Nutrition tips for footballers

Well done Wales, currently the best Welsh football team we have ever had. Coaches and athletes are more aware than ever that in sport in diet is essential to improving health and sports performance.

Good nutrition enables footballers to: build and repair body tissue, regulate metabolism, obtain energy and nutrients, maintain immune function and effectively utilise glycogen stores when required. Poor nutritional intake affects a footballer’s ability to train, recover from training, compete and perform during a match.

Football is a great sport from a fitness level; the average distance covered by a typical player during a football match is about 6 miles (10km). Most of the activity is aerobic however a large proportion is anaerobic as they sprint for the ball. This is a lot of running at different levels and can place a greater strain on the muscle glycogen stores.  In studies of professional football players they found that their energy (calories) and their nutrient intakes were similar to the general population, despite having a higher energy (calories) and nutrient requirement. Ensuring that the footballer does not run out of energy after 90 minutes playing, the footballer needs to think about a number of factors.

·         Travelling to other countries- Travelling can affect meal times and sleep patterns, all if not adapted can cause players to become tired and lethargic, flying can also cause dehydration.

·         During training- Eating a high carbohydrate diet and consuming enough fluid to sustain your weight during training is important, ensure your urine (wee) is always light straw coloured.

·         Pregame 3-4 hours- Eat a high carbohydrate meal, avoid high fat foods especially fried foods, avoid high fibre foods due to increase wind and avoid solid foods just before the game as they may not be digested. With all those people watching and cameras broadcasting around the world, if there are any nervous footballers they should consider liquid food at this time as this will have a better effect on their digestive system.

·         Fluid intake is essential- During training, pre game and at half time keeping hydrated is vital. Apart from the goalie the other team players cannot hide their drinks bottle at the side of the goal; therefore pre game hydration is essential. Players at half time should consume an isotonic drink to rehydrate and ensure they drink enough to maintain their pre game weight.

·         Carbohydrate is essential- Carbohydrate is stored as glycogen in the liver, if we exercise longer than 30-40 minutes we need a good supply of glycogen stores from our liver and muscles. At half time either isotonic drinks, gels or food (only if tolerated) containing glucose (sweets) and fructose (dried fruit) will keep the glycogen stores topped up.

·         Postgame- Consuming a meal which is high carbohydrate and moderate amounts of protein within 1 hour after the game will help with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and also will replenish the muscles and liver glycogen stores. Consuming up to 800mls of fluid for every pound of weight lost over a 2-3 hour period after the game. In the 24 hours after the game ensure enough fluid and food are consumed to return weight to pre game level.

“Separating nutrition fact from nutrition fiction, trust a Dietitian”

Claire Chaudhry RD