Components of a Healthy Diet for Footballers
- Carbohydrates (simple sugars, chocolate, jams etc / complex starches, rice, pasta, bread, fruit, cereals, potatoes for example) – should make up 60% of daily intake as it they are an essential source of energy for intensive activity.
- Proteins (meat, milk, cheese, fish, eggs, poultry, yogurt for example)– to account for 15% of daily diet and are formed by amino acids that are helpful for body growth and body repair as well as aiding digestion and fighting infection.
- Fats (nuts, butters, oils, oily fish, mackerel or salmon and cheese for example) – should be limited to 25% of intake as they are a useful source of energy. Essential fatty acids must form part of the healthy diet.
Supplementary elements of the diet include
- Fibre (seeds, peas, pulses fruit & vegetables, wholegrain cereals for example) – to help food pass through the body and ensures the gut is functioning properly by assisting the body to absorb and use nutrients. Daily intake should be between 25-30 grams
- Vitamins and minerals – play an important role in energy metabolism and a deficiency in one or more can impair exercise capacity.
- Fluids – to prevent dehydration a high daily fluid intake should be maintained, 2 – 3 litres of fluids per day including water (especially) and fresh fruit juice.
- Alcohol – should be avoided as its energy source cannot by utilized by the muscles and excessive amounts are stored as fat.
Players should be encouraged to take responsibility for maintaining a healthy diet.
The Importance of Fluids
Fluids as mentioned are vital to maintain a healthy diet and body fit for purpose.
Drinking is an essential to sustain a footballers performance, especially the young players as their fluid loss can be very high and they are less likely to be aware of dehydrating.
Dehydration leads to an impaired performance & fatigue by affecting co-ordination and our decision-making capabilities. To this end players should not wait until they are thirsty, they should be encouraged to drink little and often. Water helps to regulate our body temperature particularly important during exercise and helps replace the water & minerals we lose through sweating.
Sports drinks containing 6-7 grams of carbohydrate per 100g (Isotonic) are useful source of energy and re-hydration for players especially after a coaching session or match, as this is when glycogen levels needs replenishing.
The definition of fluid in a healthy diet does not include alcohol, as, because it is diuretic, it will cause the body to dehydrate rather than hydrate.
Footballer Healthy Eating & Drinking Guide
- Objective: Ensure sufficient energy is available to meet performance demands.
- Eating patterns should be designed to meet the demands of both training sessions and matches.
- Large Meals to be consumed a minimum of 3 hours before practice or match.
- Small snacks, fruit or raisins for example and appropriate quantities of fluids, sport drinks are best need to available during extended practice sessions.
- Keep daily intake of food groups in line, carbohydrates @ 60%, fat @ 25% and protein @ 15%. Also suitable level of fibre is consumed.
- Eat complex carbohydrates, baked potatoes, rice, cereals, pasta but not within 2 hours of a training session or match. This can lead to blood-glucose levels falling too far (hypoglycaemia) and cause light-headedness and sweating. If a burst of energy is needed within this time frame, stick to simple carbohydrates, sugar, jaffa cakes, jelly babies or jam, less nutritious but do provide the energy kick required quickly.
- Maintain a high level of fluid intake, water, weak diluted squash or fresh fruit every day but especially before and after training sessions or matches. Aim for 2 to 3 litres daily. Drink little and often. Avoid alcohol, as it will not help hydration.
- Begin process of refuelling as soon as possible after a training session or match. Choose glucose enriched carbohydrates, baked potatoes, cereals (like cornflakes) or bread.
- Directly after a training session or match the promotion of the use of sports drinks enriched with carbohydrates should be encouraged or the eating of fruit such as bananas or raisins.
- Aim to consume 3 grams of carbohydrate per 1kg of body weight with 1 hour of a training session or match.
- Children should be encouraged to eat a snack and have a drink @ least 2 hours before practice or a game. A good supply of fluids should be available throughout the period they are training or playing.
Warming Up & Cooling Down
* Please note all mini-soccer warm-ups must involve a ball.
Physiological Responses – Warming Up
- Raises body temperature
- Increase heart rate
- Increase circulation and blood flow round body
- Prepares body and mind for exercise
- Improves flexibility of muscular structures in body
Benefits – Warming Up
- Reduces likelihood of muscle injury by increasing flexibility and mobility
- Improves body efficiency and prevents discomfort
- Prepares body and mind for exercise
Warm Up Example for Coaching Session
- Begin with gentle jogging, skipping to slowly increase heart rate
- Increase intensity slowly – allowing players to work at their pace
- Move into stretching working through muscle groups top to bottom – neck & shoulders / arms & chest / lower back & stomach / buttocks / groin & hips / front & back of thigh / calf & ankle. (Specific attention to groin, calf, hamstring and thigh muscles)
- Finishing with gentle total body exercise to maintain muscle temperature and increase heart rate
- Should take about 20 minutes.
Warm Up Example Football Specific
- Begin with light total body exercise, jogging, skipping etc
- Move into a higher intensity football specific activity – ball work, unopposed dribbling, RWTB & turning exercises
- Football specific stretches
- Goalkeepers should have their own warm up covering performance related activities, basic footwork, handling then diving and kicking
- Defenders should work specific muscle groups related to their performance, jumping to head the ball for example. This works arms, shoulders, lower back and calf muscles)
- Whole team (ex goalkeeper) should take part in a passing drill
- Strikers then should concentrate on shooting
- Intensity should increase in preparation for the start of the practice session or match.
Importance of a Cool Down
- Helps overcome stiffness & soreness.
- Flexibility can be improved if players are encouraged to continue with gentle jogging, skipping, even walking or simple ball manipulation, juggling for example for a period of 10-15 minutes after session or match.
- Followed by a period of muscle group stretching for no more than 10-15 seconds and 2-3 repetitions (provided they are not suffering any form of soft tissue injury)
- Players should be encouraged to re-hydrate and put on extra clothing to prevent heat loss in body.
- A warm bath or shower should follow this period of cool down.
- Cool downs should be kept at a low intensity level and made to be fun, this will help players welcome the cool down as a part of their normal recovery & recuperation programme.