Sports Nutrition Updates: What Does the Research Say?
Tips from Sport Nutritionist Nancy Clark – For competitive soccer players, a key training goal is nutrition. What will reduce or delay fatigue? Do supplements work? How much protein should you eat? Best time to hydrate?
So many questions and different answers out there – How much protein is enough? … What about vitamin supplements? … Should soccer players eat carbs before they exercise? Ask 10 athletes and you will get 10 answers. What should you do? Whom should you believe?
To identify proven sports nutrition strategies, professionals from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and Dietitians of Canada (DC) evaluated the latest research, and then wrote the FREE guide AND, ACSM & DC Position Stand on Nutrition & Athletic Performance.
Here are just a few highlights that might help you fuel your body for higher energy and better performance.
Most soccer players consume adequate protein, but they may not eat it at the right time.
You want to evenly distribute your protein intake throughout the day. That means consuming some protein at least every 3 to 5 hours, so that your muscles have the tools they need to grow and repair.
Instead of eating 16-ounces of salmon at dinner, divide the salmon into four 4-oz portions—or more realistically, enjoy 2 to 3 eggs for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, Greek yogurt + nuts for an afternoon snack, and then a smaller serving of salmon with dinner.
The target is about 15 to 25 grams protein per meal and snack for most athletes. More precisely, 0.1 to 0.14 grams of protein per pound of body weight per meal 0.25 – 0.3 g/kg. Eating more than 40 grams of protein at one time has not been shown to offer any additional muscle-building or performance benefits. Enough is enough!
For competitive soccer players, a key training goal is to stimulate metabolic adaptations that will reduce or delay fatigue.
Current research on nutrition and athletic performance suggests that occasionally training when you are carbohydrate-depleted can trigger biochemical adaptations that will ultimately enhance your performance.
Important Nutrition Tip For Elite Soccer Players: Just be sure to enter the competitive soccer field after consuming adequate carbs on the days beforehand, so your muscles will be optimally fueled.
On most days, if you are training for 1 to 3 hours a day, you want to consume 2.5 to 4.5 or more grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per day (5-10+ g/kg).
In simple English, if you weigh 150 pounds, that comes to 1,500 to 2,700 calories of grains, fruits and veggies! More than you thought?
Antioxidant vitamins (such as C, E) have not been shown to enhance athletic performance. There is some evidence that high doses of antioxidants supplements might actually hinder training adaptations.
The safest and most effective strategy to boost antioxidants is to regularly enjoy colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts.
Enjoy oranges, berries, broccoli, spinach, almonds, avocado, etc. Real foods are more effective than pills and are tastier!
More nutrition and hydration information for soccer players:
When exercise is so intense that you have difficulty consuming even water or sports drink during the workout, just swishing and then spitting a sports drink might help you feel better and perform stronger.
- The brain detects the presence of sugar in the mouth, and this might help you run harder.
Supplements and a soccer player’s performance in a soccer game:
While many sports supplements are worthless, ones that have strong research to back their performance-enhancing claims include sports drinks and gels, caffeine, creatine, sodium bicarbonate, beta-alanine and nitrate.
For in-depth information, refer to the Australian Institute of Sport’s classification system that ranks sports foods and supplement ingredients based on the strength of scientific evidence. And please take note: No amount of any supplement will compensate for a poor sports diet. Commercial products work best when added to a well-chosen eating plan.
Vitamin and mineral supplements will not improve your performance unless they reverse a nutritional deficiency.
That is, if you have iron-deficiency anemia related to low dietary iron (i.e., eating no red meat) or high iron losses (heavy sweating, menstruation, donating blood), you will need an iron supplement to replenish your depleted iron stores. Reversing iron-deficiency anemia can take as long as 3 to 6 months. Hence, you want to prevent anemia from happening in the first place by eating iron-rich foods such as dark meat chicken, fortified cereals. Taking iron supplements “just in case” is not advised and might contribute to medical issues.
Advertising, in combination with a soccer player’s desire to perform better, can boost the appeal of sports supplements. Yet, the rapidly growing sport supplement industry is poorly regulated in terms of the claims they make and their manufacturing practices. Products are commonly tainted with unsafe and/or banned substances.
Many of the 40% to 90% of athletes who take supplements fall victim to fraud. Are you one of them…?
- If you plan to use commercial sports foods and supplements, you’d be wise to first meet with a sports dietitian to get a professional assessment of your baseline diet and to determine if you would actually benefit from — as opposed to waste money on — these products.
Maybe you are already consuming plenty of protein and have no need to buy that expensive whey protein, after all? The best sports nutrition plans are personalized because each athlete is unique. Here is an option to help find local sports RD.
Soccer players should hydrate, hydrate, hydrate:
Some soccer players do not drink any fluids before they exercise in hopes of avoiding undesired pit stops during the workout. Yet, exercising under-hydrated can hurt performance.
- The solution is to drink 2.5 to 4.5 ml per pound of body weight (5-10 ml/kg; about 13 to 24 ounces for a 150-lb athlete) in the two to four hours before you train.
Hydrating with enough liquid before you begin practice allows more than enough time for you to flush the excess fluid down the toilet. You can then drink as desired right before you start your workout.
A good reference for more information is the new 2015 Dietary Guidelines.
SIDEBAR: Nutritional and medical advice changes with new discoveries and interpretations. Always check with your medical provider and/or nutritionalist for what is best for you and your family. And research and read information on nutrition.
Sports nutritionist Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD has a private practice in the Boston-area (Newton; 617-795-1875), where she helps both fitness exercisers and competitive athletes create winning food plans. Her best-selling Sports Nutrition Guidebook, and Food Guide for Soccer, as well as teaching materials, are available at nancyclarkrd.com.
For online and live workshops, visit www.NutritionSportsExerciseCEUs.com.
For more information, another source is Shifts Needed To Align With Healthy Eating Patterns – A Closer Look at Current Intakes and Recommended Shifts.
Photo Credit for Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream: Keith Homan/Shutterstock.com