Soccer players and people in general often overlook the importance of eating for energy and endurance. Any clued-up athlete should know that eating for endurance on match day is simply smart. Soccer players of any age and ability should know the value of nutrition and how it affects your peak performance.
However, we often confuse eating food for energy by associating it with eating too much. On the contrary. The latest nutrition phrase, “food is fuel” holds true and we cannot forget its power.
What Should A Soccer Player Eat For Better Performance?
Many athletes find themselves confused by two opposing nutrition views. And it’s not just them because we get just as confused!
- Eat a traditional carbohydrate-based sports diet,
- Eat a fat-based diet which severely limits your intake of carbohydrates.
A top player like Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t get his strong and powerful physique, or legs – from cutting calories or starving himself. If you want to have the stamina for a full hour of hardcore training, no matter what you’re doing, then you need to eat your calories!
The Dieticians of Canada state that most soccer players need 21 calories per pound (45 calories/kg) of lean body mass (LBM). If you’re working in Kg’s then you’d need to work with Kilojoules. That means, if you weigh 150 pounds and have 10% body fat, your LBM is 135 pounds. Therefore your estimated energy needs are 2,800 calories a day.
Having said this, every person’s energy needs are different. It all depends on your level of activity throughout the day. Are you a fidgety person? Maybe you sit in front of a computer all day. How much muscle do you already have?
There are plenty of apps that can be used to help track your calories. They are somewhat beneficial. However, your body is your best calorie counter.
Many athletes choose to eat intuitively. Although there is controversy around this technique, I believe it truly does work if you do it correctly. Basically, don’t eat yourself silly, but know when you need to fuel your body. Eat when you feel hungry and stop when you feel content. 9 times out of 10, you’re eating enough! The problem stems from when people get carried away and don’t realize when they are full.
Cutting Fuel Is The Quickest Road To Poor Performance
Most times people, and in this case, soccer players, cut too much. We need to eat a lot more than we think to fuel our bodies for sustained energy. A lot of good food, that is.
If you struggle to know when you’ve had enough, then a handy trick is to wait 10 to 20 minutes after eating. You must then ask yourself if your body really needs more fuel and answer it honestly.
Never stop eating for the sake of it. Soccer players who choose to stop eating because they polished off a bowl of oats or some other prepped meal end up under-fuelling and hurting their performance.
GoalNation reports that even players on diets have to work out fully fueled. The best way to do this is to eat enough throughout the day, post and pre-workout, and then eat less at night time. Therefore, you would burn fat whilst sleeping.
Successful soccer players eat a healthy amount of carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein, and fill out the calorie gaps with healthy fats. There are some ‘carb-phobic’ athletes who survive on ketones for energy, however, there is no scientific evidence that proves this to be more effective than following a whole foods diet, which uses carbohydrates and whole grains for fuel. In fact, switching to a high-fat diet can be quite a grueling process for any athlete in the first initial weeks.
Sometimes athletes can ‘hit a wall’ in their training when following a ketogenic diet. By increasing your fat intake to 70% of your calories, you could be getting about 1,800 calories (185 g) of fat per day!
According to experts, a very high-fat diet produces ketones which force the body to burn ketones for energy. Keto-athletes have to experience a tough 3 to 4 weeks of body transitioning so that it starts to burn fat, not glucose, for energy. There are some athletes who promote the keto diet, however, years of sports nutrition science to date, show hardly any performance benefits from a ketogenic sports diet. Your sugar binges might stop, but it doesn’t mean you’ll be a better soccer player.
What Does An Average Daily Meal Plan Look Like?
Carbs are really important, particularly on game days.
An athlete should make whole grains the core of every meal. Choose to eat more oatmeal for breakfast. Then, at lunch a hearty wholewheat sandwich with vegetables and protein in it. A soccer player also requires more brown rice at dinner to get three times more calories from carbs than from protein. This way he/she will perform at their best on game day or throughout a tough workout session.
Protein is also a vital component in every meal. However, not in excess and should be consumed at least four times daily. That means 3 eggs at breakfast with a bowl of oatmeal, a hearty sandwich at lunch, a portion of lean meat/fish/chicken for dinner, and cottage cheese with fruit for an afternoon or bedtime snack.
Vegetarian? No problem! You would need to eat lots of beans, hummus, nuts, and tofu at every meal. You can’t just have a little sprinkle of beans with your salad, as this will not fuel your body properly. If you consume protein every 3 to 5 hours, you will optimize muscle building and avoid fast muscle breakdown.
Always Keep Hydrated
A fantastic way to know whether you’re drinking enough water is to look at your urine. It sounds strange but is very often the best indicator. Your urine should appear diluted, light-colored, and happen at least every 2 to 4 hours. Unless you are taking vitamin supplements, which make your urine a darker color.
Smart soccer players are aware of their sweat rate and have a strategy that stops dehydration. Experts suggest weighing yourself nude before and after one hour of soccer, during which you drink nothing. To prevent any loss, it is recommended to keep drinking water or sports drinks every 15 minutes throughout games or training sessions. We encourage keeping hydrated to anybody who spends time in the gym or working out.
Eat Enough Calories To Fuel Workouts
Often soccer players can have games that run from 60 to 90 minutes. The secret is to target 40 to 80 calories (10 to 20 g) of carbohydrates every 20 minutes. You will only start this after the first hour of training because you already have fuel from your pre-workout meal.
This is useful information for any athletes or fitness enthusiasts out there. Particularly when training for more than two consecutive hours.
The point is to continuously fuel your body daily. This way you can train your gut to tolerate the fuel. Therefore you’ll be able to enjoy your food and not have to stress about energy levels or intestinal distress.
If you are going to play soccer or any other form of sport, there is no question that you’ll want to get the best out of your workouts. Therefore, you need to understand that top performance is only achievable with a top nutrition plan.
Cristiano Ronaldo and many others eat smart, play smooth, and enjoy high-energy food.
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