Offseason Nutrition for Referees

Off-Season Nutrition for Referees

by Michael Donovan, Ph.D

As a college soccer referee, whether you know it or not, you are an athlete.  Athletes in any sport use the off season to perfect technique, refine skills and practice actions they plan to implement during the season. While most athletes spend a lot of time thinking about their physical training, recovery and nutrition are often overlooked.  The off season is a perfect time to focus on your nutrition and familiarize yourself with foods you avoided during the college season.

Eat whole foods and pass on the energy bars, sports drinks and gels

If you relied on quick, convenience foods between work and refereeing or when you were traveling to a match, now is a great time to focus on eating more whole foods such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables.  Gradually increase your intake of these nutrient-rich foods over the next few weeks and avoid processed grains and convenience foods like energy bars and sports drinks.

Eat a variety of foods

When you are refereeing multiple games each week, it is especially important to make sure you eat a variety of foods.  Eating a varied diet will ensure you get all of the nutrients you need, in addition to getting enough energy.  Several nutrients such as iron, calcium and vitamin A, C and E are often low during times of high training or activity, so now is a great time to eat foods that contain high levels of these nutrients.

Eat foods to help trim body fat

Attempting to lose weight during the busy fall season can leave you lacking energy and prone to making mistakes on the field.  Your body cannot sustain the intensity of refereeing games day in and day out if you are not eating enough calories.   The off-season is a much better time to focus on losing weight.  To lose about 1 pound per week, aim to reduce your daily food consumption by 500-600 calories every day. (Note: in addition to cutting back on calories, continuing moderate intensity training when you’re not on the field, is the other part of the equation.)

Reduce empty calories

“Empty calories” refers to foods that contain very little nutritional value. These foods are generally   extremely high in calories and fat and not very fulfilling, leaving you hungry almost immediately. Examples of foods containing mostly empty calories include: french fries, fried chicken, chips and all other deep-fried foods, candy, pop and other sweetened packaged foods, refined grains such as crackers, cookies, white rice and white bread. Avoid empty calories by using other methods of cooking instead of deep-frying, avoid sweetened drinks, opt for whole grains instead of refined grains and snack on fruits instead of crackers, cookies or blended coffee beverages.


Examples of nutrient-rich foods


Whole grains: Brown rice, Bulgur/Cracked wheat, Couscous, Oatmeal, Popcorn, Whole grain barley

Processed grains: Bagels, Corn flakes, Corn tortillas, Multi-grain bread, Pretzels, Wheat cereal, Whole wheat crackers, Whole wheat cereal, Whole wheat noodles, Whole wheat sandwich buns and rolls



Milk: Low fat or fat free milk, reduced-fat chocolate milk,

Yogurt: low fat or fat free yogurt

Reduced fat, Low fat or Fat free Cheese: Cheddar, Cottage Cheese, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Ricotta, Swiss


Beans, Fish, Meat, Nuts, Seeds

Beans: Black beans, Pinto beans, Soy beans, Tofu

Fish and Seafood: Canned Tuna, Catfish, Crab, Salmon, Shrimp, Tilapia

Meat: Beef bottom round roast or steak, Beef tenderloin, Ground beef (90-95% lean), Lamb roast, Lamp chops, Pork tenderloin or boneless loin chops, Skinless chicken breast, Skinless ground turkey breast,  T-Bone steak, Top sirloin steak

Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, Flax seeds, Peanuts, Peanut butter, Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds, Walnuts

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits: Avocados, Apples, Apricots, Bananas, Blueberries, Cantaloupe, Cherries, Cranberries, Grapes, Grapefruit, Kiwifruit, Mangos, Orange juice, Peaches, Pineapple, Plums, Raisins, Raspberries, Strawberries, Watermelon

Vegetables: Arugula lettuce, Asparagus, Bell peppers, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cauliflower, Carrots, Garbanzo beans, Green beans, Green cabbage, Green onion, Mushrooms, Kidney beans, Okra, Peas, Red cabbage, Red onions, Red potatoes, Romaine lettuce, Spinach, Summer squash, Sweet potatoes, Tomatoes, Zucchini