The Soccer Player's Struggle With Nutrition

Carbohydrate intake and training influences how much glycogen (the main fuel for soccer) is stored in the muscles. Over 35 years ago, data was collected that showed the muscle glycogen levels of professional soccer players was little different from the spectator in the stands (not good) and that the game can completely deplete the muscles of glycogen. Thirty years ago, it was shown that the less glycogen in the muscles at the start of a game, the less the player ran in a game. Since then, research has looked at food choices and eating schedules for athletes so they can optimize their glycogen stores and delay fatigue as long as possible.

Don't think fatigue has anything to do with the game? Were you aware that nearly 50 percent of all goals scored from round 16 on at the France World Cup were scored in the last 20 minutes of the games? So, which side do you want to be on?

Late in the game, do you want to be on the team well fueled scoring the goals or on the tired, walking team getting scored on? It is all known, published in scientific and lay books and magazines, but for some reason, the message isn't being followed.

Most nutritional surveys of youth and adolescents show rather poor nutritional choices. Most youth eat what is put in front of them at home or make poor choices when eating out. At home, players eat what their parents eat. Your parents may have chosen to be on the Atkins diet or some other very low carbohydrate program, but you shouldn't be.

There is no way to play this game at a high level while eating so little carbohydrate. So if you want to put the best machine on the field of competition, you (as a kid living at home) have to advise your parents about what to prepare for you. When you go out to eat, choose high carbohydrate foods, not high protein/fat foods. This is tough if the meal is served on a tray or in a bag (i.e. fast food).

When the team travels to a tourney, pack high-carbohydrate foods instead of going to the drive-up window somewhere. I will give some eating suggestions in my next story. Be sure to review part 3 of the recovery series for suggestions regarding the timing of eating.

So where do you go to get some details? There are dozens of good training books on the shelf at your local bookstore. Two of my favorites are Power Eating by Susan Kleiner and Optimal Muscle Recoveryby Edmund R. Burke. Pick them up, read them and follow the advice. You will be a better player for it.

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