Did you know that a soccer player who plays two, 45-minute halves has just completed a 10k run? Did you know that the body can store approximately 600 grams of carbohydrates every 24 hours? A typical soccer player may burn as many as 1,700 calories per game? Did you know that high-endurance athletes should be consuming a diet that consist of 75- to 85-percent carbohydrates and eating 5-6 meals a day? Have you asked yourself why your son and or daughter fatigue so easily during the second half of a game? Is it do to conditioning or could it be that there is no fuel in the tank and it is a nutrition problem?
These are the areas that are being addressed around the world in the area of nutrition and soccer. Without proper fuel, the athlete’s performance will be grossly impaired. When and what they consume could make a major difference in performance.
The question any endurance athlete should be asking him or herself is what type of fuel am I putting into my body? Since food is fuel, once the tank is empty the journey is done. You would never consider taking the family out for a Sunday drive without efficient fuel to complete your journey. So why do we allow athletes to start an athletic event without the proper levels of fuel?
An athlete needs to be eating 5-6 times a day. This does not mean candy bars, sodas, fried food and other types of junk food. This means good sound nutritional foods. Nor does it mean eating 5-6 large, sit-down meals. This means throughout the day an athlete needs to be consuming fruits, breads, yogurts, vegetables, lean meats, cereals, soups without high fat content, chicken, fish and turkey.
- No bacon, ham or sugar-coated cereals.
- Athletes should consider oatmeal or cereals like Wheat Chex, Corn Chex, Rice Chex and Shredded Wheat. These cold cereals are high in carbohydrates and have very little or no fat.
- Instead of regular milk, try soy milk. If you use regular milk, stick with 1- or 2-percent.
- Pancakes, French toast, potatoes, yogurt, 100 percent multi-grain breads, bagels, juices and fresh fruit are all good choices.
- Ideally all meals should be consumed approximately three hours prior to training and or game.
- Stay away from fried foods.
- Pasta, fish, veal, lean meats, chicken, turkey, soups (broths are best with a little onion), salads (use fat-free or low-fat dressings), breads, juices and fresh fruit and all good choices.
- Sodas are OK on certain occasions. Sodas can assist with the glycogen recovery, but soda should be accompanied by food in order to restore the glycogen recovery.
- Follow the same guidelines as lunch, but add hot vegetables, rice (brown rice is better) and/or potatoes (not fried).
- All athletes need to eat within 30-60 minutes after training sessions or games. After an hour the body loses the opportunity to completely restore a full tank of glycogen.
- Have your player bring a zip-lock bag of trail mix, dry cereals or dried fruits to eat immediately after practices or games. The snacks help regain the glycogen they have lost.
NUTRITION AND AWAY TOURNAMENTS
While on the road and away from home, try to stay in a hotel that has a restaurant on-site. Negotiate a fee with the hotel and a training table for your team. Have a basic but carefully thought-out menu with flexible serving hours. Make sure you communicate to the staff on how you want the foods prepared. This will allow the team to be together for team unity and lessens the team mangers burden of traveling to the store. If this option is not feasible and you are faced with other type of fast food options, then the following maybe helpful:
- Avoid all fried foods because of heir high level of fat. At burger places this may be fairly difficult. A single fried hamburger at McDonald's is the equivalent of eating 7 teaspoons of Crisco shortening. Therefore, a place that serves broiled burgers, such as Burger King would be a better choice. Two small burgers are better than one because the bread content is greater. Condiments should include lettuce, onions, pickles and tomatoes. Try to avoid mayonnaise and cheese. In today’s fast-food environment, many fast food restaurants offer very good salad bars and grilled chicken. Chicken is a better choice. Remember to use fat-free or low-fat dressings at the salad bar.
- At sandwich shops, turkey and chicken are the best choices of meat. Remember to avoid mayonnaise and go easy on the oily additives. If the sandwich shops do not have pasta salad and the like, go to the markets and buy your fruits, juices and pasta salads. What really works well is to place your order the night before and or the morning of the game and have parents pick the sandwiches up at halftime the following day. This way, the players will have their food right after the game.
- At pizza places, ingredients should be light in cheese and limited in pepperoni, sausage and bacon. Order thick crust and if this is not available, then put two thin crusts together (bread is better). Extra sauce is a better topping than extra cheese. At many pizza restaurants, pasta is available and don’t forget the salad bar.
- At Mexican restaurants, good choices include soft-shelled tacos and burritos. Chicken is a better choice than beef and or pork. Another good choice is the combination of beans and rice. Again, sour cream and cheese should be kept to a minimum.
- At Chinese restaurants, plain rice should be the choice over fried rice. Stir-fried food is not ideal but it's a better alternative than deep fried foods (i.e. fried egg rolls).
In conclusion, soccer is a glycogen-depleting activity. Lack of glycogen has been shown to affect the work rate and work volume of the competitive soccer player. Poor nutrition, which is common to most adolescents, is insufficient to replenish muscle and liver glycogen. Those players who are at the lower levels of glycogen stores were significantly less active in the second half or second game as compared to those players who had greater glycogen storage and recovery.
Manager, Saint Alphonsus - STARS, Sports Medicine Operations