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Nutrition for Soccer Players

What better time to talk soccer nutrition than during the excitement building towards the World Cup?!

Soccer is an intermittent team-based sport, which means that players are continually stopping and starting, with a cycle of running, sprinting, and standing. Because of this cycle, soccer players usually have lean bodies – an advantage for sports that require speed.
It is no surprise that athletes require higher amounts of nutrient intake than the average person. High nutrient needs are primarily to fuel elevated activity levels and repair muscle at a quick rate, but may also be to reach a specific weight or body composition required by the sport.

Different sports, as well as different positions within a sport, require different amounts of nutrients due to factors like distance covered or speed or muscle needed.

LetΆs take a look at what your diet should look like overall before we get into the details of training nutrition.

Most importantly, as a soccer player, you need to eat enough calories. If you donΆt eat sufficiently to fuel exercise, you risk having low energy availability.

LetΆs look at specific macronutrient (“big” nutrient) needs. An elite soccer player should be consuming, daily:

5-10 g/kg* of their body weight in carbs
1.2-2.0 g/kg in protein
Less than 20% of their total intake should be from fat
It is always important for athletes to consume enough fluid to avoid dehydration.

*Handy fact: to convert your weight from pounds to kilograms divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. For example, a 150 lb person is 68.2 kg or 150 kg/2.2=68.2 kg.

As a soccer player you should also pay close attention to your pre-game fluid intake:

Drink 5-7 ml/kg of body weight of water at least 4 hours before a match and,
Drink 3-5 ml/kg 2 hours before the game if you are at risk of dehydration.

Mid-Game Snack
Mid-game, munch a snack that contains 30-60g of carbs. This carb boost has been shown to provide beneficial effects in soccer playersΆ performance. Many players find sports drinks helpful. You can make your own, or rely on a commercial drink. Just make sure the fluid has a 6-8% solution of glucose, sucrose, or maltodextrin. (This amount has shown to provide just the right amount to improve at least one soccer-related skill and improve time to fatigue.)

Post-Game Recovery
If your team has another match to play within 72 hours, the recommendations for post-game meals are strict: 1-1.2g/kg/hour of carbs or 0.8g/kg of carbs plus 0.4g/kg/hour of protein.

If your next match is more than 72 hours after, focus on protein. Eat 0.25-0.4g/kg of protein immediately after exercise to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, and eat carbs and fats as desired.

Want to play like Ronaldo, Messi, and Neymar? Hmmm … this may take the right genes and many years of practice. Want to eat like the greats? This is much more achievable.

Proper nutrition is important for everyone, athlete or not, but athletes risk so much by not paying close attention to making sure their energy intake is sufficient. With a low energy intake, an athlete can expect to see a decrease in athletic performance, an early onset of fatigue, and the inability for muscles to recover properly.

With Friendly Regards,
Leonardo Curatolo, Atene 9/1/2019