John Napier on The Need for Nutrition
Parents want the best for their children and are constantly searching for the latest information on nutritional guidelines. Here is the first of a new series on the best foods for soccer players from one of the leading youth coaches in America … enjoy!
Youth athletes in every sport need good nutrition to perform at their peak, poor intake before, during and after the games will affect performance on the fields or courts. Parents need to understand and moderate what goes beyond their children’s mouths.
With young athletes playing so many games and practice sessions during the week, and sometimes overwork at tournament weekends, proper nutrition is so important.
I remember way back as a professional player, when we were not given the correct choices for nutrition, it just was an unknown part of that time frame; we would be eating a (steak) a few hours before a game, which would be unheard of today.
I also remember when I was a player at Brighton in 1969, our new manager (Fred Goodwin) had just taken over, and he had come back from coaching in the US, he produced this powder he had brought with him called (GATORADE) he told us we were to drink it before and during the game, the players were a little skeptical, having never even heard of this drink, but we were probably the first professional sports club in the UK to have our own Gatorade supply. We also know today how that company rules!
THE NEED FOR NUTRITION
Why is Good Nutrition Important?
Without the correct nutritional support the player will not be able to sustain an intensive training program over a long period of time and improvement will, therefore, be limited.
An understanding of nutrition is also necessary to ensure optimum performance in competition, with manipulation of the diet leading to substantial improvements in performance. The difference between the skills and fitness characteristics of the winning and losing teams can often be small and, where other things are equal, attention to diet can be the difference between the team at the top and at the bottom.
Nutrition and Foods
It’s important that the components of nutrition are known and a good balance maintained for proper health and endurance. These components consist mainly of:
The food and drink that we consume contain a variety of these nutrients and it is essential that the right balance is achieved on a daily basis in order to optimize performance.
The foods that we consume play three major roles within our bodies:
Providing energy– Almost all our bodily functions rely on the energy contained within the foods we eat and drink.
Assisting in growth and repair– Body tissues are constantly being broken down and regenerated. This is achieved by utilizing the foods we eat and is especially important when players are injured.
Maintaining general body function– As well as providing energy to train and compete, the daily needs of individuals must be met in order to maintain the function of our biological systems, for example the heart, lungs and stomach.
For the soccer player, ensuring the diet contains sufficient energy to meet the daily requirements is most critical. When considering whether a player’s diet is “healthy” or “balanced,” many nutritionists believe that if the correct amount of fuel is provided by the right proportion of nutrients, then enough of the other essential nutrients will also be provided.
What to Eat and when
The competitive year for the soccer player can be divided into three main phases: the close season, the pre-season and the playing season. We will briefly consider the nutritional habits of soccer players during each of these phases:
Close season– Energy intake of a soccer player tends to greatly exceed energy expenditure. Activity levels decrease and there is little attempt to modify eating habits accordingly, leading to increased body-fat.
Pre-season– Energy expenditure greatly increases and energy intake is reduced to lower body-fat. This is likely to adversely affect a player’s ability to play. Energy intake and expenditure should match during the close season.
Playing season– Energy intake appears to equal energy expenditure for most players, but the contribution of the macronutrients, protein, fat and carbohydrate to total energy can change to improve recovery and support playing.
Carbohydrates and fluid intake should be the main consideration for soccer players as glycogen (stored carbohydrate) depletion and dehydration are two major causes of fatigue during soccer training and matches.
Foods that contain carbohydrate are listed below:
- Breads and pizza bases
- Rice, pasta and noodles
- Potatoes and potato products
- Peas, beans, lentils and corn
- Fruits (fresh, dried and canned)
- Sugar, jams, honey and fruit spread
- Biscuits, cakes and buns
- Fruit yogurts and other puddings
- Soft drinks and commercial sports drinks
Carbohydrate can be divided into two main categories: complex (starchy) carbohydrate found in foods such as rice, pasta, bread and potatoes and simple (sugary) carbohydrate found in fruits, jams and honey. In reality, most of the foods we eat contain a mixture of simple and sugary carbohydrate, for example cakes, buns, biscuits, breakfast cereals and puddings.
To ensure that a soccer player’s diet is high in carbohydrate and is also “balanced,” a mixture of carbohydrate-rich foods and drinks should be consumed. This variety will help the player to consume adequate quantities of other nutrients such as protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
During training, a player may need as much as five to seven grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body mass per day, with a little more during intense training periods and in the 24-hour period after matches.
The immediate recovery period post training and matches is a crucial period during which the depleted muscle carbohydrate stores can be replenished at a faster rate than normal. It is recommended that immediately post training players consume one to two grams of carbohydrate and then the same again two hours later.
It’s difficult to achieve the recommended intake of carbohydrate from only three meals a day. Therefore, snacking should play a crucial role in a soccer nutrition program. The size and timing of these snacks and whether they are in fluid or solid form will depend upon the individual.
Consuming a Low-Fat Diet
it’s not necessary to totally eliminate fat from the diet. A certain amount of dietary fat is essential to ensure good health.
The following recommendations are designed to help a player to achieve a low intake of fat as well as a high intake of carbohydrate:
Base every meal and snack around a carbohydrate-rich food
Meats and sauces should accompany bread, pasta, rice, etc.
Use some reduced fat alternative foods such as reduced-fat milk, spreads and cheeses and choose lean cuts of meat
Grill, bake or microwave food rather than frying or roasting
Consuming Adequate Quantities of Fluid – The recommendation is to drink before, during and after training as well as drinking as frequently as possible during a match. You should practice drinking a little and often.
The following are some key hydration points:
Rehydration is a major part of the recovery process after exercise, but little attention has been placed by players and coaches.
There is also an increased risk of heat illness in individuals who begin exercise in a dehydrated state.
Rehydration requires replacement of body water loss, but ingestion of plain water is not very effective. Drinks should contain moderately high levels of sodium and possibly some potassium.
Traditionally, sports nutrition research has focused on running and cycling performance because of the ease by which research studies either on a treadmill or bike can be controlled. However, the critical influence that nutrition can have on soccer training and competition has now been recognized. A diet that is high in carbohydrate and adequate in its fluid content will ensure that the soccer player can support consistent and intensive training, ultimately affecting performance.
Robert Cade, Dana Shires, Harry James Free, and Alejandro de Quesada were the medical researchers at the University of Florida who created the original Gatorade thirst quencher in 1965. The Gators football coach, Ray Graves, was frustrated with the performance of his players during the hot summer football practices, and asked the team doctor, one of Cade’s associates, for his insight. Cade and his research team came across the unique mix of water, sodium, sugar, potassium, phosphate, and lemon juice that is now known as Gatorade in honor of the football team, the Gators. The football team credited Gatorade with their first Orange Bowl win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in 1967, and the drink became an instant phenomenon. The Yellow Jackets coach Bud Carson, when asked why they lost, replied, “We didn’t have Gatorade. That made the difference.”