As soccer parents we spend a lot of time and money to help our kids improve their soccer game? We join a professional club in town, incorporate strength training, buy the best gear and drive miles on end to and from practices, games and tournaments. A lot of times we forget to pay attention to our athlete’s nutrition? Working with teenage athletes for many years now, I see that nutrition often is the missing link in improving performance.
My personal recommendation is the aim for a diet that supplies around 40-45 percent of calories from healthy carbohydrates, 30-35 percent of calories from healthy fats and around 20-30 percent of calories from healthy proteins.
We should think of Carbohydrates as our source of both energy and endurance during play. Soccer athletes need enough carbohydrates in their diet to maintain optimal blood sugar levels during play and to maximize muscle and liver glycogen reserves between games.
Protein is also an important part of the player’s diet as our muscle fibers consist largely of protein. Protein also plays an important role in after play recovery and muscle building.
Now let’s have a look at what to consume before, during and after soccer practices and games
Monday’s nutrition intake will have an affect on Sunday’s game.
Eat 3 balanced meals and 2 balanced snacks daily – eating every 3 hours. Start with a balanced breakfast, mid morning snack, lunch, mid afternoon snack, dinner (after a tough day even a light snack at night). Each meal and snack should consist of quality protein and carbohydrates at about a 1 to 3 ratio (calculate off the food labels or use a nutritional value chart easily available on line). Drinking enough water throughout the day is crucial for proper hydration. Food needs to be fresh and the least processed.
Eat a balanced meal 2-3 hours before play – this again should be about a 1 to 3 ratio of protein and carbohydrates. The carbohydrates should come from a low (less than 55) to medium (55-70) glycemic index source (like meat, vegetables and some whole grains) to avoid any sudden spike of the blood sugar level, which subsequently will lead to a sudden low
and energy loss. Hydration is very important at this point and on a hot day
should consist of water and a good electrolyte drink. As soon as we start to sweat we lose electrolytes along with water, and electrolytes are essential for muscle (including heart muscle) function and nerve conduction.
Keep hydrated by alternating water and an electrolyte drink throughout the game. Easily digestible, carbohydrate rich foods like bananas can also be consumed at half time as needed.
Several games in one day:
Snacks are critical for sustained energy and concentration. They should also contain a mixture of protein (i.e. nuts, meat, protein bars or a shake) and carbohydrates (fruits, dried fruits, meal bars, shake). Protein is important to stabilize the blood sugar level to avoid any energy highs and lows. Keep hydrated by alternating water and the electrolyte drink. If there is more than 3 hours between games a full meal can be consumed. If there is less time, I recommend sticking with a recovery shake and some fruit to keep it light for the next game.
After the game:
For recuperation protein and carbohydrates within 20-30 minutes after play are needed to replenish muscle protein and glycogen stores as well as having a greater insulin response. I recommend a recuperation shake consisting of whey protein and carbohydrates in a 1-2.5 ratio, alternatively it could be some nuts, fruit and yoghurt or sports bar.
Personally, I recommend using Performance for hydration, Physique or Cinch shakes for after play recovery and Cinch bars for in between games. If energy is a concern, I recommend using the Energy Chews before play. Shaklee sports nutrition offers everything you need and nothing you don’t!