Soccer Player's Nutrition Plan

By Sakai Blue , last updated December 19, 2011

Every sport has its own set of guidelines that detail the best eating plans for its athletes, and there are guides that outline nutrition plans for soccer players as well. Soccer is a very intense sport requiring plenty of stamina, endurance, strength and mental acumen. The nutrition that a soccer player requires will have to meet these needs.

What a player eats before, during and after a game will determine how he performs in that game. The food he eats will make all the difference in how he feels and recovers after a game, how he starts a game, and how long he can last in a game. The food he eats will determine if and how he develops muscle. In most sports, developing a hydration and energy-fueling regimen will result in optimum performance. Making sure the body is well hydrated and has the right balance of electrolytes is extremely critical.

Physical Demands of Soccer

Soccer gameplay is made up of abbreviated bursts of intense physical activity followed by moments on the field when players are involved in periods of moderate exercise alternating with moments of rest. Each player runs an average of 6 miles every game. The total gameplay time for each player ranges an hour and a half to two hours. A player can lose as much as 100 ounces of salt through sweating.

General Nutrition Needs

Carbohydrates are like liquid gold to a soccer player, thanks to how continuously physical the gameplay is. Players need to consume great amounts of carbs like beans, whole grain bread, brown rice, potatoes, whole-wheat bagels, whole-wheat tortillas, etc. Consuming several, small carb meals over the course of the day is the best course of action for soccer players. The body stores carbohydrates as glycogen, the main source of energy for athletes. The carb stores are limited, so players have to keep filling them up during the day in order to keep their energy levels up. Just before each game, consuming energy gels or drinks can help keep up glycogen reserves. The player should have another in the middle of the game as well. If he doesn't do this, he can run low on glycogen and become physically and mentally tired during the game, decreasing his ability to remain alert and in top form on the field.

Build Endurance

To help with endurance, a player needs to make sure that his daily diet is well balanced, and contains food from every food group.

An example of a great, daily meal plan for a soccer player is below. It can be tailored to fit individual players.

  • 8-15 servings of grains (at least 3 from whole grains)
  • 5 to 7 ounces of lean protein
  • 2 to 3 cups of assorted, fresh fruit
  • 2-3 cups of brightly colored vegetables
  • 3 cups of dairy, either low fat or nonfat
  • 6 tablespoons of heart healthy oil
  • 200-300 calories from sugar

Keep Hydrated

Just as important as the player's food intake is his fluid intake. Severe dehydration in an athlete is usually accompanied by cramping, so it's often very obvious when he needs to drink up. It becomes a problem when they don’t even realize that they’re dehydrated. Even minimal dehydration affects a person’s ability to function properly, and that’s triple the case with athletes. Athletes are constantly sweating, and they will need to increase their electrolytes levels when they do. Sports drinks are made to address this very issue. Sports drinks are particularly necessary on extremely hot and humid days, or for when sessions run past an hour. Athletes should replenish their fluid levels during gameplay, but they should also plan on drinking fluids throughout the day on a regular basis.

Build Strength

That a soccer player needs to be strong goes without saying. He needs to consume good protein in small amounts several times a day. The protein can include things like eggs, fish, lean meats, yogurt, non-fat cheese, non-fat milk, etc. Getting the right amount of carbs in his diet before, during and after the game will help grow muscle while conserving the protein he consumes, helping it do its job of building muscle. If the player doesn’t eat enough carbs, the protein he consumes will be used as fuel, and his body won’t build muscle. If he really overdoes it, the muscle could even break down and be used as fuel! This is why athletes are strongly discouraged from using high protein, low carb diets. Keep the right balance of protein and carbs for optimum muscle and strength building. When you’re doing your strength training, eat carbs and protein at a 4:1 ratio before and after your training.

Resources and References
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