Soccer Chief

Soccer Player Nutrition: Best Healthy Food for Soccer Players

best healthy food for soccer players

Just like your Xbox controller needs batteries to let you beat your friends at FIFA’s latest edition, your body needs plenty of healthy food so you can have enough energy to be at your best and beat players on the field (they might even be the same players you beat in FIFA).

So, maybe this is a good time to start considering dropping that soda you are drinking at the moment (trust me, it’s not good for you), and instead take one or two soccer player nutrition tips from this humble post (luckily, we've done the research).

So, without any further ado, let me share with you our complete soccer player nutrition guide and give you enough reasons to prove why proper nutrition is paramount when it comes to being at peak condition and how you can be a fit soccer player.

Why is Nutrition Important for Soccer Players?

Soccer is a high-intensity sport and for your body to cope up with the physical intensity and extreme pace, it needs optimal nutrition. If proper nutrition is not taken, it will lead to fatigue, injury, or even to more serious issues.

Not so much Fun fact: The reason why you lost that match the other day could be because your opponent ate well and you didn’t (don’t worry, we’re about to change that).

What Kind of Food do Soccer Players Eat?

Soccer Player Nutrition

During the course of a 90-minute game a soccer player can burn up to 2000 calories (that's more than the average person burns throughout a WHOLE day), so it is very important that you take nutrition very seriously if you want to be at peak condition. But, every single soccer player is different from one another and thus has different nutritional needs, and regardless of those needs and goals, a balanced diet is key.

What should a soccer player eat before a match?
It's highly recommended that you have your last meal at least 2 hours before game time. Never underestimate the importance of a nutritious and balanced pre-game meal, it can certainly improve both your physical and mental performance on the field.

Before a match you should try to increase the amount of carbohydrates with low and medium Glycemic Index you intake, these will help you increase your endurance and avoid fatigue. A good example of low GI foods are: Sweet potatoes, pasta, white rice, corn, and cereals . Try to avoid foods that are too high in fat and fiber as they can slow digestion and this could lead to an upset stomach and bloating. Also try to avoid having too much protein right before a game, as it could also lead to discomfort when performing high intensity activities.

What should soccer players have after the play a match?
After a game it is really important that you replenish your body’s glycogen levels, and always try to keep it under a 2-hour window, because not doing so could lead to exhaustion or more serious issues. A good rule of thumb is to aim for one gram of carbs for each 2 pounds of body weight you have (e.g. eat 80 grams of carbohydrates if you weight 160 pounds and so).

Maintenance and off season eating for soccer players
To know how much food you need to have, you will have to understand the difference between each macronutrient group and how they affect your body. In simple words, depending on your personal goals and activity level you need to increase your energy intake as compared to energy expenditure if you want to gain lean muscle or decrease it if you want to shed some pounds.

For starters, a first great step towards improving your diet is to dial a bit down on junk food and start consuming nutrient-dense foods. Foods with high nutrient density are the ones that carry the vastest amount and variety of nutrients and will help you maximize the number of nutrients that your body assimilates, this won't only aid you with performance, but during recovery as well.

But, don't just take our word for it, here's a link to an
article published by Harvard (warning: paywall alert) which highlights the numerous benefits of nutrient-dense foods consumption, and they highly recommend kale, cantaloupe, and quinoa among others.

If you want to be serious and accurate about the way you approach your nutrition, a great tool that can help you identify what your daily energy requirements are is a
"Total Daily Energy Expenditure" calculator. Calculating your TDEE and comparing it against your daily intake will help you know exactly what the difference between your intake and expenditure is.

Always keep in mind that there are approximately 3500 calories in each pound of body weight that you gain or lose, so eating at a surplus or deficit of 200 calories per day will help you increase or decrease 1 pound of body weight per week (which is the recommended amount by professionals to avoid muscle-loss when losing weight or "dirty bulking" when gaining it).

