Nutrition for referees

Nutrition for referees is crucial for a good performance. But what should you eat before, during and after a game? On this blog page you’ll find some background information on nutrition for referees plus things you can apply in your match routines.

Firstly, I’d love you to think what kind of food you eat at the moment on a matchday. Get a pen and paper and write it down, because that gives you the best idea of your food pattern and your daily intake.

The information below is created with information provided online and in classes by FIFA, Uefa and KNVB. Note that I’m not a nutrition expert myself and always contact your own nutrition expert for specific questions.

Nutrition that gives you energy

Secondly, some theory about what kind of nutrients there are and what do they give you.

The 3 most important nutritients that give you energy are:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Proteins
  • Fats


The major “fuel” for your body are the carbohydrates. These are essential for performing during a high-intensity training session or match as a referee. Your body can’t store many carbohydrates, so you need to take them regularly. If you do not eat enough, you’ll get exhausted sooner.

Examples of carbohydrates: bread, pasta, fruit, rice, potatoes, oatmeal.

When to eat: 2-3 hours before a training session or match.

I personally prefer a pre-match (healthy) snack. If you do so, KNVB advises to do that 60 minutes before the game the latest. And because you burn your carbohydrates during the game, you might want to eat some extra during half-time. Make sure your body can handle it. Examples of these snacks: a muesli bar or banana.

Tip: If you eat extra carbohydrates the day before a game, you’ll benefit from it.

Proteins – recovery food for referees

Proteins are a very important part part of your diet. “Protein supports growth, maintenance and repair of the body’s cells and tissues”, is what Uefa advises.

Proteins are crucial for recovery. After you had a match or a hard training session, you want your muscles to recover quickly. Proteins do help you with that.

Examples of proteins: dairy products, eggs, poultry, red meats, white meats, white fish, whole grains, rice, seeds, nuts, pasta, rice. And a lot more.

If the tempo/pace f the game is high with lots of sprints, you stress your muscles. No worries, that is normal. But to properly recover from the stress damage, you need proteins. They basically repair the “damage” and will make you able to keep using them.

Not enough proteins means no full recovery

Something I wrote down after my nutrition for referees class: if you don’t eat enough proteins, you’ll muscles will not fully recover. If you get too much of them, you’ll get fat.

Uefa’s advice in their nutrition programme is: Protein intake should be 75g per day for a referee who weighs 75kg.


Fat is slow energy, but not all fats are bad.

There are lots of good fats, which you’ll find in fish, avocado, nuts, olive oil. They have vitamins and minerals. The “bad” fats are called saturated fats. Examples are: crisps, cookies, fried things.

Also timing is important. If you eat fats around a game it slows down digestion.

Vegetables and fruits

Vegetables and fruits are for maintenance. You eat them to function normally. Two pieces of fruit and five spoons of vegetables a day. 

These fruits will recover the harm done by exercising.

  • Give you energy 
  • Make muscles do their work 
  • Strengthen your immune system (prevent you from getting sick)

A general tip for nutrition. Eat regularly and small quantities. Get three main meals and three to four snacks in between.

How you see nutrition for referees

I love to hear from you how you see nutrition for referees. Love to hear your tips for others. Plus I am curious what kind of questions you have about food related to recovery and fitness