Nutrition for Soccer, Part 1
Author: Certified HyperStrike Trainers
American soccer (or football if you’re anywhere other than the U.S.) is a high-intensity, intermittent sport that requires both strength and endurance over a period of 90 minutes. Overall, it demands anaerobic and aerobic ability. As a player, your body must be finely tuned to be able to twist, pivot, kick, jump, sprint, decelerate and still offer a slide tackle throughout a game.
Nutrition and Soccer
It is difficult to play a game as physically demanding as soccer for a 90-minute stretch. Goals are tough to come by, and players need to eat right to have the best shot at winning. Not only must you start strong, but you must finish just as strong.
When thinking about how to eat for a sport this demanding, consider the goal of a training program, which varies depending on position and time of year. Like it or not, what you do off the field in your kitchen is just as important as practicing your latest Pelé-like move for SportsCenter’s “Top 10 Highlights.”
Here are a few general guidelines to help players prepare and recover between practice sessions and competitions:
The guidelines are as follows:
- Eat nutrient dense foods. Keep junk food and processed food at a minimum. These contain calories that the body does not use optimally because of their low vitamin and mineral content. Fresh is best.
- Eat approximately every three to four hours to maintain insulin levels and aid in physical and neural recovery.
- Eat complex carbohydrates (starches) at a ratio of 5–8 g/kg bodyweight (2.5-3.5 g/lb bodyweight) (1). For example, a 70 kg (154 lb) male needs 350 – 420 g of carbohydrates per day. Starchy foods such as pasta, wheat bread, whole grain cereals, brown rice, potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, and vegetables provide a major energy source to fuel your activities. These foods are also a source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients – the health protective substances in plant foods.
- Choose protein sources at a ratio of 1.2–1.6 g/kg bodyweight (0.54-0.86 g/lb bodyweight) from turkey, chicken, eggs, fish (although cold water fish have higher fat content, these are much needed healthy fats), lean cuts of beef, tofu and low-fat cottage cheese (1).
- Choose healthy fat sources from nuts, avocadoes and cold-water fish. Eat 40 to 100 grams of fat per day. If you do not get enough of these, take an essential fatty acid supplement or fish oil supplement (one to two tablespoons each day).
- Keep drinking water or sport drinks to maintain hydration while training. Try to avoid water-like substances such as Kool-Aid, sodas, juice or lemonade. Although these may contain water and some carbohydrates, they also contain a greater amount of the wrong type of carbohydrate source (sucrose and/or fructose), which can ultimately lead to gastrointestinal (GI) distress (i.e. diarrhea) and decreased performance.
- Eat a diet that consists of a wide variety of foods by keeping in mind the basic food groups. It is the best insurance for getting needed nutrients.
- Consume 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day among the foods that you eat. High fiber foods include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and cereals. Read labels and be aware of fiber content in everything you eat.
- Avoid high-fructose corn syrup and excessive table sugar, even when trying to gain weight. These include candy, juices, desserts, baked goods, etc.
- Use meal replacement shakes, fruit smoothies or bars whenever necessary. Always keep bars available such as in a book bag, purse, glove compartment, locker, or wherever poor nutrition might be the alternative such as at a competition. Try an assortment of brands to see which you like.
- Take a multivitamin/mineral supplement from a reputable brand.
- Before going to bed, eat a light snack such as peanut butter on whole-wheat bread and a glass of skim milk.
- Only certain supplements are beneficial for soccer players.
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