The Diet

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The Diet

Easy Steps To Improve Your Diet...



"In his early days at Arsenal, Tony Adams ate far too much steak and chips and junk food. His performance only improved when he switched to a diet of fish, chicken, vegetables and fruit."

The days when professional players tackled a steak before a game, in the misguided belief that it would aid strength and fitness, are long gone. Much attention is now devoted to ensuring athletes take in the right food and drink. Nowadays, getting it right can make the difference between winning and losing.

Food is the body's fuel, providing the energy to allow muscles to work. Without food and drink the body cannot function. Without the right foods there is no energy. Without petrol, the car will stop. Poor quality fuel will leave the car working inefficiently. So, lack of food or poor quality food will cause footballers to under-perform.

The Right Foods For Footballers

In general, the body's energy supply comes from the three main types of foods - proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Fatty foods contain the most energy but are useless as an energy source during the high-intensity activities associated with football (e.g. sprinting). They can only used during lower intensity aerobic exercises such as jogging.

Carbohydrate foods contain energy which can be used to fuel the muscles for prolonged aerobic activities and for shorter anaerobic activities such as sprinting. Therefore, carbohydrate foods are ideal energy sources for footballers.

Protein foods are used by the body as energy sources usually after 45 minutes of exercise. Again, this is ideal for footballers.

The Importance of Carbohydrates

Research shows professional outfield players run about 5-8 miles in a game and are in personal posession of the ball for a total of only of 3 minutes. As a result they use up huge amounts of carbohydrate energy. These carbohydrates must be replaced after the match - the sooner the better. However, in the two days prior to a match, professional footballers increase the amount of carbohydrates they eat. In this way, their muscles are fully prepared for the exercise which lies ahead.


Is is very easy to dehydrate as a result of exercise especially during the summer months. However, relacing lost fluids is not a simple matter;

Drinks which are very fizzy, or very cold should not be drunk during periods of exercise as they often lead to stomach pains. Also, drinking great quantites at one go should be avoided for the same reasons - `little and often' is a good rule. Well-known sports drinks like Isotar, Gatorade and Lucosade Sport are ideal to take during exercise as is plain water. Carbohydrate drinks such as Coca-Cola, Lucozade and Orange Barley contain too much carbohydrates to be taken during exercise but are ideal afterwards.

 Diet, Food and Drink for Footballers 

Sport nutrition, diet or food and drink, for footballers players is becoming increasingly scientific and recognised for its importance in the game of football. Almost every professional club will have a nutritionist or similar expert advisor for their team.

Why is sport nutrition or diet important in football? 

Food provides us with energy for our muscles, brain and other organs. Football requires plenty of exercise, and therefore it is important to have energy available to us during the game. The energy available to us at any particular time depends on our blood sugar levels .

If we over-eat, we become over-weight. The heavier we are, the more work our muscles have to do to take us the same distance. This reduces our stamina, and our ability to accelerate quickly. If we under-eat, we can become weak and our overall health can decline, because we are not getting enough nutrients.

A healthy diet improves our general level of health, and can help us recover more quickly from injuries.

Along with a program of fitness training, our diet can help us develop stamina and improve athletic performance.

Diet is essential for our growth, and development.

Easy Steps to Improve Your Diet 

Eat breakfast. This is the most important meal of the day, so it should not be skipped.

Reduce the amount of coffee, tea and cola that you drink, and replace them with water, fruit juice or other healthy drinks.

Eat healthier snacks. Eat carrots, dry breakfast cereal, nuts, rice cakes, rye, crisp breads, bagels or toast rather than crisps, chocolate bars and sweets.

Reduce sugary foods, for example by eliminating sugar from tea, coffee and breakfast cereal.

Reduce your intake of fatty foods. For example, reduce the amount of butter, margarine, fatty meat, beef burgers, chips and crisps that you eat.

Drink plenty of fluids before a match, at half-time and after the match, particularly in hot, humid weather.

Avoid sugary snacks immediately before the start of a match. Fruit, such as bananas, or other carbohydrate-rich snacks are better. Avoid over-eating before a match.

Replace fluids, salts and carbohydrates that you have used during the match (see below).

Recovery After A Match

Here are four tips to help you recover from a hard match or training session.

Rest, and make sure you have enough sleep.

Replace your body salts by eating. Most foods naturally contain salts, but fruit juices are particularly good choices, and these will also replace fluids.

Replace your body carbohydrates by eating

carbohydrate-rich foods within two hours after a match or training session.

Drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost through sweat.

Summary - General Dos and Donts:

  • Cut down on fatty foods such as chips, crisps and fried food.
  • Cut down on red meat, pasties, pies and sausage rolls.
  • Replace 'simple' carbohydrates like sweets, biscuits and cakes with fruit.
  • Eat more 'complex' carbohydrate foods such as bread, pasta, rice, vegetables and cerials.
  • Don't eat immediately before a match or training. Allow time for the food to be digested.
  • Don't play on an empty stomach.
  • Don't delay eating after taking exercise. Try to eat within 2 hours.
A young athletes diet should be based around high carbohydrate foods, where 60% of the total energy intake should be from carbohydrate sources, between 12-15% from protein, and 25-30% from fat. The carbohydrate intake should be modified if a player is injured or ill, to around 50% of total energy intake. Young footballers who are training regularly should have a daily target of 8-10g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight (e.g. player with 40kg of body weight = 40 x 8g = 320 g per day.

A diet that is high in carbohydrate and fluids, moderate in protein and low in fat will give athletes enough calories and nutrients to grow, train and compete. Below are some suggestions of recommended meals and snacks and foods to avoid before, during, and after games.
Moderate portions
Bread Rolls
Fruit juice
Sports drinks


Not Recommended
High fat foods
High protein foods
Chocolate bars Doughnuts
Hot Dogs
Fizzy or carbonated drinks

Guidelines for water
All athletes should drink water before, during, and after exercise.
Before exercise: Drink 10-14 ounces cold water 1-2 hours before game. Drink 10 oz of cold water 10-15 min. before activity.
During exercise: Drink 3-4 oz of cold water every 15 minutes.
After exercise: Drink as much cold water as needed to quench thirst.
N.B. - Thirst does not indicate when an athlete needs to re-hydrate, if an athlete is thirsty then they are already de-hydrated, the trick is to monitor your consumption to avoid dehydration and thirst.


Cereal (without sugar)
Bread Rolls
Skimmed Milk
Fruit Juice
Wholemeal Bread
Not Recommended
Toast with egg or cheese
Whole milk
Pop Tarts
Fizzy or Carbonated drinks
Lots of butter or margarine

Baked potato & chilli
Bread Rolls
Yogurt/Milk Shake (skimmed or low fat)
Pasta (careful of high fat sauces)
Cheese pizza
Lean ham
Turkey sandwich (brown or wholemeal bread)
Roast beef Sandwich (brown or wholemeal)
Fruit cup
Not Recommended
Apple pies
Fried fish
Fried chicken
Meat pizza
Fizzy or carbonated drinks
Mashed potato & gravy
Lots of butter or margarine
Hot dogs
Mayo and cheese

Between game snacks
Low fat cheese, peanut butter with saltine crackers Yogurt with bananas, apples, pears, nectarines, oranges, Frozen yogurt, milk, pudding, pretzels, Italian bread with low fat cheese or margarine.



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