Nutrition Matters When playing football or training, the slightest change to a player’s diet can make a big difference to their performance. If a player want to be at the top of their game it is vital that the player’s body has the correct nutrition. To help the player get the most out of their performance the player need to keep their body in peak condition and to ensure top form.
For footballer there are five keys states, which combine to play a vital role in performance, they are: Hydration; Fuel; Focus; Recovery; and Strength.
Stay Hydrated – Before, During and After
Whilst playing football players body creates so much heat from their working muscles that the players must try to get rid of the heat by sweating out, which causing the players to lose vital body water. If players lose too much water then the player’s football performance can suffer, in mind and in body.
To ensure maximum potential to play football the players must make sure that they are drinking fluids before, during and after training and matches.
Before – To ensure the player start the game fully hydrated, the player must prepare well before stepping onto the pitch. 2-3 hours prior to playing the player should aim to drink 350- 500ml of fluid. To check the player is ready to play, the player should monitor his urine colour. If the player urine is clear or a pale yellow, it means the player is sufficiently hydrated to start playing; the darker it is means the player is less hydrated which could potentially limit their performance.
During – Whilst players are playing it is very important that they try to take on fluids whenever possible: injuries, substitutions, bottles in the keepers net and of course half time are all the best opportunities to take a few mouthfuls of fluid. The aim is to drink approximately 500 ml per hour in small manageable amounts, preferably consuming a sport drink to get vital energy back into the muscles and the sodium lost in sweat back into the player’s bodies.
After – Post match, it is critical the players replace the fluids that they have lost due to exercise. Monitoring urine colour and ensuring it returns back to a clear/pale colour is a crucial part of recovery. This will help the players body recover in preparation for their next training session or match.
We’re constantly reminded about the importance of hydration. Every time there’s a break in play you’ll see the drink bottles in our hands, we’re told to get fluid on board at every opportunity as we know how crucial it can be to our performance.
2-Overpower Your Opponent To be competitive in football it is essential to have an element of strength to support your training and match play. From goalkeeper to striker strength provides the platform for sprinting ability, striking the ball efficiently and defensively dominating the opposing team. To be physically strong we need to have a great base of strength, not only in the legs but also the core of our body and arms.
For example, the centre back position is usually filled by the biggest and therefore usually strongest player on the team, pushing players off the ball and making it difficult to settle in the game. As a defender this can be an awesome weapon in your armoury restricting the effectiveness of the oppositions attacking options.
To gain strength we could supplement our football with some fitness work, either in training sessions or down the gym. Exercises such as squats, press ups and sit ups will increase our muscle strength in the major muscle groups allowing us to utilise this extra strength in a match.
To support this it is essential that we have a diet that supports muscle growth or the building blocks of muscle – protein. The timing and the amount of protein is crucial. It is essential to supply our muscles with protein as soon as possible after exercise maximising the potential for our muscles to grow in strength.
We cannot store protein in the body so we need to drip feed our muscles with protein throughout the day; above and beyond 20g of protein does not provide any significant gain in protein synthesis (muscle growth). Therefore, take on board 20g of protein as soon as possible after exercise and during heavy training periods and ensure protein intake is frequent throughout the day.
Working on your power is important, especially as a central defender. You need to be physically strong and be able to dominate your opponent.
3-Be Ready for Your Next Match
With every sprint and tackle you are stressing your muscles, in effect making your muscles weaker. After training and a match we need to supply our body with the right tools to be able to recover and make our muscles stronger and more efficient. Those tools are quite simply carbohydrate and protein; these provide us with energy to compete in subsequent training sessions and provide the building blocks to recover existing muscle, but also to build new muscle.
Training at 100% week in week out and playing at least once a week places huge demands on our muscles and energy systems making it critical to recover as best you can ready to go again. If you do this you will get the most out of your training and allow your body to adapt to the training you are doing. If protein is not supplied to the body then your muscles will struggle to fully adapt to the physical demands of football, possibly limiting your fitness and football potential.
Unfortunately, however, we cannot store protein like carbohydrate and fat. Therefore, the key to reaching your fitness potential is to provide your body with protein throughout the day to continually drip feed your body and muscles. Foods such as poultry, fish and diary are all great sources of protein.
