Soccer is a fast paced, intense, competitive sport, and the demands on a players’ body can be incredible. During a game, a player is in constant motion for 30-45 minutes at one time, depending on age and level of play, followed by a 10 minute break and then another 30-45 minutes of constant activity. The average soccer player can travel up to 12 miles per game at various speeds. This means that a great deal of energy is used and must be replaced.
Nutrition needs to be a priority of an athlete’s training. What you eat daily, weekly, and monthly will affect your energy level, performance and health. Energy in means energy out! It is so important that a soccer player eats a well balanced diet high in complex carbohydrates, and low in fats which will help them to maximize their energy levels and perform at their optimal levels.
Proper nutrition not only benefits an athlete physically, but also mentally and that’s half the battle on the field. If the brain is not well fed, then the player will not play to the best of their ability. Without the right food, a player can suffer from the inability to concentrate, lethargy (feeling tired all over), having visual problems, muscle cramps, dizziness and even passing out.
Don’t forget about dehydration! A soccer player should start hydrating 2-3 days prior to games and tournaments. Players can lose as much as 3 quarts of fluid in a fast paced game and in hot climates. Fluid replacement is one of the most important nutritional concerns of a soccer player. Body fluids are not only lost through the skin as sweat, but also through the lungs when breathing.
Fluids should be replaced during half time and if possible during the game, especially on hot days, and after the game. The liquid should be at or around normal body temperature, as cold liquids are absorbed slower. Water, along with sports drinks that may or may not be enhanced with electrolytes, is acceptable and should not be gulped as the body will use smaller quantities more easily. By following a good dietary plan, eating well-balanced meals and staying hydrated, soccer players will discipline their bodies as well as their minds. Performance levels should increase, overall health should improve and preparation will be made for future competitions at higher levels of play.