There are many different ways to help better your performance as a soccer player. Such ways include physical, mental and nutritional elements for your game day.
All elements are vitally important as each other, however, nutrition is pivotal for supplying the energy you need to run for 90 minutes and also help you recover after training and match days to ensure you remain at optimal performance capacity every time you play or train. However, what should we eat before a soccer match to perform at peak levels? Let’s delve into some useful tips and research to help answer this question better.
Macronutrients: What Are They?
Macronutrients, or macros for short, are the three most important suppliers of nutrients that the body needs to absorb to help fuel for specific energy and recovery demands. These are called carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Now, this is where it gets more specific as not everybody will require the same amounts of macros. This is due to individuals who have different energy demands from one another.
An example of this would be that a bodybuilder would require significantly more protein than soccer players due to their break down in muscle tissue and demand to grow more muscle. However, soccer players would be heavily reliant on carbohydrates, the main source of energy that is provided to us, as opposed to the amount of protein and carbohydrates that a bodybuilder may need, in order to fuel them to run for 90-minute matches.
We burn said macros at different rates as they provide benefits at varied but important bouts, please see the below table for more information:
Macronutrient And Exercise Intensity
|Fats||Fat stores are typically utilised first out of all 3 macros and are usually consumed for high-intensity bursts, e.g. 100m sprinting.|
|Carbohydrates||Carbohydrates are generally considered the most important macro as it helps us store energy days in advance in aid of helping us release it for prolonged use of fuel, e.g. soccer or marathon running.|
|Protein||Proteins supply little energy usage. The body will only tap into protein stores for energy under very depleted circumstances if there are no fats or carbs to fuel from. Protein still plays a vital role in recovering from intense exercise, helps provide strength to our muscles and should be utilised in every diet, however, the uptake is generally higher for strength building athletes, e.g. bodybuilders.|
Carb-Loading: Preparation Days For Match Week
Soccer players who train and perform competitively may benefit from something called carbohydrate loading. Carbohydrate loading is something that is done a few days before a match where soccer players would typically eat a large number of carbohydrates (around 7-10g per kg of body weight per day).
This is done in the same period where the intensity of training and duration levels are decreased and will help lead to higher levels of muscle glycogen stores within 2-3 days, thus enabling the body to have more energy to burn during match day.
Below is an example of a one-day carb-loading diet which provides 500g of carbohydrates (FIFA, 2010):
Example or one day of a carbohydrate loading diet providing 630g of carbohydrate* (i.e. to provide 9g/kg carbohydrate for a soccer player weighing 70kg).
|Early AM||20g = 2 cups cereal with milk + 250ml fruit juice + 1 banana |
+ 2 thick slices toast + thick spread of jam
|Late AM||50g = 500 ml soft drink or 750ml sports drink|
|Midday||150g = 1 large bread roll + 1 medium muffin + fruit smoothie|
|Snack||50g = 200g flavoured yoghurt + 250ml fruit juice|
|Dinner||200g = 3 cups cooked pasta + 2 cups fruit salad + 2 scoops ice cream + 500ml sports drink|
|Snack 2||30g = 50g chocolate|
It should be quick to mention that the above information can differ significantly if the intensity of exercise is either light or very high. Below is a table for daily carbohydrate needs for fuelling and recovering (Burke et al., 2011):
Protein: Consumption Leading To Match Week
Another important macronutrient that professional soccer players must consume is protein. Protein helps the body by creating new tissue within the body, including muscle, and the repair of old or damaged tissue. Please see below information on protein as supplied by FIFA (2010):
Protein Rich Foods – 10g Protein is Provided by
Other Useful Soccer Articles
Match Day Nutrition
Matchday nutrition for an afternoon kick-off will usually involve the same type of foods that an individual will keep within their diet regime throughout the week but instead the timing of the meal and amounts of macros in the meal will differ.
As previously mentioned above by Burke et al., (2011) it is important to consume around 6-12g per kg of body weight for carbohydrates on match day that will involve an extreme commitment to moderate and high-intensity exercise.
This meal should be consumed around 3-4 hours pre-game to allow your body to appropriately digest the meal and allow your glycogen (energy) reserves to be maintained effectively in preparation for the match ahead. It should also be noted to keep protein and fat to a small amount as this will help avoid carrying a ‘heavy stomach’ and debilitating performance.
If the match is an earlier kick-off then an important aspect of your nutrition will come from your dinner the night before and what you eat pre-game. Ensure to consume extra portions of carbohydrates such as pasta, rice or bread. Additionally, breakfast on game day should be your most vital meal which should be light and low in fats and carbohydrates should be the predominant macro.
So, there we have it, to help enhance your performance try and experiment with the nutritional tips mentioned in the above, see if it shows a vast difference to your game, and most importantly, share your experience with us in the comments below!