Fluid & Nutrition > Introduction
It is well accepted that fluids and nutrition play a vital role in football performance, and that a player's requirements are different to that of non football players.
Optimizing fluid intake and nutrition leads to better health and higher standards of performance. This section addresses and provides guidelines for the key topics concerning a fluid plan, nutrition plan, fuel for performance, the importance of protein, good and bad fats, supplements, and pre- and postmatch food intake.
Fluids for Performance
Losing fluid during training and playing is the body's way of controlling temperature and should be treated as a positive outcome. However, failure to replace the fluid is a major problem as excessive losses of fluid reduce your endurance capacity, power, reaction time and concentration. A fluid loss above 2% of your bodyweight is detrimental and should be prevented by following a fluid plan, that covers pre, during and post match drinking.
Thirst is not a good indicator of fluid needs - if you're thirsty then your probably too late!
Hyper-hydrating has proved to reduce the negative effects of fluid loss during games and training. This involves raising your body fluid level above the normal rate to counteract the inevitable fluid loss during the game or training.
Fuel for Performance
To meet the demands of training and competing, players require food that can be broken down into usable energy. Carbohydrates are the most appropriate sources of fuel for football players, and they should form the bulk of caloric intake. Foods such as rice, pasta, potatoes, and bread are rich in carbohydrates and are broken down into glycogen (which produces energy) and distributed throughout the body to be used when exercising.
Intensive training and competing place heavy demands on glycogen stores. As these stores are depleted, fatigue occurs and performance drops until players "hit the wall" and run out entirely. Players can avoid emptying their glycogen tank by basing their carbohydrate intake on their body weight and activity levels. See fluid plan for more information.
Build and Repair
Due to the intensity of football and the high strength and power requirements, players require a higher intake of protein compared to non-players. Muscle mass increases rely on a high level of protein intake but also require energy from other nutrients (fat and carbohydrates) to facilitate a positive energy balance.
Guidelines for Fat Intake
Avoid saturated fats, such as visible fat on meat. Diets high in saturated fats and trans fats increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol levels and, therefore, the risk of heart disease, whereas most unsaturated fats have harmless or even helpful effects on one's lipid profile.
- Eat fish two or three times a week to boost your intake of essential fish oils.
- Use olive oil for cooking and in salad dressings.
- Avoid eating fatty foods prior to and following exercise.
Too nervous to eat?
Some players find it difficult to eat normally before a game. These players should focus on foods that they enjoy and perhaps a larger breakfast if they know that closer to the game they will struggle to eat. An energy shake may be a worthwhile option for such players.