The Soccer Player's Perfect Diet

Athletes and other active people should embrace, not shun, a diet that relies primarily on carbohydrates. Fortunately, the cooler temperatures of fall and winter often lend themselves to traditional "carbohydrate cravings." Ironically, avoiding these cravings usually leads only to other, more destructive cravings; such as for refined carbohydrates, like the kind in sweets. So, do yourself a favor and include wholesome grains as the foundation of each meal!

Below is some advice and recommendations from Food Guide for Soccer: Tips and Recipes from the Pros.

Carbohydrates for Your Sports Diet

By eating grains, fruits and vegetables as the foundation of each meal, you'll consume about 55 to 65 percent of your calories from carbohydrates. This is exactly what you need for a high-energy sports diet. These carbohydrates are stored in muscles in the form of glycogen and provide the energy you need for performing on the soccer field.

Grain foods are a popular source of carbohydrates for most soccer athletes. The exceptions are the weight-conscious athletes who believe they will get fat if they eat breads, cereals and pastas at each meal. False. Carbohydrates are not fattening; excess calories are fattening.

Fruits and vegetables are also excellent sources of carbohydrates. But some players have trouble figuring out how to consume the recommended daily 2 cups (500 g) of fruits and 2 1/2 cups (600 g) of vegetables. As one 22-year-old soccer player sheepishly remarked, "I'm lucky if I eat that much in a week."

The trick is to eat large portions. Most soccer players can easily enjoy a banana (counts as one cup fruit) and 8 ounces (one cup) of orange juice in the morning. That's already the minimal 2 cups of fruit for the day! A big bowl of salad filled with colorful tomato, carrot, and pepper can account for the minimal recommended 2 1/2 cups of vegetables.

Eat Right for Yourself, And for Your Team

Just as each teammate depends on the others to be fit, focused and ready to play, so too with being well-nourished. When you eat right, you do so for yourself and for the team effort, since what, when and how you fuel has a direct impact on your performance.

Parents, coaches, team captains and/or managers: take a poll before games. Ask players what and when they ate before arriving. If it isn't up to speed (often that means not enough), pass the pre-game snacks. Make sure to do this, particularly for important games. The players will soon got the message, and learn to eat well on their own.

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 or at

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