace.
Follow the ‘RAMP’ protocol to raise your heart rate with a light jog; activate and mobilise your muscles with squats and lunges; then potentiate your body for speed with sprints.
Eating a decent lunch will see you through the afternoon. But now it’s time to run around for an hour or so, and you need fast energy.
You probably don’t have enough time to digest dinner before you play, so the easy solution is to have a light snack at the end of your shift. Include some fruit, which will provide fast-digesting carbs for a quick energy boost.
Around half an hour before you play, try taking an energy supplement like our Fuel90 gel. This tasty gel is designed specifically for footballers, with two forms of carbohydrates for up to 40% faster absorption rates than a single carbohydrate source. Fuel90 will keep you going during team training or a 5-a-side match – it’s why the pros use it!
One thing to note is that for night games, it’s best to avoid taking anything containing caffeine (such as coffee or our Focus90 gel). You will need to get to sleep after playing football and caffeine can stay in your system for several hours.
As soon as your evening session ends, the focus must shift to recovery. Having gone for a while without a proper meal and having just endured an hour or so of running, jumping and turning, your muscles will be crying out for some replenishment.
However, with a shower and drive home on your to-do list, your dinner may be too far away. In the meantime, use a recovery product to kickstart the repair process to make sure you are refuelled for work the next day. This is particularly important if you are in a physical job and can’t just pretend to work, as we do in the Soccer Supplement office.
Immediately after the game, be sure to take on some protein (to repair muscles) and carbohydrates (to refuel muscles), as well as electrolytes to rehydrate. Our Recover90 is a complete post-match recovery shake that does the job. It offers 31g of protein and 30g of carbohydrates, along with 371mg of electrolytes in every serving.
Unlike professional footballers, we don’t all have the luxury of playing football in the daytime. However, by preparing your body, and prioritizing effective fuelling and recovery, you can still enjoy performing to the top of your game on the pitch and be fresh for work the next day!