Published on February 5th, 2013 | by admin0
Soccer Nutrition – Tips to get the most from your hard training.
Good soccer nutrition is important in order for the body to reach it’s maximum potential, you need to make sure that it’s adequately nourished and hydrated. Both exercise and the right diet will get you some of the way individually, but when they’re combined they’re unstoppable.
The importance of soccer nutrition applies to anyone participating in the sport, but even more so for players wanting to succeed at a high level. But unfortunately, over the years, with the introduction of countless new diets and recommendations, it has become so easy for even the most motivated player to get his or hers soccer nutrition wrong.
They are many myths and misconceptions around soccer nutrition that we need to ignore when we’re trying to get our diet on point. Such things as: avoiding fat, staying away from carbs and sports drinks seem to be right one minute and wrong the next. But one thing is true: the right soccer nutrition and hydration plan can dramatically enhance your performance.
But from all of these plans and ideas, how do you know which one to follow? Listen to me.
- A healthy diet gives an athlete a solid foundation to build their training and enhance their performance
- Having the right Soccer nutrition pre, inter and post match will help to drastically improve performance, reduce fatigue, speed recovering and reduce muscle catabolization (muscular damage) and increase endurance
- On top of hydration, it’s important to keep your electrolytes balanced too
Did you know that, on average, a soccer player runs a total of six-miles during a 90-minute game? Imagine how much further that would be in a 120-minute game. But this running isn’t all at one pace; we mix walking with all-out sprint bursts and a lot of jogging. We spend a large percentage of a game on the move, regardless of pace. This causes us to sweat and when we sweat we get dehydrated. This isn’t just a loss of water, but a loss of those electrolytes I mentioned – that’s where our hydration supplements come in.
Now, let me tell you what you need to be doing nutritionally to compliment your playing and training throughout the week.
As we’re looking at spending a lot of time being active, we want to be taking on a good amount of good carbohydrates, as these act as our primary fuel source. Examples of carbohydrates are: breads, rice, pasta, vegetables, cereals, oats and beans. When choosing these, always opt for the whole grain/ whole meal/ whole wheat versions, as they provide a better source of fuel for the body.
The reason for this is because carbohydrates are broken down and stored in the muscles as glycogen. Due to our level of activity, these stores are limited and frequently need to be replenished. This is why I recommend small meals and (healthy) snacks throughout the day. This will help to keep your energy levels even and avoid those peaks and troughs that commonly follow big meals.
As your glycogen stores start to empty, you can feel both physically and mentally tired, which will go on to affect your performance, decision making and reaction time on the pitch.
To ensure your glycogen levels stay high and to keep fatigue at bay, be sure to have a carbohydrate-based sports drink before intense training sessions and big games.
To make the most of your soccer nutrition, it’s easier to break it down into these sections, called Macro nutrients.
As mentioned, Carbohydrates come from your breads, grains, vegetables and fruits. Your Protein comes from meat, fish, eggs, lentils, nuts, seeds and pulses, And your fats should come from healthy sources, such as fish oils, yoghurts, skimmed milk and meats.
Every person has a Basal metabolic Rate (BMR) which is calculated via your age, weight, height, sex and activity levels; which is why this is done in a percentage of total calories, rather than a set amount. The BMR is the number of calories that you would burn in 24-hours if you done nothing whatsoever; therefore when we start adding in exercise, we need to up that to ensure that we gain/ lose or maintain our weight, dependent on our goals.
Moving onto hydration now, we all know some of the effects that dehydration can have on the body, like muscular cramp, but it can really effect your performance too. As we sweat out the electrolytes, we need to be replenishing them. This isn’t as simple as just drinking water, as too much water can also dilute our electrolyte balance. An electrolyte (preferably low-sugar/ calorie option, such as ‘Zero’ by High 5) becomes essential as we hydrate, particularly before and after activity of 60-minutes or more.
The easiest way to measure your hydration is to ensure that you’re getting at least 2-litres of water in each day, and checking that your urine isn’t too dark. It should be the color of homemade lemonade.