Nutrition Important for Soccer Players

There are 3 major groups of macronutrients, each of them with different properties and effects on your body, and these are:

Carbohydrates (4 calories per gram):
Carbohydrates will ensure better stamina and endurance during the game. Fresh fruits, potatoes, rice, and vegetables are some examples of foods that are rich in carbohydrates.

Proteins (4 calories per gram):
Proteins will help you build strength and develop muscle. Lean meat, eggs, greek yogurt, beans, fish, and broccoli are great examples of good sources of protein.

Fats (9 calories per gram):
Let's debunk the myth right now, consuming fats won't lead you to develop body fat, but constantly eating at a calory surplus without exercising will. Your body needs fats to absorb fat-soluble nutrients and vitamins (A, D, E, and K) ( Olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish (like salmon) are a great source of healthy fats.

A good rule of thumb for soccer player’s and athletes, in general, is to follow the following intake distribution: 60-65% carbohydrates, 20-25% fats, and 15-20% proteins.

Soccer Player Nutrition Frequently Asked Questions

These are some of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to Soccer player nutrition and the best healthy food for soccer players:

What Fruits are Good for Soccer Players?

It is suggested that you eat fresh fruits like bananas, apples, fresh berries, and apricots. Feel free to explore more fruits but these are the best ones to take.

What is the Best Drink for Soccer Players?

Soccer player nutrition also includes keeping yourself hydrated. It’s just as important as your food intake. Dehydration can have drastic effects on your performance, particularly your speed, endurance, and decision making.

This makes water the most important drink for soccer players. Other drinks include fruit and vegetable smoothies and fresh juices. Those are the best drinks to have. If not these, then I would suggest looking for sports drinks at your nearest store. And no, fizzy drinks do not count as ‘sports drinks’.

What Should a Soccer Player Eat for Lunch?

Never skip your meals. Eat well before your soccer game, I would suggest eating some snacks about 2-3 hours before your game. But if you’re taking a whole meal, make sure the lunch you have is high in carbohydrates and proteins, and is consumed about 5 hours before the game. Some of the highly recommended foods for lunch include rice, meat, and vegetables. Cheetos are not lunch.

What Foods Should Soccer Players Avoid?

Foods full of saturated fat like fatty meats, fried foods etc. and excessive junk foods. The reason being that food with high-fat content and calories tend to slow down the digestion process. So try to embrace a healthy lifestyle rather than having food that doesn't just affect your health but your performance on the soccer field as well.

Are Bananas Good for Soccer Players?

Yes, indeed they are!
Bananas are rich in vitamin C (boosts immune system), fiber, potassium (prevent cramps), and vitamin B6 (helps against anemia), all essential for a soccer player’s diet.

Is Milk Good for Soccer Players?

Indeed! It provides you with calcium (which makes your bones stronger)and is among it is a great source of protein as well.

Are Eggs Good for Soccer Players?

Yes! Eggs are an excellent source of protein and help your muscles recover from the intensity game. Egg yolks are ranked amongst the highest nutrient-dense foods there are.

How Much Protein Should a Soccer Player Eat?

As mentioned before, protein intake for soccer players should be around 15-20% of your total intake of the day.

Is it OK to Drink Coffee Before a Soccer Game?

There’s a lot of contradiction when it comes to coffee. However, in my opinion, caffeine is not the best way to give yourself a boost before the game. It can affect your clarity and decision making at pivotal moments. If you are really looking for a kickstart, drink a sports drink instead.

Summary: Good Nutrition is Really Important when it comes to Soccer

No doubt, dribbling skills, fast pace, and knuckleball shoots are very important, but being at peak shape by a mix of conditioning training and having the best soccer player nutrition is also just as important.

So, according to your weight and physique, determine how much your daily intake should be and abide by a diet plan that will help you achieve your nutritional goals. The road has been paved, and we certainly hope that these few tips on what the best healthy food for soccer players are will help you get where you want to. Now, it’s your time to choose what’s best for you. Got any comments? Fell free to leave us a line and we'll get to you ASAP.