Our body is especially efficient at absorbing carbohydrate and protein in the period immediately after training or a match. Therefore, it becomes especially important to consume approximately 10-20g of protein and 1g of carbohydrate per kg of your own body weight AS SOON AS POSSIBLE after training – this is the equivalent of a Lucozade Sport Recovery Bar, and an isotonic drink such as Lucozade Sport Body Fuel. Jaffa cakes and bananas are other firm favourites as sources of carbohydrates.
4-Fuel Yourself for The Full 90 Football is continually evolving; technically and tactically football is becoming more and more complex which increases the demands on each and every single player’s fitness. Just one player can cause a weakness in your team reducing their overall effectiveness to attack and defend.
The central midfield player is a crucial cog in your team’s engine; whether they are the string puller or the midfield dominator, the central midfielder will probably cover more ground on the pitch than any other player. In the Barclay’s Premier League central midfielders are the fittest around, quick off the mark, agile and most importantly they can maintain the intensity of their match play up until the final whistle.
A Formula 1 car is supplied with the best fuel available and our body needs to be treated exactly the same way. Carbohydrate is its preferred source of energy to fuel our muscles but we only have approximately 90 minutes of fuel to burn. Just like a car, when our bodies accelerate hard we burn more fuel and our aim is to ensure our tank is not running low before the end of the game, otherwise our performance will suffer.
Ensure you prepare well for your game and fill up your tank with a good breakfast such as porridge, cereals and toast which are all great sources of carbohydrate. A drink such as a fruit juice or a Lucozade Sport Body Fuel will not only give you some fluids to ensure you’re hydrated, it will also quickly deliver carbohydrate into your energy stores.
During a game it becomes more difficult to take on board energy. Breaks in play such as injuries, substitutions and half time are great opportunities to get some energy back into our muscles. We have several carbohydrate options. Some players like to have solid food such as an energy bar or banana at half time to fill the ‘hole’, however the most popular is to drink a fluid that contains carbohydrate which will absorb quickly into our body having an almost immediate impact on performance.
Consuming small amounts – a couple of mouthfuls – in regular intervals throughout the game will give your body the time needed to absorb and locate the carbohydrate into your muscles ready to use. If you want to dig deep for your team, make sure you have something to dig into… stay fuelled.
5-React Quicker When it Matters Football is a demanding sport on the body; you need to be powerful, agile and fast. But one factor we have not considered in our football performance is the demand on our brain and how it can benefit our physical performance. To maintain concentration for a period of 90 minutes and sometimes longer can be exhausting on our minds and mistakes can start to creep in to our game.
To help us stay focused for prolonged periods caffeine can play an integral role, particularly when playing sport. It has been proven to enhance many mental processes that are important in alertness, concentration, focus and reaction time. But it even makes the effort of exercise feel easier, allowing us to focus on other areas of the game such as positional changes or that one key pass that unlocks the opposing defence.
Typically it is seen that as we start to tire in the second half the amount of sprints a player completes and the overall distance a player covers decreases. Caffeine has been shown to improve the ability of players to maintain football intensities for longer, allowing you to perform to your highest until the final whistle.
To get the maximum benefit from caffeine we need to consume it 40–60 minutes before kickoff. This will allow the caffeine to peak in our body right as the ref’s whistle blows to start the game. Consuming a Lucozade Sport Caffeine Boost on the way to your ground, during the manager’s team talk and warm up will allow the fluids to settle in your body, get some energy in to your muscles and importantly allow the caffeine to peak in your body as the game starts.
6-Prove Your Physical Presence
The modern footballer is strong, powerful and lean. Strong players maintain a regular first team place and suffer fewer injuries than weaker players. Strength training, with an added focus on improving the core muscles, is the secret weapon to staying strong on the ball and proving your physical presence.
Simple exercises such as planks, press-up holds, crunches and back extensions can be tagged onto the end of all your training sessions and will transform your ability to shrug off an opponent and stay balanced in possession. However, to really see the benefit of all that hard work, you need the support of a good nutritional strategy.
Protein helps the growth and maintenance of muscle and is therefore, key to assisting strength development and recovery from training. However, there are many myths surrounding its use. Here is where we put the record straight and help guide you towards physical domination!
Timing of protein intake is key
Protein cannot be stored in the body so timing is essential – little and often is the key. In addition, protein breakdown increases after exercise so make sure you stick a protein snack such as a Lucozade Sport Pro Muscle bar in your kit bag for straight after a match, training or weights session.
