Bluegrass United Boys' Soccer
Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of a soccer player’s performance and body composition. It is a mistake to assume that the only important meals come before and/or after games. Every meal is important - you get out of your body what you put into it. It is probably safe to say that around 99% of soccer players have poor diet habits due to poor advice or poor nutritional guidelines. The USDA Nutritional Guidelines are poor at best - for athletes and everybody else. They are not backed by sound research but rather by the most powerful agricultural companies. The purpose of this document is to provide good nutritional advice that is based on sound research.
A note on fat: Fat will not make you fat; it will not clog your arteries; and it will not give you heart disease. By fat, I mean real fat - the kind found in real food. Fat is essential to proper hormone and digestive function, and therefore essential for soccer players. It is also the best and most efficient source of energy. The harmful fats are the man-made hydrogenated and trans fats you find in things like margarine, canola oil, vegetable oil, and crisco. These kinds of fats will clog your arteries and contribute to heart disease.
The underlying principle of these guidelines is to eat real food - things found in nature that are edible like animals and plants. Most grains are not edible in their original state and contain harmful nutrients, so diets high in grains (yes, even whole grains) are not good for you. You will notice that all of the suggested foods are either plants or animals - not pasta, skittles, or Zebra Cakes!
If you are eating mostly food with nutrition labels, you are probably not eating real food. The real food is found on the perimeter of the grocery store - meat & seafood, produce, and dairy. For the most part, anything that comes in a package or a box in the middle aisles is not real food.
How Much You Should Eat
Eat until you are full (if you can). If you are planning on fasting for an extended period of time (including meatless fasts like Fridays during Lent or Advent), eat a lot on Sundays or the day before your fast. Feasting and Fasting are not only good for you spiritually, but can be good for you physically as well!
You should not limit your calories, as long as you are getting your calories from the guidelines on the next page. However, if you are eating crap (excuse me) like sodas, pizza, McDonald’s, or the Food Pyramid grain diet, then you have to restrict your calories to not gain weight (this is not the way to go.)
What You Should Eat:
Foundation: Meat, Fish, Fowl, Eggs
Most of your calories should come in this category. These calories will come in as saturated fat (gives you lasting energy, satiety, vitamins, hormone function, and cell function) and protein (building blocks, lean body mass.) If possible, local grown, pasture-fed, and organic is best. These should be eaten at every meal if possible.
Again, locally grown and organic vegetables are best and most nutritious. Vegetables should be eaten at every meal as they provide many nutrients, phytochemicals, and vitamins.
High-fat cooking oils such as coconut oil, butter, and olive oil should supplement the high-fat foundation foods. Avocados, macadamias and other nuts (peanuts are NOT nuts!), coconut products, and olives are other very good sources of fat. These are great for energy!
Note: Remember, man-made hydrogenated (including trans fats) oils and fats are terrible for you! These include but are not limited to: vegetable oil, canola oil, margarine, crisco, etc...
Moderation Foods/Post-Game Carb Options:
Locally-grown, in-season fruits that are high in antioxidants (like berries) are good in moderation, especially to include in a post-game meal. High-fat dairy (NEVER have low-fat dairy) is another food that can be enjoyed in moderation (if you are not lactose-intolerant.)
Some great post-game carb options are starchy tubers (root vegetables), quinoa, wild rice, and certain fruits that are low in fructose and higher in sucrose (fresh apricots, bananas, nectarines, oranges, peaches.)
Dark Chocolate, high-fat treats.
Multivitamins, Omega-3 Fish Oil, protein powder, Vitamin D, probiotics.
When You Should Eat:
Typically, it is better to have 3 larger meals per day rather than 6 meals per day. No, it does not “slow down your metabolism.” Not exercising slows down your metabolism. Snacking can really mess with your hormone levels and production, and give you the terrible habit of constantly having to put something in your mouth. The only thing you should be taking in between meals is water. This will get your body used to using energy efficiently, especially during games and practices when you cannot eat. Make sure each meal has a good foundation of meat, fowl, fish, or eggs supplemented with vegetables and fats as outlined above.
Gatorade and other carb/electrolyte drinks or jellies are appropriate during and after games and practices, but not before or at times when you are not playing or training. They should serve to replenish muscle glycogen and electrolytes as you use them during training or games.
This is up to the individual more than anything - I recommend eating 1.5-3 hours before the warm-up, but some people require shorter or longer. The meal should be high in protein and fat to give you lasting energy and fuel for the game. Carbs will spike your insulin levels, causing grogginess and a blood-sugar crash.
It is very important to eat within 60 minutes (45 is optimal) of finishing a game, especially during a tournament. The meal should be higher than usual in carbs (see “What You Should Eat”) in order to replenish muscle glycogen (fuel) and to recover. The meal should again have a good protein foundation. This is where a fast-acting protein supplement (like Whey) can be useful to help recovery.
Needless to say, drink lots of water! Replace all drinks - fruit drinks, soft drinks (yes, even Coke Zero - ESPECIALLY Coke Zero), juices (orange juice, Sunny D, apple juice, etc…), or any other sugary drinks - with WATER. Despite their claims, these drinks are not good for you! They cause grogginess and blood sugar crashes.
As a general rule: Try to drink half your bodyweight in OZ daily (50oz if you weigh 100 lbs.) On game-days, you will need to drink more. 1 cup = 8 oz
Coffee and tea have many health benefits (many of them performance enhancing), and may be taken in moderation if you are used to caffeine. Use only heavy cream, butter, or coconut oil to flavor the coffee (nothing sugary), and honey is the only appropriate sweetener for tea - artificial sweeteners are poison.