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Footballers Diet Plan: What to Eat and When to Eat It!

What Type of Nutrition Do Football Players Need?
Why Footballers Should Eat Healthy Food!
How Much Energy Do Football (Soccer) Players Need for Training and Match Play?
How Much Energy Do Footballers Need?
Body Fat in a Footballers Physique
How Much Carbohydrate’s Should a Footballer Eat?
How Much Protein Do Footballers Need for Training or for Bulking Up?
What Vitamins, Minerals and Anti-Oxidants Should a Footballer Take to Stay Healthy?
Antioxidant Nutrients for Footballers
How much calcium should a footballer consume?

Perfect Footballers Diet
Whether you call it football, soccer or futbol, the proper football nutrition is needed throughout the world for a player to succedd. In the past players may have got by on their ability alone, however experts now understand that sports nutrition is key to success on the pitch.

The margins at all levels of modern football are small. But, as you climb the ladder and progress from grassroots to the professional game these margins get even smaller. Therefore, you must pay close attention to everything you put in your body, to give you the best advantage over your opponent.

The fuel you consume has a huge effect on how you train and perform in matches. You must be aware of your own nutritional needs and have a plan to ensure those needs are met.

Check out this FATV videon on the importance of nutrition in football.

Other Footballers Diet Articles…

The Best Footballers Diet Plan

There is no one size fits all diet for a football player, as all players are different. Your nutritional needs can/will change many times throughout the season. The right diet is as important as your training regime and the two should work side by side. Fueling your body correctly can see vast differences for the same amount of training (meaning more gains for the same amount of effort). Pre-match nutrition is essential for ensuring you can perform at your best and recover quickly after the match has finished.

Providing your body with the right energy is paramount to perform well and improve your health. If you eat too much food, this will increase your body fat. However, not eating enough can lead to injury, poor performance and illness.







Footballers Diet Plan: What Type of Nutrition Do Players Need?

nutrition-rich-smoothie
When you are training or playing in a match your body’s main fuel is provided by Carbohydrates. Therefore it is extremely important that you understand which foods are high in carbohydrates, the amount of carbohydrates you should eat and the perfect time to eat them.

Along with carbohydrates, you will need foods high in protein to repair and build your muscles. This can be achieved with a varied diet. Fear not, vegetarians you can still achieve the required protein with a well-planned diet. Always make sure you consume a small portion of protein straight after training, to encourage muscle synthesis and prevent the body using its own muscle for energy. Most elite players drink a protein shake, as it is quick and easy to prepare.

Small amounts of Vitamins and minerals will help your body work properly. A varied and balanced diet will provide everything a player needs.

The other very important part of your football diet is the intake of fluid before and after matches and training. As your body sweats, you must consume drink and food with high water and salt to replenish the body.

Why Footballers Should Eat Healthy Food!

One of the great things about football is the structured that give players the highest degree of competition each week, pushing them to their limits. Teams are segmented into leagues of opponents with similar ability. This ensures players, parents, and fans enjoy the competitiveness of every fixture, as nobody wants to see the same team win 6-0 every week.

As a player, you are likely to compete against players of similar ability every week. So, how do you ensure you have a competitive advantage? You must devise plans on and off the field to help you be at your best. This is where the nutrient-rich footballer’s diet plan comes into play.

7-benefits-of-balanced-diet-for-footballers

With all these great benefits its a wonder why players at all levels find it hard to maintain a balanced diet. We hear all sorts of excuses why players cheat on their diet. Here are some of the most common, see if any of them resonate with you:
“I can’t cook”
“I don’t know enough about healthy food and drink”
“There are no healthy options in my local supermarket or when i eat out”
“Nutritional information online is so conflicting and confusing”
“I can’t afford all of these healthy options”
“I don’t have time to prepare and eat healthy food every day”
“It’s hard to have the right food if we have a long away trip”
“I use a load of sports supplements to make up for it”

Throughout this football nutrition series, we will provide you with all the latest football nutrition guidelines, to help you plan for any level of the game. Allowing you to gain the most out of all your hard work on the training ground and matches.




