Grassroots referee tips – Hydration and nutrition

Whether you referee football at the elite or grassroots level, hydration and nutrition are two of the most important factors for football referees.

Having enough energy to effectively referee the match and ensuring you quickly recover after each match are critical to referees performing at their peak.

This week we spoke with FFA Referee Fitness Instructor Rhiannon Creaser to get some hydration and nutrition tips to help you referee at your peak each match.

Question: How will eating the right foods help my performance?

Rhiannon Creaser: A healthy diet will go a long way towards improving your on field performance.  It is also an important part of weight management, and if you’re carrying excess fat mass you’ll be slower, it takes a lot more energy and it’s difficult to move fluently.

You need energy to last the duration of a match so you can sustain the required physical effort and maintain mental function. Choose the wrong foods and you may find yourself bouncing off the walls for the first half the match and missing key decisions in the last 20 minutes.

Question: How long before my first match should I eat?

RC: This can vary a little between individuals but a general rule of thumb is to eat at least one hour prior to physical activity. Going without food for more than four hours beforehand may negatively impact your performance. The time of day you’re refereeing will also affect this – in the morning, you’ve not had any food for well over eight hours, making it imperative that you have breakfast before you referee.

Question: What types of food are best to eat on match day?

RC: The body needs to predominantly use carbohydrates as a source of fuel. Fats contain more energy but are much slower and inefficient to break down. The type of carbohydrate you eat is important too. They range from very small, simple to break down molecules which release energy very quickly (sugar) through to very low energy release (low GI/glycaemic index) foods. Low GI foods will provide you with a sustained energy release over a long period of time and provides the foundation of your energy needs for the day.

Examples of low GI carbohydrate foods (as part of a meal protein, fat and vegetables) include: brown rice, pasta, sweet potato, oats/porridge, shredded wheat (weet-bix).

Question: I’m refereeing several games in a row, what type of food should I eat between matches?

RC: More carbohydrates are important to re-fuel but in this scenario you are providing a ‘top-up.’ Fruits are great for this scenario as is a small (wholemeal) wrap or sandwich if you have enough time between matches. If you have less time between matches but fruit is not sufficiently filling you up then one or two pieces of wholemeal bread or biscuit may be more appropriate.


Question: What type of foods will help me recover post-match?

RC: A standard healthy, balanced meal should sufficiently help you to recover. There’s really no need to consume protein supplements after refereeing as there is little muscle damage. Energy needs to be replenished (a combination of carbohydrates, proteins and some fats). Vegetables and fruits will restore much needed minerals and vitamins which will also assist in the recovery process.

Question: How much fluid should I drink post-match?

RC: For every 1 kg of body weight you lose throughout a match you should consume 1 L of water, try drinking at least 500 mL water per hour for the first four hours. If you feel thirsty continue a higher than normal amount of fluid consumption over the next few hours; remember thirst kicks in when you are already de-hydrated. Also beware of alcohol and caffeine; they’ll trick you into thinking you’re well hydrated when they’re actually causing the opposite.

Question: Should I focus on consuming water or sports drinks post-match?

RC: Water is absolutely more beneficial. Post-match there’s no need for the sugar in sports drinks. You will lose far greater amounts of water than electrolytes throughout a football match and so water consumption will be key to restoring this balance.

Question: Where can I find out more about eating well for refereeing?

RC: The Australian Guidelines to Healthy Eating can be used for further general dietary advice. These can be found at If you have a medical condition or circumstances that may alter your dietary needs you should consult with a dietician.