Football Health – Nutrition
In recent years, sports nutrition has become very important for professional footballers, just like the training they do. We assume that most readers of this site however are not professional footballers and don’t have the benefits of qualified nutritionists and trainers telling them what to do. If you want to improve too, we’re here to help. With there being so many diets and regimes out there, trying to find dietary requirements that actually suit you and your goals can be confusing. For example, if you want to lose weight then a lot of cardio, weights and low calorie meals would be ideal, but if you want to bulk up like a body builder then lots of calories, carbohydrates and protein are a must, coupled with intense weight training.
With football it is all about finding that balance. The first and most important step is to commit to making changes that will improve your performance, happiness and life in general. To paraphrase Jim Wendler, a respected powerlifter and strength coach:
“your body is no different to anyone else’s but your attitude can be. Want to set yourself apart from teammates and opponents? Outwork them. Eat better than them, train harder and smarter. With time, you will reap the rewards.”
Having researched it for many months, and always being under the impression that carbohydrates were bad for you, I was told and proved otherwise. I was told that they are essential for you on the days where you are due to play a match. However, on training days and days off, a low carbohydrate and high protein intake would be wiser. The average diet is very carb heavy and low on protein so it is highly likely that some dietary changes are needed. Try to make sure that most of your plate is made up of protein and vegetables. This simple change will have a vast difference on your metabolic rate and overall health. An example of a training day meal plan is as follows:
7am Breakfast - Porridge oats with semi skinned milk, with 25-50g of whey protein (some people mix them together or you can take the whey separately with water or milk)
10am snack - 100g of low fat yogurt with nuts/fruits
1pm Lunch - Sandwich with meat/fish, lettuce/vegetables, fruit/nuts
4pm Snack - nuts/fruits, with some chicken breast
7pm Dinner - sweet potato/whole wheat rice/pasta with chicken/fish/red meat, and vegetables
9pm Snack (optional) – Low fat yogurt, with nuts/fruits
You of course would want to add a bit of exercise to this and follow that with a sports drink and some whey protein. This plan provides you with a guide for low glycaemic (GI) carbohydrates to help provide you with the energy needed for long and intense training sessions and also which are good for the recovery process the following day. Below is a list of low GI foods:
Cereals,Grains, Pasta, Rice, Etc All Bran, Bread (whole grain/granary/Multi grain), Bread (soya, linseed), Bread (stone ground wholemeal, Buckwheat), Macaroni, Muesli, Noodles, Oatcakes, Oat bran, Oats, porridge, Pasta wholemeal, Potatoes, new boiled Rice white/brown/basmati Sweet potato, Tortilla
Protein Beef Hamburger patty, Steak, Beef, Chicken breast (all forms), Tuna, Salmon, Yogurt, Peanut butter, Almonds, Peanuts, Cashews, Pecans, Sunflower seeds, Pumpkin seeds, flax seed, Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Herring, Chicken breast, Turkey breast, Fish, Shellfish, Egg, Non-fat cottage cheese, Whey protein, Lean red meat, low fat cottage cheese, Regular mince, Roast beef, Ham, Hot dogs, Beef jerky, Salami/Chorizo, Sausages, Bacon
Vegetables Artichoke, Asparagus, Aubergine / eggplant, Baked beans, Black-eyed beans, Broccoli, Butter beans, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chick peas, Chillies, Cucumber, Green beans, Haricot beans, Kidney beans. Lentils, green Lentils, Lentil soup, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Onions, Peas, Peppers, Pinto beans, Soy beans, Spinach, Split peas, Sweetcorn, Tomatoes
Fruits & Fruit Juices Apples, Apricots, Banana, Blackberries, Cherries, Coconut, Coconut, milk, Grapefruit, Grapefruit, Grapes, Kiwi fruit, Oranges, Orange juice ,Peaches, Pears, Plums, Prunes, Raspberries, Strawberries
Others Almonds, Peanuts, roasted & salted, Walnuts, Custard, Ice-cream, low fat Milk semi/skinned, chocolate, Yoghurt, Crisps, Hummus, Jam, Milk chocolate Nutella, Peanut butter
I know it may read like that but just because it says you can eat chocolates and crisps, that doesn’t mean you can have them every day. That is just a guide, and you want to push yourself to eat more of the “healthier” stuff on the list and avoid others.
