Nutrition for Soccer Players

Soccer season is in full swing! A well-balanced meal before a soccer game can make all the difference between whether you win or lose.  In fact, the power to win a match comes from the fuel you use to nourish your body. Although it’s important to make healthy choices about your diet throughout the year, the following essentials will put you ahead of the game.

Carbohydrates

To last the entire match or practice session, the best fuel source for soccer players is carbohydrates. For low-to-moderate intensity training sessions, consume 5-7g/kg of your body weight per day in carbohydrates*. For moderate-to-high intensity training or pre-match meals, increase your carbohydrate intake to 7-10g/kg of your body weight per day.

Carb-concentrated meals should be eaten 24 hours prior to a match, giving the body plenty of time to process nutrients for muscle.

Examples of healthy carbohydrates:

  • Whole grain cereal with low fat milk
  • Real fruit smoothies
  • Traditional pasta dishes

Proteins

Protein and amino acids are the building blocks of body tissue. When muscle breaks down, a sufficient supply of protein allows for rapid recovery. The average person meets or exceeds protein needs without even knowing it, but soccer players need a slightly higher amount of protein for recovery between training sessions and matches.

For optimal performance, protein consumption should be approximately 1.2-1.4g/kg of your body weight*. Most athletes meet these needs with a well-balanced diet; therefore protein supplements are not usually recommended.

Examples of healthy, high-protein foods:

  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Soy
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Fats

In today’s society, fats are labeled the source of all health problems, when in reality it’s necessary to include fats in your diet. While fats are essential to process vitamins and minerals, too much will slow an athlete down. Fats help protect vital organs and manage body temperature. For females, fats are fundamental in regulating hormones. A soccer player’s diet should restrict fat intake to about 1g/kg of body weight per day, or fewer than 10% of total caloric intake*.

Examples of healthy fats:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Coconut oil

Water

Water is essential to life and should be consumed every day – even more so for soccer players, who lose about two liters of fluid through sweat, and in extreme heat, up to three liters. Dehydration causes fatigue, disorientation or heat illness, which ultimately affects performance. Easily fatigued players are also at high risk for injury.

To monitor water loss, weigh yourself before and after practice or a game. Water loss should be limited to 2% of total body weight.  After you have calculated total water lost, aim to drink 1.2-1.5 liters of water per kg of fluid loss.

Sports drinks containing 14-19g of carbohydrates are ideal to help replenish sodium and prevent cramping during games, but they also trigger the thirst mechanism.  Therefore, water consumption is the only way to quench thirst.  

As part of our wellness program, CHI St. Luke’s Health - Performance Medicine offers nutritional consultation tailored to your desired goal. To schedule a consultation, call 936-266-3130.

*Nutrition Intake Formulas

Here's an example using a 150-lb athlete.

First, convert pounds (lb) to kilograms (kg):

a.  #_lb /_2.2_ =  weight in kg

b. 150_lb / _2.2_ = 68 kg

 

Carbohydrate Intake:

_68_kg x _7_g = 476_g/day

 

Protein Intake:

_68_kg x _1.2_g = 82_g/day

 

Fat Intake:

_68_kg x _1_g = 68 g/day