Pre-Match Soccer Nutrition
- An outline of what i player should do nutritionally in the 2 days leading up to the match.
As we’ve already highlighted, the right soccer nutrition and hydration is key to a great performance, but now we’re going to look at the final two days before the match and how to make sure you’re ready to stay at 100% throughout the match.
We’re going to look at the two-days pre-match, and focus on what we need to eat and drink to get the most out of a game.
In the hours 48-24 before the game, we want to up our carbohydrate intake to between 75-80%, while reducing our fat percentage to accommodate this. The reason for this, is so that the body has enough time to store the excess as glycogen, ready for us to utilize during the game. This is important, as we need it to be there and ready to go during the game; and if we rely on a big meal just before the game, the body won’t have enough time to break it down and therefore it won’t be available to us until after the match.
During this time, we want to be focusing on consuming carbohydrates from starchy sources such as potatoes and our complex carbohydrates from the wholegrain groups. As the complex carbohydrates take longer for the body to breakdown than simple carbohydrates do, this is why we end up with an excess of the broken down glycogen left over, ready for match day.
In the final 12-hours leading up to the game – and even between matches, if they’re on the same day – we don’t want to fill up to close to kick-off with whole wheat, grains, and other ‘heavy’ carbohydrates, as we don’t want to be in the middle of digesting them during the game. Instead, we want to be eating some simple carbohydrates, like our white breads and fruit-based sugars. These are converted much quicker, and are accessible to us for when we need it, in the first stages of the game, before we begin to rely on our glycogen stores.
We also need to stick to our previously stated hydration guidelines during this time, to ensure that the digestive system is able to do its job smoothly.
Aim to have your last meal no less than three hours before kick-off and stick to these guidelines.
Post-Match Soccer Nutrition
- An outline of what a player should do immediately do after the match, think protein shake/ meal and hydration.
After 90-minutesof high intensity stop-start exercise; we need to make sure that we get the right nutrients in to our system after the game, as it have a large effect on how well we recover.
In the 24-hours following the match, it is recommended that you eat 10g of carbohydrate per 1kg of body weight (so, if you weigh 75kg, you should consume 750g of carbohydrates in that 24-hours).
In terms of fluids, you want to weigh yourself at the start of the game, and again at the end. This will give you the weight in fluids that you have lost during the game. Once you have this figure, multiply it by 1.5, it gives you the amount of litres that you need to take on within the 12-hours following the match. So for example, if our 75Kg player weighed 72.75Kg at the end of the game, they would have lost 2.25Kg. This multiplied by 1.5 is 3.375 – lets round this up to 3.4 litres that need to be taken on in that 12 hours.
As I’ve said before, it isn’t just as simple as drinking water. We have to make sure that we’re replenishing those electrolytes. If you don’t have access to an electrolyte supplement like ‘Zero’ by High 5, simply mix some table salt in with your water. The concentration of this should be 0.5 grams of salt to every 1 litre of water.
In the first two hours following the game, the body is going to respond best to the correct nutrition. This is a great time to have a team-meal, all based around the criteria above and stick to our normal, healthy diet. We should look at including 3g/ Kg body-weight of quick-release, white carbohydrates (breads, pasta, potatoes) and fruits in this two-hours, and adding in a minimum of 8 grams of protein, coming from something simple, like chicken or tuna.
The sooner into this two-hour window that we can get eating and drinking, the better. Something like a carbohydrate drink as full-time would be a great way to get started on this, and the have the meal after effective cool-down and showering/ changing.
If it’s been a tough game, sometimes solid food may be a bit too much for the players to take on. If this is the case, a highly concentrated carbohydrate drink would be the best option. This will help to ensure that our glycogen stores are completely replenished.
If we stick to these principles, we will get the most out of our recovery time, and be ready to get back to training the following week. With regards to training, it is important that your weekly schedule is planned to accommodate a high intensity peaks of match-days, with appropriate recovery sessions and harder sessions mid-week, using a periodic training plan.