You should aim to eat 1g of protein for every pound that you weigh. So if you weigh 10 stone, aim for 140 grams of protein a day etc. Hard training with weights is taxing on your body, as is cardio. Protein is essential for your body to repair this ‘damage’ and come back stronger – this process of taxing your body beyond its previous capabilities and then allowing it to recover so that it is stronger/tougher etc. is the central premise of all training and you need to keep this in mind at all times. Push yourself hard, eat well and recover. Then rinse and repeat.
Now you have prepared all week for an important cup match. Your body is in good condition and mentally you feel confident. How can you avoid feeling flat during the match? Well you want to almost eat the opposite of what you had on your training days. High in GI foods are what you need. Here is a meal plan designed for your match days:
7am Breakfast - Porridge oats with semi skimmed milk, 25-50g of whey protein, and a glass of fruit juice.
10am snack - Oat cakes and some fruit, small protein source.
12pm Lunch - Chicken/Fish/Meat with rice/jacket potato and vegetables.
15 mins Before Kickoff: banana/oat cake with a sports drink
Half Time: banana/oat cake with a sports drink
Full time: Sports drink and some whey protein (aim for a 2:1 carbs:protein ratio)
Post Match Meal: Chicken/Fish/Meat, with sweet potato/wholemeal rice and vegetables
Snack in the evening: Fruit and/or Nuts, protein source.
The meal plan aims to provide you with enough low GI foods to provide you with the large amounts of energy needed to complete a 90 minute game and aid in post match recovery while also providing your muscles with the protein they need to maintain performance. Low GI foods should still be consumed on match days, but try and bring in some high GI foods as well, particularly around game time. Here is a list of High GI foods which would be suited for eating on a match day:
Cereals, Grains, Pasta, Rice, Etc Baguette, Bagel, Bran flakes, Bread (all forms), Chips, Coco Pops, Cornflakes, French fries, Potato, Puffed wheat, Rice, Rice Krispies, Scones, Bran, Tapioca, Weetabix, Waffles.
Vegetables Broad beans, Parsnips, Pumpkin, Swede
Fruits & Fruit Juices Apples, Apricots, Banana, Blackberries, Cherries, Coconut, Coconut milk, Grapefruit, Grapefruit juice , Grapes, Kiwi, Oranges/Orange juice, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Prunes, Raspberries, Strawberries
Nuts & Seeds Almonds, Peanuts, roasted & salted, Walnuts
Along with all the correct foods, you should look at getting in some supplements to help you feel good on the inside. A couple of the most important ones are:
Whey Protein – A good source of complete protein that can help you reach your daily totals of protein. Just remember that this is a supplement to a good diet, not a solution in itself; supplements are the final touches to a varied and healthy diet, not a one-stop way to improve.
Multi-Vitamin – Daily dose of vitamins and minerals to help keep your body at its peak. You will use these up quickly with strenuous training so tablets are recommended, although again this should not replace eating a broad variety of healthy food – you should get lots of vitamins through your diet too!
Omega 3 – Omega-3 fatty acids are essential as they are not produced by the body. Consumption of omega-3 through diet or supplements has a huge number of benefits, including heart, brain and joint health, because they reduce inflammation (part of lots of conditions from coronary heart disease to asthma).
All of this information should help you in starting to alter your diet both for your own well being and also to help you progress with football. This is a guide to help you, so you should try and put a dietary plan into place which is suited to you and your life schedule. Maybe you do not like oats or milk for breakfast; well, scrambled eggs with whole wheat toast or natural peanut butter on a wholemeal bagel can replace that. Or if you cannot eat nuts, simply replace that with fruits and some protein (whey and beef jerky are both good choices) to get your snack fix.
After a while you will start to feel a bit of a difference in your game and your health; it might only be a small difference, but a difference nonetheless. Following up from this article, we will be talking about a regime of upper and lower body weights training, core stability and cardio to work alongside dietary improvements to really up your game. After that, we will have some programs for specific goals in case you want to work on a particular area of your game.
Big thanks go to Gez McAuley & Fran Silver, www.fransilver.co.uk , who helped me with getting this article off the ground. Follow me on @londonox and Fran on Twitter @fransilverpt