Food is fuel. Whether you're running an ultra marathon, playing soccer or reading a book, nutrition is what makes you able to exist. Now that the World Cup is well underway, it's amazing to see what little science there is on soccer nutrition. Some teams focus on it, but others do not. Aresenal manages Aresene Wenger once sad, “Food is like kerosene. If you put the wrong one in your car, it’s not as quick as it should be”. But do soccer teams listen?
A good example of the lack of listening is in the France World Cup. During round 16, fifty percent of goals were scored in the last twenty minutes when players were tired and fatigued. The takeaway - teams that focus on nutrition late in the game are at a critical advantage.
So what best fuels a World Cup Match? It's all very similar to endurance sports. Soccer is a long game with a lot of running, explosive bursts. It also requires a lot of hand-eye coordination and mental agility. For these reasons during play, carbs and electrolytes are crucial to avoid fatigue and bonking. Simple sugars are key since they flood the system quickly, and are easily digested.
Soccer players need energy from carbohydrates. In fact, this should account for nearly 70% of their diet. Glycogen stores for a soccer player are quickly depleted. Starting agate with low glycogen levels will ensure they will start the second half playing at a great disadvantage.
Snacking throughout the day helps to keep energy stores up, and it also helps players recover better from injuries.
Before a Match:
Carbs and a little protein. Lay off on massive amounts of protein because it can be hard on digestion, and dehydrating. Basically, you just want to top off glycogen stores and fill the body with the quick energy it needs for the upcoming game. Try to eat about three hours before a match. Eat a nutrient dense meal that has a combination of complex carbs, protein and fat.
During a Match:
Simple sugars. Simple sugars. Simple sugars. Keep yourself from bonking and getting fatigued. Chews are perfect, especially ones that have added electrolytes in them like Clif Margarita Shot Bloks
and Gatorade Energy Chews Chews
will help you ration energy over the course of a match. Then drink. Sip sip sip. Dehydration is the biggest factor in decrease in performance. If you can keep your hydration levels high you will be able to focus more during a game.
After a Match:
Just like with recovering from endurance sports, get recovery into your body immediately after the final whistle. Ideally you'll eat within 30-45 minutes. This is when the body can best absorb nutrients to help it recover. You'll need about a 4:1 ration of carbs to proteins, as well as electrolytes. This will make sure your body is ready to start healing itself from an exhausting game. We love SiS Rego Rapid Recovery
How to Hydrate:
When you sweat your body is shedding precious electrolytes. During a soccer match, especially in high humidity like the World Cup you lose a lot of fluid and salt. Drink constantly before the game, throughout the game, and after. Basically, whenever you can, sip. Avoid drinking taking gulps because this can keep make you bloated, and give you an upset stomach. Small amounts, on a regular basis is key. Some drinks we recommend during competition are: Gatorade Endurance Carb Energy Drink
, Skratch Exercise Hydration
. After your game and before your game try a lighter electrolyte mix like Nuun All Day
- this will make sure you go into a game hydrated and not as a defect.