Football Nutrition for elite players is a always a topic of discussion. The following page will discuss all aspects of a professional football players diet.
1 Elite Players Diets and Training
2 Competition Demands on Elite Players
3 Elite Player Nutrition During a Match
4 Young Players and Nutrition
5 Elite Players Pre Match Meal
6 Elite Players Refueling
Professional elite football involves performing repeat high intensity exercise week in week out. Players can be expected to play up to 60 games a season, so they must make sure they are in the best condition possible.
The pace of modern football is so fast that every game puts immense physical demands on players. This is why sports nutrition is so important as we discuss the basic in the footballers diet. Professional clubs understand the importance of fueling the body and offer educational support for all players from first team to the development phase academy. But, most of a player’s food is consumed away from the training ground. It’s the player’s responsibility to eat the right food, at the right time, in the right quantity.
Football Nutrition – Elite Players Diets and Training
To make sure an elite player is fit to compete at the highest level, the club will organise a strenuous training program that may comprise one or two workouts a day. If a player is not fueled properly, they will suffer from early fatigue. This will lead to a poor training session and possible risk of injury. Previously players concentrated on fueling the day before and morning of a game. But, as football is now a game of fine margins, players must live by a daily fuel consumption strategy.
Nutritional needs will change throughout the season for an elite player. With pre-season geared towards improving fitness and the energy needed to train for the first competitive match. Once the season has started the focus moves towards maintaining that fitness and staying in peak condition.
Football Nutrition – Competition Demands on Elite Players
Players such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo want to play every game. In current form they both seem to break records on weekly basis, and their drive keeps pushing them to break more.
Due to the consistent performances of the world’s elite players, they are expected to play the majority (if not all) of the league and cups games for their club. But, also have the expectancy of a nation to perform well for their country
By the end of the 2015/16 season Andrés Iniesta could might have played in:
Barcelona’s Pre Season (USA)
La Liga (Barcelona FC)
World Club Cup (Barcelona FC)
Spanish Cup (Barcelona FC)
Champions League (Barcelona FC)
International Friendlies (Spain)
European Championships (Spain)
European Supercup (Barcelona FC)
With footballers playing up to 60 games a season, competitive matches are over one game per week. The power of TV companies means that fixtures are organised and rearranged throughout the season to cater for the subscription customer. Players are expected to play Saturday lunchtimes/evenings, sunday afternoon any weeknight Monday to Friday, as opposed to the traditional 3pm Saturday kick off.
Manchester City Manager Manuel Pellegrini views on fixture congestion:
‘I think something must change. In every league, with the teams that are in the Champions League, the clubs try to help them a little bit more, If the other leagues can do it, so should we.
These crowded fixtures lists mean that players rest and recovery periods between games are reduced. Plus the time spent travelling for away fixtures and this period is cut even shorter. Elite clubs will adjust the intensity of training during these periods, to allow players to recover and replace their carbohydrate supplies. As we mentioned in what to eat before a football match players will fatigue in training and game situations if glycogen stores are low.
Football Nutrition – Elite Player Nutrition During a Match
Professional players often try to combat or delay fatigue in matches by drinking a high carbohydrate drink. But, these drinks can be hard to ingest during a high paced game. Players and coaches try to work refuelling periods into their match strategy by leaving drinks in goal mouths and sidelines near the player.
Club nutritionists find it much harder to replenish central midfielders as they are rarely near the sidelines and are involved in the action for the full 90 minutes. Football rules don’t allow for any stoppages in play for fluid breaks, so players must be inventive with how they consumed more nutrients.
Young Players and Nutrition
Most elite football teams have several young players who are living away from home for the first time. These players lived with parents or in player housing (digs) where all meals made for them.
First team and Academy staff now provide education sessions to teach young players how to prepare, cook and shop for foods in season. These sessions increase the players nutritional knowledge, so they understand the importance of food and drink consumption.
