Maximizing Performance & Minimizing Injuries in Soccer Players

Early in my sports nutrition career I became involved with highly trained endurance athletes because I was working in research at a human performance laboratory in Washington, D.C. For eight years I was the nutrition consultant for the world-class women runners who participated in the First Womens Olympic Marathon Trials and the Navy SEALs. Nutrition was extremely important to both of these groups. Later, when I moved back home to Louisville, I was asked to consult with several soccer club teams throughout Kentuckiana. It became apparent to me that these soccer players are also endurance athletes. In fact, club players are often asked to participate in tournaments where they play in the heat, in back-to-back games with very little recovery time. Many times these athletes (and parents) are traveling from city to city eating on the road wherever they can. Making the right food and fluid choices can help enhance soccer players performance, prevent injuries and ensure they have the endurance to prepare for the next game. Proper nutrition provides energy, which can optimize performance and minimize injuries caused by an early onset of fatigue. Two of the most important challenges for soccer players are maintaining adequate fluid status before, during and after games and practices and maintaining adequate carbohydrate (CHO) reserves. In addition, many athletes do not consume enough calories because of their active lifestyles and this can have a negative effect on performance as well. Carbohydrate needs of the soccer player
Soccer players should consume 3.5 4.5 grams of CHO per pound of body weight. For example, the 110-pound female soccer player needs 385 grams 495 grams of CHO per day. The 170-pound soccer player would need 595 grams 765 grams of CHO per day. That is roughly 60 70% of the athletes calories from CHO. To get high numbers of CHOs players may need to consume foods that contain concentrated sources of CHO (figs or raisins, for example). It may also help to use high-CHO products such as Gatorlode or Endurox. Other high-CHO foods include bagels, breads, rice, pastas, bananas, and ready-to-eat cereals with dried fruits. Reading food labels will help athletes determine how many grams of CHO they are consuming.
Energy needs of the soccer player
Soccer players should consume 20 27 calories per pound of body weight as part of their daily training diet.* A female player who weighs 110 pounds should therefore consume approximately 2,200 2,970 calories each day, whereas a 150-pound player should eat between 3,000 4,050 calories. Ranges, rather than a specific number, of calories are generally suggested so athletes can find the appropriate number of calories that will help them maintain a healthy weight. If weight fluctuates during training or after the game, this may indicate dehydration or that the player is not eating enough calories to maintain his or her weight. Both situations should be dealt with in the proper manner. Players should read food labels to help them determine how many calories they are eating each day. Keeping a food diary will help players determine whether they are consuming enough calories, CHO and fluids.
Fluid needs of the soccer player
One can roughly estimate fluid needs, based on calorie needs. For example, if the 110-pound athlete needs 2,200 2,970 calories, divide that number by 30**. The athletes daily fluid intake should be between 73 ounces to 99 ounces. In very hot climates, multiply the calories by 1.5 and divide that number by 30.
Examples: 1.5 X 2,200 = 3,300. 3,330/30 = 110 ounces 1.5 X 2,970 = 4,455. 4,455/30 = 148 ounces

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