Soccer players are continuously looking for ways to improve his or her performance, increasing the body’s maximum potential and forcing it to achieve championship form. Training leading up to a game or tournaments is done with hard work and commitment on a daily basis. Along with training, the importance of nutrition can not be overstated. In order to get the best out your body, you need to put the best food in your body. Food that will provide the fuel and high energy needed to perform.
It is important for atheletes to consume the macronutrients; Carbohydrates, Protien and Fats. Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy that fuel muscle contraction. Once eaten, carbohydrates break down into smaller sugars (glucose, fructose and galactose.) Protein is also very important to the diet as they help with recovery and muscle growth. Fats are important and essential to a healthy diet as long as they are consumed appropriately. A general rule is to consume 60% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 15% fat in your diet. Fluid is very important and should be consumed before, during, and after every soccer event.
The pre-game meal should be consumed 3-4 hours prior to a soccer game and should include plenty of fluid. This meal should be planned around individual likes and dislikes, thus a variety is essential. Carbohydrates with a low Glycemic Index (GI) should be consumed before the game to preserve energy stores and provide long lasting energy throughout the game. High GI foods should be consumed immediately before and during the game to provide for lost energy in during the first half of games. Example listed below:
1 hour or less before competition
- fresh fruit such as apples, watermelon, peaches, grapes, or oranges and/or
- Energy gels
- up to 1 1/2 cups of water
2 to 3 hours before competition
- fresh fruits
- bread, bagels, pasta
3 to 4 hours before competition
- fresh fruit
- bread, bagels
- pasta with tomato sauce
- baked potatoes
- energy bar
- cereal with milk
- toast/bread with a bit of peanut butter, lean meat, or cheese
Fluid is most important, in order to maximize performance it is essential to stay hydrated. Water is best but, if sports drinks are preferred choose light colored flavors as they are easier to digest. If desired, only consume easily digested foods during the game. These include crackers, grapes, oranges, watermelon, rice crispy bars, trail mix, etc…
Immediately following the game (within 30 min.), fluids should be consumed. Light snacks should be provided if there is a game the next day or later in the day. This should include high carbohydrate and protein foods. Trail mix, rice crispy bars, watermelon, other fruits and crackers. The post game snack should be provided immediately as this is when the player’s glycogen stores are wide open and able to consume the most for the next match. One to two hours after this event lessens and the player is not able to consume as much food. The post game meal should contain a good balance of carbohydrate, protein, and fat.