You can have all the footy skills in the world but without the proper nutritional support you won’t be as fit as you can be and your performances will suffer.
You won’t be able to train as hard or as long, so you won’t improve your play, and during games you run the risk of getting tired.
How you perform during games and training depends on what you eat and drink before, during and after each match or session.
Here are some of the essential nutrients young footballers need to be eating, and which foods they’re found in:
Simple carbohydrates: found in sweets, cakes, soft drinks, jam
Complex carbohydrates: found in rice, bread, pasta, potatoes, cereals, fruit
Saturated fats: found in butter, margarine, cheese, pasties
Unsaturated fats: found in sunflower oil, salmon, nuts
Protein: found in milk, chicken, eggs, fish, yoghurt
Vitamins and minerals: found in fruit, vegetables, dairy products
Fibre: found in seeds, peas, beans
Water: found in foods, drinks, formulated sports drinks
It's important to eat a range of these foods:
- Meat and meat alternatives - meat, fish, eggs, beans and nuts
- Vegetables and fruit - root and leafy vegetables, salads, apples, oranges, bananas
- Dairy products - milk, cheese, yoghurt
- Starchy foods - bread and rolls, pasta, rice, cereals, potatoes
Footballers need energy, and that’s most commonly found in carbohydrate. Now, in a healthy diet, 55-60% of it should come from carbohydrate, but for footballers, it’s even higher - as much as 70%.
Of course, players need other nutrients too and it’s not easy to get the perfect intake of carbohydrate from eating a regular three meals a day. The way to do it is by snacking - snacks play a crucial role in a footy player’s diet, especially if eaten immediately after training or a match. That’s when the energy stores in the muscles which have just been working are best refuelled.
Snack attack! These snacks are high in Carbohydrate but low in fat:
- Banana, jam or honey sandwiches
- Muesli bars
- Fruit cake, currant buns, scones, American muffins
- Crumpets, bagels, English muffins, scotch pancakes rusks and cereal
- Jelly cubes
- Jaffa cakes
- Low fat rice pudding, bread pudding
- Yoghurts and milkshakes
- Fruit and dried fruit
We’ve done good food and bad food, and we’ve looked at what snacks can boost the body during and after a match or training session. Now lets look at what you should drink.
The water lost from the body during sweating needs to be replaced to stop you getting tired quickly, and also speed up the recovery process – that means feeling fitter and sharper afterwards a lot sooner.
These checks will help players:
Weight: 1kg of weight lost during a training session is equal to 1 litre of fluid lost.
The 'pee test': If your urine is dark coloured, it means you need to have a drink. Lots of trips to the toilet, producing lots of clear coloured urine, shows you’ve taken on enough fluid.
Thirst: Being thirsty is an unreliable indicator of when you need to have a drink. If you're thirsty, you’re actually already partly dehydrated so if you finish a training session and you’re gasping it’s a giveaway you haven’t taken enough fluid on board.
What's best to drink?
For footballers, the best fluid to drink is a diluted carbohydrate/electrolyte solution. In plain English, that’s the kind of stuff you’ll find in stuff in energy drinks like Gatorade.
When should I drink?
Ideally, it’s best to drink before, during and after a training session, as well as drinking frequently during a match.
How much should I drink?
Only a little – but often. If you drink too much too quickly, you run the risk of getting a stomach upset.
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