- Complex carbohydrates: found in rice, bread, pasta, potatoes, cereals, fruit
- Unsaturated fats: found in sunflower oil, salmon, nuts
- Protein: found in milk, chicken, eggs, fish, yogurt
- Vitamins and minerals: found in fruit, vegetables, dairy products
- Fiber: found in seeds, peas, beans
- Water: found in foods, drinks, formulated sports drinks.
Soccer players need energy, which is most commonly found in carbohydrate. This should account for nearly 70% of a soccer player’s diet, which many fail to realize.
The optimal carbohydrate calorie intake for a player is 2400-3000, but many players fail to get near this, meaning their glycogen levels are below average. Players who start a game with low glycogen levels can struggle after half-time because they have little carbohydrate left in their muscles by the time the second half starts.
Good carbohydrate intake can be achieved by snacking throughout the day, rather than three regular meals, and it is particularly beneficial to re-fuel just after training or a match to replenish the energy stores in the muscles.
Bananas, granola bars, bagels, low fat pudding, yogurts, milkshakes and fruit are just some of the snacks that are high in carbohydrate but low in fat.
A healthy diet means a player has the possibility to recover quicker from an injury.
Remember –you only get out of your body what you put in. Moderation is the key to a healthy, well balanced diet.
What/When to Eat Before a Match
Pre match or training session meals should be a balance of carbohydrates with just a little protein, because proteins might cause difficulties with digestion.
In order to maintain glucose in the blood, you need to it some carbohydrates like in pasta or rice and always in combination with vegetables and a small amount of protein, trying to be as free from fat as possible. Time table should be no later than 2 hours prior to the match or session, preferred time to eat you meal is 3 hours but you will need to experiment, as every athlete is different.
What/When to Eat After a Match
Time table for eating you post match/training meal should be 30 minutes after the final whistle. The reason for trying to eat as soon as possible after a match is because there is a period of time, up to 45 minutes after physical exercise, where you can refuel carbohydrates and proteins. At the end of the match, the muscles are exhausted and your system is tired from converting nutrients into fuel, so in this phase you have to recover glucose and carbohydrates via pasta or rice.
Gameday Meal Suggestions:
- 100% fruit juices, wheat toast and low fat spreads
- Low sugar cereal (no milk), muffins (no topping) jams and honey
- Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat hot cereal
- Whole grain waffles, pancakes, bagel
Each item listed below contains roughly 50 grams of carbohydrates. Athletes should consume .5 to .7 grams of carbs per pound of body weight within 30 minutes after exercise to promote optimal recovery.
- 3 slices of bread
- 2 pancakes or 2 pieces of French Toast
- 2 pieces of fresh fruit
- 1 cup of cold cereal (check labels)
- 1 sports bar or 2 small granola bars (check labels)
- 10 ounces of fruit juice
- 16 ounces of chocolate or strawberry milk
Each item on this list contains roughly 10 grams of protein. An optimal recovery meal consumed within 30 minutes after a workout should contain 10 to 20 grams of protein.
- 1 ounce of meat/poultry/fish/seafood
- 2 eggs or 2 egg whites
- 8 ounces of milk (dairy or soy)
- 1 cup of yogurt
- 1/2 cup of beans
- 1/2 cup of hummus
- 1 sports bar (check labels)
- 1/3 cup of nuts or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
- Grilled chicken, grilled or steamed fish
- Potatoes, rice and whole wheat pasta
- All sauces should be tomato based
- Stay away from creamy sauces
- Variety of vegetable
- Red meat should be lean and NOT cooked well done
- Fries are allowed – but they need to be thick so they will not absorb all the oil
- Baked potatoes
- Vegetable lasagna or ravioli
Proper water consumption should be practiced every day by creating a schedule to consume a glass of water or more every two hours daily. Your hydration plan should consist of drinking 75% of body weight in ounces. Total water amount should be consumed in small quantities (20 oz bottle) before the game or practice and after the match or training. Proper hydration should also include taking sips of water during any break during matches or training sessions.
For a more accurate reading, players need to weigh themselves before the match/training and then post match/training. The weight lost will represent the amount of water that players should consume in the next 24 hours to bring their hydration back up to normal.
