Soccer is considered one of the world’s most popular sports; its fast-paced and competitive nature demands players’ bodies to be top-notch.
During a single 90-minute game, the average soccer player runs up to 12 miles at varying speeds and burns an average of 500 to 1 500 calories, depending on the player’s position and build. This means that soccer players, as well as many other athletes, use up a great deal of energy during practices and games.
To perform at maximum efficiency, nutrition is a priority of all soccer athletes and trainers. What you eat on a daily, weekly and monthly basis will affect your performance, energy level and overall health. Therefore, most athletes are required to eat and drink certain types of foods on game days and days leading up to matches.
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There are seven important food groups soccer athletes must take into consideration when choosing what to eat every day.
To keep up with the high energy that comes with playing soccer, soccer athletes tend to eat a well-balanced diet, high in complex carbohydrates, and low in fats, allowing them to optimize their performance and energy levels. In addition to feeding the body, this diet also feeds the brain; without the right food intake, a player can suffer a variety of symptoms, such as the inability to concentrate, muscle cramps, lethargy and dizziness.
The amount of food you need to intake depends on a variety of factors: sex, weight, age and activeness.
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For example, a taller, bulkier athlete will need to intake more calories than a smaller, skinnier one, since more energy is needed to move larger athletes over the same distance. However, the average soccer player consumes anywhere from 2 400 to 3000 calories a day.
As game time approaches, an athlete needs to begin carbo-loading; carbohydrates should account for about 70 percent of a soccer player’s diet, as the body burns mostly carbohydrates as fuel.
Soccer players can achieve good carbohydrate intake by snacking throughout the day, instead of eating three regular meals. Bananas, oats, bagels, yogurts and whole wheat pasta are some foods high in carbohydrates that can boost your health and athletic performance.
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Water intake also plays a huge part in an athlete’s diet. A soccer player should stat hydrating anywhere from two to three days before games and tournaments, as players can lose as much as seven pints of water or more during a match.
To prevent dehydration, which can lead to fatigue, heatstroke, and in worst cases, death, athletes should drink anywhere from six to eight ounces of fluid every fifteen to twenty minutes while working out. However, it is important to not drink water too quickly, as it can cause you to feel bloated.
Right before a game, an athlete’s digestive process may slow down due to a restless emotional state. To counter this, athletes are recommended to eat an easily digestible, yet well-balanced meal no later than three hours prior to a match.
Soccer athletes should avoid foods that contain substantial amounts of fats, sugar and oils. They should also stay away from junk food, alcohol, dairy, anything deep fried and anything containing caffeine, such as coffee, soda or tea.
A healthy diet is the best way to optimize an athlete’s mental and physical health. It also enables them to recover more quickly from injuries.
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Sources: Strikers United, Soccer U, Soccer Training Info, Livestrong, Red Card Cancer and Soccer Speed