Staying Well: An important Job for Soccer Players
Nutrition information for soccer players is one of our most popular topics. Here is the latest from Nancy Clark.
As a soccer player, you have two jobs. One is to eat wisely to perform well. The other is to stay healthy. That includes sleeping well, eating well, and living well (according to your values).
Wellness was the theme of the 35th Annual Symposium for the more than 7,000 sports dietitians who are members of SCAN, the Sports and Cardiovascular Nutrition dietary practice group (SCANdpg.org) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Here are some highlights from that meeting that offer tips for staying healthy and well.
• If weight is an issue, think twice before starting a diet you won’t maintain for the rest of your life. The pattern of losing weight only to regain it has a negative impact on your overall health. A sports dietitian can help you manage weight healthfully for the long term.
• Soccer players who overeat often do so mindlessly.
Physical barriers can help reduce mindless eating.
For example, pre-portion crackers into appropriate servings—and keep them out of sight.
Another way to be more mindful with eating is to think POUR:
Pause (before you put food in your mouth)
Observe (Am I hungry or am I stressed?)
Understand (I am stressed and tired.)
Respond (I need to take a nap more than I need to eat.).
• Eating disorders and disordered eating affects about 60% of female athletes and 30% of male athletes, including soccer athletes. They may wait 10 to 15 years to seek help, thinking I’m not THAT sick.
Sometimes they are too ashamed and embarrassed by their inability to eat normally. Other times they might be afraid the treatment center will deny them permission to exercise—and make them gain weight.
The GOALS Program at Walden Behavioral Care near Boston helps soccer players and other athletes learn to fuel for performance (as opposed to sabotage their performance by dieting and using bad weight management techniques). During an ~8-week treatment program (meeting only 3 nights a week), the athletes’ weight remained relatively stable.
Yes, even athletes with eating disorders can eat more “normally” without “getting fat.”
• Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the USA and globally. Soccer players are not immune.
An estimated 70% of people aged 60 to 79 have CVD, as do more than 80% of people over 80 years of age. The good news is foods such as blueberries, avocado, beets, and tea can help curb negative health effects associated with
For example, the polyphenols (bio-active compounds) in a daily cup of blueberries can reduce blood pressure, improve blood vessel health, and reduce the risk of CVD. Blueberry smoothie, anyone?
• Butter is not back. Saturated fat, refined carbohydrate, and added sugars are equally bad for risk of heart disease.
If you have a family history of heart disease and/or high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, enjoy more olive oil instead of butter to invest in a significantly longer life span.
• Health claims made about coconut oil are misleading. They were created by marketing gurus using research based on medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, not coconut oil.
Coconut oil does contain MCTs, but primarily lauric acid, a MCT that behaves like a long chain saturated fat in terms of digestion and metabolism. Lauric acid raises bad (LDL) cholesterol, inflammation, coagulation and insulin resistance. (1).
If you have high LDL cholesterol, you want to use coconut oil only sparingly! One tablespoon has 13.5 grams saturated fat. Given the American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to less than 7% of total calories, that’s only 15.5 grams a day per 2,000 calories. Soccer players with high LDL would be wise to use coconut oil only sparingly.
• Does drinking 1 to 2 glasses of wine a day offer positive health benefits? Perhaps not, given there are 25 alcohol-related diseases, to say nothing of links between alcohol and certain cancers, CVD, intestinal issues, injuries from accidents, and suicide.
Unless you are among the estimated 35% of Americans who abstain from alcohol, the least harmful way to drink is to limit alcohol to one to two drinks only three to four times a week (not daily). And be sure that one drink is actually just one standard drink (6 oz wine, 12 oz beer, 1.5 oz spirits)—and not the “bartender’s special.”
• Lutein (in egg yolk, spinach, avocado, dark green, and yellow and orange foods) is important for eye health; it curbs age-related macular degeneration. Lutein is also good for your brain and is associated with a reduced risk for dementia.
Adults with normal brain function have three times more lutein in their brain than those with dementia. Enjoy lots of colorful fruits and veggies to consume the recommended lutein intake.
Knowledge is necessary, but not sufficient, for soccer players to make sustained lifestyle changes that improve their health.
We change our behaviors based on our values.
For example, vegetarians generally express concern about the environment and animal welfare.
In light of environmental concerns, seems like we need public health campaigns that focus on values so that more people will eat less meat, waste less food, and choose fewer snacks in single-serve plastic containers.
• Soccer players can easily lose sleep by going to bed too late, drinking too much coffee, having sleep apnea, and needing to urinate during the night.
Sleep loss is associated with accidents, metabolic disorders, weight gain, and hunger (due to increases in the hunger-hormone grehlin). Exercise does not protect against the harmful effects of sleep deprivation. Routinely dragging yourself out of bed in the morning to exercise might not be a wise plan. . Seven hours of sleep a night are recommended to avoid sleep deprivation. Go to bed earlier?
Eat wisely, exercise regularly, be well—and may you enjoy quality of life for as long as you live.
Nancy Clark, MS, RD counsels both casual and competitive athletes at her office in Newton, MA (617-795-1875). Her best selling Sports Nutrition Guidebook and Food Guide for Soccer offer additional information. See NancyClarkRD.com. For her popular online workshop, visit NutritionSportsExerciseCEUs.com.
1) Eyres L. et al. Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans. Nutr Rev. 74(4):267-80, 2016
Nancy Clark, MS RD CSSD Sports nutrition counselor Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook www.nancyclarkrd.com (Books, presentations) Twitter: @nclarkrd Blog: http://nancyclarkrd.com/blog/ Office: 1155 Walnut St., Newton Highlands, MA 02460 Phone:617-795-1875 Fax:617-963-7408 Online Workshop: www.NutritionSportsExerciseCEUs.com "Helping active people win with good nutrition."