Note from the Club Chair

In this booklet one of our club members, Grainne O’Halloran, summarises the best foods for footballers to eat to maximise performance in training and matches. She provides a guide about what to eat and drink before matches and what to have afterwards.

This guide will be of benefit to all the managers and players in our club.  Grainne can meet with any teams in the club to provide more nutritional information and to answer questions that managers or players might have.

Grainne has worked for more that 20 years in food and nutrition. She has a PhD in food science from UCC.DrumsNutrition for Footballers What to Eat & Drink Guide

Her passion is an idea called Food for Life. This is something that Grainne has developed over years studying and working on technical aspects of food and nutrition.

It is about getting the most out of food. Food and drink can be your friend or your enemy. Put the right food in and you can perform to your best!

Chair – Brian/ Frank

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Eating for best performance

The food you eat and the fluids you drink provide your body with the energy it needs. It is simple maths-the food you eat as calories gives you energy; you need to burn off that energy. The balance must be right so you need enough calories to fuel your body for the exercise it is doing. The amount of energy you need depends on you as an individual, on the training phase you are in and on your daily activities off the pitch.

If you train every day, your body needs more energy to maintain your performance than a player who does so only twice a week. You also need enough energy to prevent you from tiredness towards the end of a match.

Know the Basics..

Carbohydrate  is the most important fuel for sports. It is stored in your muscles from where it is released during exercise. Your everyday’s eating and drinking plan therefore needs to provide enough carbohydrate to both fuel your training programme and to refill / replenish your muscle stores between workouts.

Soccer players need energy, which is most commonly found in carbohydrate. This should account for nearly 70% of a soccer player’s diet.

The optimal carbohydrate calorie intake for an adult player is 2,400-3,000, but many players fail to get near this, meaning their glycogen levels are sub-par. Those who start a game with low glycogen levels can struggle after half-time because they have little carbohydrate left in their muscles by the time the second half starts.

Know the Basics..

Foods rich in Protein are important for building and repairing your muscles. A balanced diet will usually supply you with enough protein – beans, cereals, meats, fish and dairy foods. These food choices ensure that you pick up all necessary vitamins and minerals and help you to recover in between your training sessions.

It is less about how much, but when eating protein. If you fail to eat protein around training time, this may lead to less-than-optimal training gains.

What to Eat Before a Match

  • Carbohydrate is the key energy-providing nutrient, so you must optimise the intake during the days leading up to and on the day of your match.

  • The meal before the match should consist of carbohydrates with just a little protein because proteins might cause difficulties with digestion.

  • Eat carbohydrates like pasta or rice and always in combination with vegetables and a small amount of protein.

  • Try to eat about three hours before a game to allow your body time to digest the nutrients.

Examples of Pre Match Meals:

  • 5 cups breakfast cereal + milk + large banana

  • Large bread roll or 3 thick slices bread + thick spread honey

  • 2 cups boiled rice + 2 slices bread

What to Eat After a Match

  • When the match has finished you should try to eat approximately 30-40 minutes after the final whistle.

  • The reason for trying to eat as soon as possible after a match is because there is a period of time, up to 45 minutes after physical exercise, or there is a window of recovery for the body, where you can feed it with carbohydrates and protein.

  • At the end of the match, the muscles are completely exhausted so in this phase you have to allow them to recover.

  • Pasta or rice are the best things to eat to replenish your muscles with glucose and carbohydrates.

  • You also have to restore your protein balance so the player is fit again for physical exercise the day after and does not suffer from muscular problems.

  • To prevent that you also need to take protein.

Hydration

An important measure to prevent a drop in performance is fluids. When you train hard or play a football match, you sweat. You need to replace that loss of fluid (called rehydration). The loss of fluid also depends on the weather conditions: in warm environments you sweat a lot more: On a hot day, sweat losses may reach 3 litres whereas on a cold day you might lose very little sweat. Your drinking has to make up for this loss.

What to drink?

Water is the best drink as it helps you to limit dehydration.

How much to drink?

  • Taking on small amounts of fluids on a regular basis is key.

  • Drink about 250-500 ml in the 60-90 minutes before the start of the match.

  • Avoid drinking too much at once because this can make you bloated and put you at risk of getting an upset stomach.

  • Drink about 250-500 ml during and after the match but sip rather than gulp during the match.

When to drink?

  • It is best to drink before, during and after a training session or match, and also to ensure that fluids are taken on regularly throughout a match.

  • After a session or match, drink to refill your fluid stores.

The importance of a soccer player’s diet cannot be underestimated when planning the path to success on the field.

As Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger once said: “Food is like petrol. If you put the wrong one in your car, it’s not as quick as it should be”.

The Frenchman famously changed his players’ eating habits after arriving from Japanese club Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1996 and his methods have been incorporated at other Premier League clubs. Boiled fish, lean meat, pasta and vegetables became a staple of the average Arsenal player’s diet.

If a player does not have a healthy diet, they will not be able to train as hard, will struggle to improve their play and be more susceptible to tiredness.