Game Day Nutrition for AFL

by dietitian Clare Wood

Nutrition preparation for AFL games and recovery afterwards is important to maximise player performance week in and week out.

Pre-Game

Given games are at varying times through the season, it helps to work backwards from the game start time. It is generally recommended that the last main meal is consumed 3-4 hours before the start of the match, with a snack about an hour before to top up fuel stores. The predominant fuel used for performance during an AFL game comes from carbohydrates, so it’s important that this meal(s) should contain mostly carbohydrate, some protein and be low in fat and fibre to minimise possible gastrointestinal discomfort. 

Pre-game meal ideas:

Pre-game snack ideas:

AFL game  at Siubiaco Stadium Perth AFL game in Perth

During the Game

A full AFL game is long enough to require fuelling during the game, due to the depletion of your carbohydrate stores. Quarter time breaks provide a good opportunity for hydrating, as they are shorter breaks. The half-time break though allows for a snack like a banana or cereal bar to be consumed. It is up to individual players and their perception of gut comfort as to what is the most appropriate carbohydrate option.

Fluid intake is critical during a game, and there are usually lots of opportunities to drink. Personal drink bottles should be taken onto the ground with your fluid of choice for substitution times. Added drinks can also be taken from the drink runners. Extra opportunities to drink should be increased in hot conditions. Individuals should find the right balance of fluid, electrolytes and any carbohydrate requirements when selecting fluid types.

Post-Game

Recovery is all about ...

Often athletes lose their appetite immediately after a game, so liquid options can fill this space well in the short term recovery space of 30-60 minutes. Flavoured milk ticks 3 out of 4 of the recovery goals, and is an easy choice. A more substantial meal should follow as soon as possible after (~90 minutes), containing a lower glycaemic index carbohydrate, quality protein and plenty of micronutrients to support a depressed immune system.

Different game times

Here are some nutrition tips and plans for when the games are at different times of the day.

8:30 am GAME

10:20 am GAME


1-2 pm GAME


5 pm GAME

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