Less is more
There is a limit to the amount of protein our bodies can utilise to build muscle. Even though your daily protein requirements will be slightly higher than the average couch potato, it is more than likely your current diet already meets those needs. Instead, concentrate on dividing your intake up, starting with 15-20 g of good quality protein consumed straight after exercise and then at regular intervals throughout the day. Any more than this and you are wasting your money!
Its not how much that counts, it’s all about quality
When time allows, you should look to get your protein intake from a variety of sources. Great sources include eggs, milk, cheese, chicken and tuna as well as wholemeal bread, pasta, rice, baked beans and nuts. If you are short on time and don’t want to throw 3 large eggs into your kit bag, why not try the Lucozade Sport Pro Muscle Shake, perfectly designed to help build lean muscle mass and help you to prove your physical presence.
7-Make “light” Work of Your Performance All footballers should be lean and athletic if they wish to fulfil their potential. Football is an aerobically demanding game and your ability to run around for 90 minutes is essential. Any additional weight you have to carry around the pitch means your body has to work even harder to shift it – this isn’t a good thing!
Everyday nutrition habits are just as important as your nutrition on match day. Consuming a low fat diet, which meets your daily calorie requirements and provides essential vitamins and minerals, will help make sure you stay in shape and make lighter work of your performances when in matters.
Cutting down your intake of food, which contain ‘empty calories’ is a good place to start. This means reducing your intake of bad fats such as chocolate and crisps. These provide plenty of calories but with little added extras such as essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Dare we say it, but alcohol is also considered as empty calories! It is high in energy and nutrient-poor, often resulting in increased body fat.
There are of course situations when you need to reach for your sports drink and get some energy on board. Before, during and after a match are key examples of when it is necessary to top up your energy levels, especially when playing for 90 minutes. However, when training lasts up to 60 minutes, you have a reduced need to take on additional calories. Drinking a low calorie sports drink such as Lucozade Sport Lite will ensure you have the necessary energy without consuming more calories than you burn.
8-Reduce Your Recovery Time
Needless to say, a professional footballer has access to some of the best sports science services money can buy. When games come thick and fast throughout the season, recovery is extremely important to get right. Whilst it’s not uncommon to see baths at the side of the training pitch for a quick 10 min dip in 12°C icy cold water, it’s not for everyone. How about a quick rub down from the team masseuse and a good night’s sleep in your Lycra recovery tights?
Without the budget and expertise to match those available to a pro, what can you do to help ease the post training and match day fatigue? The cheapest, easiest and most convenient place to start is by looking at what you eat and drink.
The two main causes of fatigue are dehydration and energy depletion. To help combat these problems, make sure you eat 1g carbohydrate per kg of body weight as soon as possible after your training session or match. This looks something like a 90g pack of jelly sweets, 8 Jaffa cakes or a large bowl of cereal with milk. In addition, drinking 500ml of fluid will help to restore some of your body water lost as sweat.
If you really want to reduce your recovery time, help your muscles repair by eating 10 – 20g of protein alongside your carbohydrate snack. If you haven’t got time to stock your kit bag with some tuna sandwiches and Jaffa cakes, grab a Lucozade Sport recovery drink and some jelly beans.
9-Win The Mental Battle Individual decisions taken at critical times will shape the outcome of the winners and losers more so than any other season. What if John Terry hadn’t lost his composure against Tottenham or Dimitar Berbatov could have taken his chances when it really mattered against Blackburn?
When there’s very little to pick between teams the outcome of a game can boil down to something as simple as who can win the mental battle. At the stage of the game when energy levels have hit an all time low and your ability to change direction is similar to a cruise ship, there is nothing more demoralising than watching the player you were supposed to be marking glide into the penalty box to score the winning goal.
To win the mental battle and get that edge over your opponent caffeine has been proven to improve alertness, concentration, focus and reaction time. To take advantage of the benefits caffeine can bring to your game consume 1-3 mg/kg 40 – 60 minutes before kick-off. In this case, less is more; larger doses of caffeine will do more harm than good and could result in headaches, restlessness and irritability. Consuming a Lucozade Sport Caffeine Boost on the way to the ground is a convenient way to prepare for the mental battle ahead.