So if a player weighs in at 150 lbs before the match/training and then weights 148 lbs after the match/training, that player should consume 2 lb (32 oz) of water on top of the daily 75% water intake to re-hydrate the body for the next day’s match or training.
Hydration can also be checked through urinating. If the urine is white or barely yellow than the player is well hydrated. If the urine is dark yellow that means that the player is dehydrated and should consume water to hydrate their body.
During games, you sweat, and when you sweat, you lose two important substances that your body needs: water and electrolytes (this makes your sweat taste like salt).
After games or an intense training session, you need to put these substances back into your body, trying to replace with a slightly larger amount than what you lost, sooner rather than later. Until you rehydrate, your body will have a hard time keeping cool and you may be prone to cramps and other problems.
Drinking water is just a start because it does not contain electrolytes. You're better off drinking a sports drink that has both water and electrolytes. Try to drink at least 12 ounces of sports drink in the first half-hour after the game ends. If it's a hot day, you may need to drink even more.
The goal is to drink 1.5 pints for every pound of weight lost over the next 24 hours, before the next workout. Your urine should be no darker than diluted lemonade.
You also burn a lot of energy fuel during games. The main energy fuel used in soccer is carbohydrates, which is stored in your muscles, liver, and blood. The human body cannot store very much at once. In a hard game or session, you can easily burn most of the carbohydrates stored in your body.
It's important to quickly replace this carbohydrate. Until you do, you will not have much energy. Most sports drinks contain carbohydrates, so a convenient way to put energy back into your body is to get it from the same place you get your water and electrolytes.
You can also get carbohydrate from foods like fruits, breads, starches and certain vegetables. Muscles refill with carbohydrate the fastest immediately after exercise. Don't wait even as little as two hours after exercise to start, as the rate of refilling becomes slower.
Your muscles are mostly made of proteins. During games, some muscle protein can be damaged; this is a main reason your legs feel sore and weak after games. The good news is that your body is able to build new muscle proteins at two to three times the normal rate after hard exercise. All you need to do is supply the building blocks -- protein -- to do the job in the first couple hours after the game is over.
Most sports drinks do not contain protein, but some of the new ones are adding it. Using a sport drink with protein is a good way to go because of the convenience. You can get the water, electrolytes, carbohydrate, and protein you need for recovery all from one source.
You can also get protein from foods like meat and cheese, but these foods also tend to be high in fat. When you eat a lot of fat after hard exercise, or even too much protein, it takes longer for the nutrients to get through your system to your muscles. This slows down the whole recovery process. Good rule to follow, “the less legs, the better (lower fat)” beef/pork 4, chicken/turkey 2, fish 0
So a sport drink that contains protein is a better choice for post-game nutrition. It contains everything your body needs to bounce back fast, and without anything unneeded to get in the way.
Get a head start on recovery
Using a sport drink with protein during games is also a good idea for two reasons. First, it will delay fatigue so you can play harder, longer. In one experiment, athletes who drank a sports drink with protein were able to exercise 24% longer than athletes who drank a regular sports drink with no protein.
Second, the protein in the drink will reduce the amount of muscle protein breakdown that happens during the game, so there is less rebuilding to be done afterward.
While your muscles are still warm after a game, stretch your muscles. This will keep your blood flowing, helping to deliver nutrients to your muscles and to clear away built-up wastes. You can start drinking your sports drink while you stretch. Later in the day, you can massage your legs or use a foam roller to increase blood flow to the muscles.
After you play a game, try not to do anything too strenuous for the rest of the day. Your body requires rest in order to rehydrate, re-energize, and rebuild the muscles. At the very least, be sure to get plenty of sleep that night. During sleep, your body releases hormones that help your muscles rebuild.
The recovery checklist
After every game:
Stretch while your muscles are still warm
Drink at least 12 oz. of a sports drink containing protein (within 2 hours, quicker the better)
Monitor your urine color
Take it easy
Get a good night's sleep
Parents you will have the greatest influence on your player’s nutritional habits and food intake
Become a student of a healthy diet for an athlete