Nutritional Advice for Footballers

As they say in the Army – “Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance”

So here are some nutritional notes to ponder. Glycogen is the ready energy source for your muscles during exertion. Glycogen stores can become seriously depleted during any exercise and take a while to top up.  It is important to top up the glycogen in your muscles before the match.

A Recommended nutritional pre-match routine for serious players.

  • Pasta meal the night before (yes Dom Pizza is just as good)(Try to avoid meat as it hangs around in the stomach using up valuable resources for more than 4 hours)
  • High carbohydrate breakfast (3 Weetabix two slices of toast)
  • More carbohydrates at least 2 hours before match (beans on toast or sandwiches but no meat) plus one sports drink
  • One sports drink 15-30 mins before game
  • One sports drink at half time
  • Two sports drink after game

Sports drinks have been scientifically designed to top up glycogen levels as fast as is possible (15 – 20 mins after ingestion).  The body cannot hold in reserve all the glycogen it needs for a 90 minute match at peak performance. Numerous studies have shown that a sports drink regime dramatically increases a footballers endurance during the second half.  One such study over a season at Malmo FC showed that players using this regime covered up to 30% more distance in the second half of the second half than players taking a placebo or nothing.

Alcohol – we all like a drink or two but contrary to any misinformation out there, Alcohol has NO redeeming features for sportsmen. The sugars present are the wrong type. Alcohol is a depressant to the body’s metabolism and performance. A session the night before results in significant levels of a performance lowering drug still being present in the body when you play the game.

Sleep – A good night’s sleep (at the very least 8 hours) is essential to a good performance

Athletes who are too busy to plan their sports diet commonly fall short on carbs–particularly if they grab donuts for breakfast, burgers for lunch, chips for snacks, pepperoni pizza with double cheese for dinner, and ice cream for dessert. They are fat-loading, not carbo-loading, and fat does not replace depleted glycogen stores. If these same athletes had given thought to their recovery diet, they could just as easily have grabbed bagels, submarine sandwiches (thick with bread, not meat), pretzels, thick-crust pizza topped with extra veggies, and frozen yogurt. Carbs are available, even when you are eating on the run and at fast-food restaurants.

Whether you consume carbs throughout the day by nibbling on cereal, bagels, bananas, yogurt, raisins, pretzels, dried fruits, juices, breads, crackers, and granola bars or whether you sit down and have one huge pasta meal, you’ll eventually end up with similar amounts of glycogen. The main concern is getting enough carbs within each 24 hour time period; worry less about small meals vs large meals, and focus more on adequate quantity.