It is very difficult for a young player to balance team and training commitments and have to focus on their own nutrition. So clubs have a team of skilled nutritionists to help players learn what, why and when to eat.
Elite Players Pre Match Meal
Often professional clubs will use the pre match meal as a chance to gather the team together.. This is also a great opportunity to share tactical information, whilst player get their individual nutrition to prepare for a match.
Elite player pre match meal may comprise one of the following meals:
Baked beans on toast
Breakfast cereal and milk and fresh fruit
Fruit and yoghurt
Liquid meal supplement
Pancakes and syrup
Toast and Jam
Lunch and Dinner Options:
Bread rolls or sandwiches
Fish or Meat
Fruit and fruit based desserts
Pasta and light sauce
Rice dishes such as, risotto paella
As each player will have different dietary needs, these pre match meals will take the form of a buffet. Find out how to prepare for a pre match meal via the pre match preparation post.
Elite Players Refueling
In the football diet we mentioned the need to measure your sweat rate and fluid needs for matches. This is measured individually, so the coaching staff know the best time for a player to refuel during a match. Elite clubs use fluid balancing sessions at training to find the requirements of each player.
Elite players must replenishes energy immediately after a game. Professional clubs have eating facilities at the stadium and training ground where the whole team can have a sit down meal after intensive exercise. This routine also reminds the players of the importance of replacing nutrients straight after exercise.
As mentioned in the effects of alcohol in football players may go for a celebratory drink after a big win. We suggest against this, but if you must, then all alcohol should be consumed in moderation and only after a recovery meal and rehydration.
Elite Player Nutrition Examples:
Snacks for recovery after training or matches (50g Carbohydrates)
Fruit Smoothie or liquid meal (250ml)
One bowl of breakfast cereal, milk and banana (60g)
Yoghurt and breakfast bar (200g)
Chicken and salad sandwich with fruit juice (250ml)
Healthy meat and vegetable pizza -little to no cheese (150g)
Protein Bar (60g) and sports drink (250ml)
Players sometimes work with sport nutritionist to adjust their diet throughout their career. Below is an example of Lionel Messi’s pre match meal plan that spans over a 10 day schedule.
10 Days before the match
During this period:
Messi starts by cutting down his Carbohydrates and increase his protein intake.
Messi drinks 3 protein shakes a day
Messi drinks 7-8 glasses of water to avoid dehydration
This diet is know as a low carb high protein diet. As the body is low on carbohydrates it gets energy by burning fat. This is ensures Messi cuts down on excess weight whilst building muscle mass.
As he gets closer to the game and introduces Carbohydrates, it will boost his stamina and energy in the closer to the game.
5 Days before the match
During this period:
Messi eats vegetable soup before every meal.
Main ingredients of this soup are: Ginger, Coriander, Chilli and Turmeric.
These ingredients help to increase blood flow and the soup help Messi to hydrate.
1 Day before a match
Messi will have prawns, fish or chicken with a boiled potato, green vegetables and an orange.
6 Hours leading up the match
During this period:
Messi steers clear of wheat products
He opts for a bowl of porridge and egg whites for a mix of carbohydrates and protein.
90 Minutes before the match
During this period:
Messi only consumes exotic fruit
Opting for Mangos, Bananas and Apples
As you can see nutrition is important to the maintenance and development of elite players. They can no longer just depend on only eating healthy after training, but must take responsibility for their own fuelling when away from the training ground.
Every player has different nutritional needs and a footballer’s diet is ever evolving. It is important you find a nutrition plan you like and feel comfortable sticking too. Healthy food consumption does not have to be boring, it can be interesting learning how different foods can improve every aspects of your life.
Remember football is not just about shooting, dribbling and tackling. It is about performing for your team at the optimum level, and no player can manage this without a proper nutrition plan.
Now it’s your turn to get involved…tell us in the comments below what superfoods give you the energy to perform at your best?
Thanks for reading
Player Scout Team