How Many Calories Do Youth Players Need?

It's time to tackle one of the most prevailing topics of all: the issue of calories.

Many soccer players, on all levels, are in drastic need of paying attention to the most important aspect of their sport: getting enough fuel to power their game.

Figuring Out Calories

Youth soccer players are calorie-burning machines. Consider that an average youth player runs anywhere from 2-4 miles per game, while older players and pros can cover up to 10K (6.2 miles). If you compute for a typical two-day tournament, that's an amazing 10 to 15 miles per day for the youth player.

Running alone burns 100 calories per mile (the equivalent of a medium banana). Toss in the other demands of the sport, the caloric requirements of just growing and existing, and you can appreciate that playing this game requires enormous energy expenditure.

In one British study of top 14-year-old swimmers, soccer players, and track athletes, all three groups failed to meet the recommendations for caloric intake (at least 3,000 calories per day for active young athletes). Soccer players were also deficient in vitamin D, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Nutritional knowledge was also low, as a questionnaire revealed. From a possible score of 56 points, soccer players averaged 15.5.

We encourage you to think of yourself as an endurance athlete--like a cyclist or marathoner--with "a banana in one hand and a sandwich in the other." Basically, you should feel like you are eating "all the time." This is because most youth players fail to eat enough. They are distracted, nervous or excited, and not focusing on food. Or, they eat a normal amount--for a sedentary person.

Kristine Lilly's Recovery Foods

Kristine Lilly of the Boston Breakers of Women's Professional Soccer is the world's most capped (international appearances) player of all time, male or female--and a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and World Cup Champion team member. Here's what she commonly uses to refuel after a hard game. She tosses the food into her soccer bag, so it is ready and waiting to be devoured!

  • Chocolate Gatorade Shake
  • Chocolate Chip Fiber-One Bar
  • Water
  • Sandwich of some sort (like her favorite PB&J, made with soft bread, raspberry jelly and peanut butter)

Read more tips like these in "Food Guide for Soccer--Tips & Recipes From the Pros" by Gloria Averbuch and Nancy Clark, RD. The book addresses nutrition questions and concerns of soccer athletes of all ages, and offers almost 50 recipes from players in Women's Professional Soccer. Find the book at NancyClarkRD.com or at Amazon.com.

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