Soccer or football as it is known around the world is one of the biggest participation sport presently in the world, and due to this, it is constantly evolving with its professionalism and its understanding also gaining new grounds.
The competitiveness and strategically motivated advantages are of significant importance in soccer, this has led to various research and advancement in the soccer science as it is called, and a key area often being overlooked in the development of soccer is nutrition and the soccer players diet, i.e., what should soccer players eat before a match?. This has enormous benefits as it can affect a player’s performance and overall health as an athlete.
Understanding nutrition from the top can be described as a science that interprets and investigates the nutrient and substances a food contains, while sports nutrition is the study of food and diet to optimize athletic performance. Now that being said, maximizing both team and individual sports players through nutrition is paramount; hence we dive right into its importance.
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Importance of Nutrition and Diet for Soccer
Research has it that players are now faced with increased physical demands during competitive soccer seasons, and specific actions to be undertaken by the players differ for each individual player. These will obviously lead to increased energy consumption to maximize their physical abilities to cover the ground at high intensity and recover both on and off the pitch.
Various activities for each player differ, as we stated earlier, and this can be attributed to factors like their position on the team and their natural physical attributes. This has led coaches and practitioners to study and learn the importance of sports nutrition to advise and provide further information about soccer players’ diet plans. More importantly, understanding sports nutrition as regards soccer specifically will enable a practitioner to
- To give helpful information on how many calories a soccer player should eat per day for their enhanced athletic performance in carrying out their roles, both positional and intermittently in or out of possession.
- Optimizing specific training regimens and interventions.
- To help increase soccer players’ recovery process within, between, or after games and training sessions.
- To ensure players maintain an ideal body composition across age and experience levels
- To also positively influence the various types of soccer injuries through prevention and maximizing recovery processes.
On a basic level, the nutrition and diet of players should contain carbohydrates, protein, and fats fundamentally.
Looking at carbohydrates, they are sugar, starch, and fiber found in various foods such as vegetables, grains, and fruits. They give glucose to the body, convert it to energy, and maintain physical activities. It also happens to be part of muscle glycogen, the most crucial energy source for soccer players. In fact, for athletes’ dietary wise, 60-70% of energy should come from carbohydrates.
A soccer match requires high energy consumption, and this is due to the increased distance traveled during the game. The higher the competitiveness and intensity, the greater the energy consumed. That’s why reports have shown that the rise of adrenaline can cause a massive drain in energy afterward. That is why adequate nutrition control is essential before, during, and after the match.
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Protein is another top nutritional class for soccer players. It makes up part of the structure of the everyday cell in the body. The body’s framework is formed by protein transporting materials around the body and inside the cells. Protein is also necessary to grow and develop new tissues and repair old ones.
A soccer player’s diet is suggested to contain approximately 12-15% protein; that being said, a soccer player is required around 1.3-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of their body weight per day. This enables the manufacture of enzymes and hormones such as insulin and adrenaline.
As protein is being broken and rebuilt in the body, it is paramount that there is a regular supply of protein in a soccer player’s diet to compensate for the continuous loss that occurs during training and competition. Important to know that protein is made up of smaller components called amino acids produced in small quantities by the body. That’s why more of it should be provided through the soccer player’s diet. Good sources of protein are
- Meat (avoid processed meat)
- Game, i.e., Venison, pheasant
We are looking at Fats, and it is the most concentrated source of energy in the diet. It will interest you to know that Fats contain roughly double the number of calories per gram as carbohydrates and protein; it also contains fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Foods contain a mixture of three types of fats, i.e., saturated fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Saturated fats are found in meat, meat products cooking fats, biscuits, cakes, pastries, etc.
A small portion of fat intake should come from saturated fat. This is because it is thought to harm health by raising the cholesterol level in the blood, increasing heart disease. The other portion should come from monounsaturated or polyunsaturated sources such as olive and rapeseed oils and vegetable oils, liquids at room temperature.
Now we have looked at how important nutrition is to soccer players and what their diet should basically contain let us dive in to the main course and discuss their diet proceeding into games or matches and even after these matches.
Also read: How the US Began To Embrace Soccer
Diet Days Before a Soccer Match
In the event of a soccer match players are expected nutrition-wise to optimise the stores of carbohydrates in the muscles i.e. building maximum energy reserve and staying well hydrated. It should also be taken into notice that an optimal diet for sports performance days before the match or competition will not be effective as eating healthy diet over an extended period of time should always be adhered to. In preparation for the match to stay hydrated by
- Drinking at least 1.5 litres of water a day until your urine is as clear as possible
- Avoid trying new food or diet routine as it well affect the body system
- Avoid eating spicy food and vegetables containing gluten such as broccoli, artichokes, cauliflower etc.
- Avoid legumes and foods too rich in fibre
- Reduce taking fatty foods such as sausages, sauces or pastries
- Avoid excess caffeine and alcohol intake.
Diet on Soccer Match Day
We have looked at the preparation phase for the match now what about the D day itself the match day. It starts from the dinner of that day before the match. Dinner should be eaten at least two hours before bed; it is important digestion starts before going to bed so as not to have an uneasy sleep.
Well-cooked pasta and rice, Vegetable salad or lean fish, omelette, fruit or yogurt then not forgetting to drink water as fluids are needed. Before the match meal should be finished at least three hours before, to allow digestion without gastrointestinal discomfort. That particular food should be rich in carbohydrates and less protein and fats.
The food should also be taken in right proportions so as not to over feed. As said earlier avoid spicy foods and drink little liquid during the meal as too much will make digestion daunting. Now we have seen the basic requirements let’s paint a picture of what the pre match meal should be like
- Carbohydrate-rich foods e.g. cereals, fruits, white bread etc.
- Mild protein and fats like fresh cheese, skimmed yoghurt, turkey etc.
- Drink 2-3 glasses of water or isotonic drink to stay hydrated.
In summary healthy diet and nutrition is very important to soccer players. A good directive to how to go about this is also very important little wonder most soccer teams and coaching crew consist of a nutritionist or dietician. In retrospect this has a huge impact on the team spirit and athletic performance.