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Coach’s Corner

As we eat on Thanksgiving, lets see what soccer players fuel their body with for maximum performance!

Dietary Recommendations to Improve Performance.

The following information is designed to help improve your performance by being aware of what you eat and drink, and comparing this to a recommended pro soccer player’s diet.

By following these recommendations you are doing all you can off the field to becoming a better player.

Why Do I Need the Correct Diet?

On average a professional soccer player has to run every 30 seconds, sprint all-out once every 90 seconds and change directions over a 1000 times every game.

All these movements need energy; if you start training or a game with low energy levels because of a poor diet, you will definitely not be able to perform to the required level. However, imagine if your opponent can because of their diet.

The Correct Diet.

The correct diet must contain the right amount of the following food groups:

Carbohydrates:

Why Eat Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are the body’s first source of energy and the easiest food group to break down and provide energy to your muscles. Some of your body’s organs can only get their energy from carbohydrates.

What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are basically sugars, the most recognized and important being glucose. They can be spilt into two groups, simple or complex. Simple sugars supply instant energy, because they are kept in the blood. However, the body can turn these to fat if eaten in large amounts, and not followed by exercise. Examples of simple carbohydrates are:

Honey Jam
Sugar Potato
Raisins Bananas
Chocolate White bread
Bagel Corn Flakes
Swedish Fish Candy

Complex sugars are more difficult to breakdown but keep a constant supply of glucose to the body during exercise. Examples of these types of sugars are:

Peas Beans
Apples Dried fruits
Milk products Pasta
Oat products Rice
Whole grain products Nuts
Vegetables Yoghurt
Some cheeses Some meats

 

Both types of carbohydrates are important to the soccer player. Complex sugars should be eaten 2-3 hours before performing, while simple sugars can be eaten at half time or during regular intervals during training.

A soccer player’s diet should consist of about 60% carbohydrates

Fats: 

Why Eat Fats? 

Fats actually supply the body with more energy than carbohydrates, but the body finds them more difficult to breakdown and therefore uses them as secondary energy sources. Fat is important though for protection of organs and supplying energy when carbohydrates run-out. However, if you eat too much fat and do not perform enough exercise it attaches to your skin and that’s how you gain weight. Once fat is stored around our skin it is extremely difficult to remove and requires even more exercise to do so.

What are Fats?

Fats again can be spilt into two groups saturated or unsaturated, or simpler unhealthy/healthy fats. Saturated fats are found in animal products and are only needed in short supply by our bodies. Unsaturated fats are found in vegetable products and can be stored by the body ready to use as energy when carbohydrates run-out.

 

Saturated Fats Unsaturated Fats
Red meat Vegetable oils
Full-fat milk Fish
Butter Soya products
Animal oils
Fried foods
Eggs
Cheese
Fast food
Cakes

 

Both types of fats are important but saturated fats must be eaten in moderation. An ideal pro soccer player’s diet should be 20 to 25% fats.

 

Proteins:

Why Eat Proteins?

Proteins don’t actually supply the body with energy during exercise; only in extreme conditions such as starvation can the body use proteins for fuel. Proteins are found in every single cell in the body so they do play an important role in all bodily functions. During soccer the cells in your muscle’s die because of the demands of the exercise, an example of this is soreness you may sometimes experience after a game. If muscle cells are made up of proteins, which you lose during exercise, we must replace these after the match and you can do this in the form of nutrition. This will help muscles to be rebuilt, so that you can train at the same intensity and not got any soreness or injury after exercise.

What are Proteins? 

Proteins are made up of amino acids, which are complicated structures. Proteins can be found in eggs, milk, meat, fish and poultry.

The pro soccer player’s diet should be about 10% protein, but in young players protein intake should increase to 15% to support your growth and development.

 

When and What to Eat. 

You should leave about a 2-3 hour interval between a full meal and exercise to prevent any stomach problems such as feeling full or sickness. Also the stomach should be relatively empty before exercise because digestion of food will compete with the muscles for a good blood supply.

The pre-exercise meal should be high in carbohydrates, preferably complex carbohydrates, such as bread, cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruits and vegetables. The only time they should be avoided is 30-60 minutes immediately before exercise because they can cause the blood glucose levels to fall once you start exercising and so not leave you with enough available energy.

At half time you can eat simple carbohydrates. Some professional teams have Swedish fish and small amounts of chocolate, however they don’t eat large amounts, just enough to supply some energy.

The after match food should be quite similar to the pre-match food, containing predominantly more carbohydrates, but also equal amounts of proteins and fats. Therefore the energy lost during exercise is replaced so that you can train or exercise at the same intensity again the next day. 

A Balanced Diet.

At this stage of your soccer life were definitely not asking you to watch every meal you eat, all were doing is making you aware of what’s needed for you to continuously perform at your best.