How Much Energy Do Football (Soccer) Players Need for Training and Match Play?

No matter what level you are playing at, you are most likely to compete in one or two matches per week. Add to this training and gym workout, your body’s demand for energy throughout the season is very high. Therefore it is crucial for you to meet these energy demands, to prevent tiredness and fatigue.

intensity-excercise-throughout-football-match

Throughout a football match, you will perform a series of movements of different intensity. This is dependent on your position and current fitness. This mix of low and high-intensity work means that your body temperature and heart rate will demand a lot of energy.

As a player you may perform up to 250 sprints in a competitive match. Late on in games, these sprints put pressure on your body’s anaerobic energy system, causing the muscles to tire. This fatigue is caused by low glycogen stores in your muscles (Carbohydrates are stored in your liver and muscles as glycogen). When these glycogen levels drop, your muscles fibers may stop contracting, which reduces your ability to perform tricks or accelerate.

“The more glycogen, the further and faster the player ran”
– Kirkendall (Effects of Nutrition on Performance in Soccer)


Your training patterns will dictate your body’s energy needs. Duration, intensity, and frequency will change over the course of the season. Depending on your level, you may work on a week to week cycle, which includes rest days after matches or days before games. This needs to be taking into account when planning your nutritional plan.

How Much Energy Do Footballers Need?

Everything you eat will provide your body with energy for immediate use or added to your body’s energy stores.

These energy stores are important as they contribute to:
Your body’s physique and size (muscle mass and body fat)
Your body’s exercise fuel (Carbohydrates stored in the liver and muscle)
Your overall bodily function

Your body will need extra energy on the days you have training or matches, on top of your daily needs. The amount of food and drink you need will depend on how active your lifestyle is outside of football, e.g. work, school etc. Your energy demands will be lower throughout the offseason, if you only train occasionally or if you are injured. During these situations, you will need you to change your diet to cater for lower activity.

As energy needs vary between players, heavier or overweight player will need more energy to travel the same distance as a lighter player.

Body Fat in a Footballers Physique

sports-nutrition-breakfast (1)
Fat is one your body’s best energy stores, allowing you to store extra energy to use when needed. You need to ensure your body fat stays within your desired amount. This amount is personal to you and will vary throughout your football career. There is no precise ideal amount of body fat for a football player and it is not always a case of ‘less fat is better’.

It is hard to move efficiently if your fat stores are too high, however, your health can be affected if fat stores are too low. If you are carrying excessive amounts of body fat, this will cause serious health problems. To reach your preferred size and body composition, you must know your food consumption levels and the amount of energy you are burning up. It is important to eat intentionally and never rely on your appetite.

You should plan your meals throughout the day, to reach your desired calorie intake. If you find it hard to master the calculations of Macros, it’s worth speaking to a sports nutrition specialist to develop a personal plan for you.

Football Players Diet to Lose Weight

Be very careful when trying to lose body weight or fat, as reducing your energy intake can cause long-term damage to your health and performance. Your body’s function, training, and matches require a certain amount of fuel to perform correctly, before allowing the muscles to grow and develop.

If you require any tips on healthy strategies to lose weight, we suggest booking an appointment with a sports dietitian. They will advise you on a gradual process, to help you get to your desired body composition.

Football Players Putting On Weight in the off Season

We see a lot of Academy players put weight on throughout the Christmas and summer break. This is common for every player, so don’t be alarm. As activity levels are lower during these periods, it is important to manage your food intake carefully. Ensure you are still keeping active and working on your training plan as this plus your diet will give you the best chance when the season starts back up.

Should Players Use Weight Loss Supplements?


Supplements that promote shedding the pounds and helping to burn fat can be dangerous. You should steer clear of these as they can have detrimental effects on your health. The majority of them are placebo’s and don’t affect weight loss, and the few that work can have severe side effects. If you do choose to use a product of this nature, be sure to research thoroughly as even herbal products may contain substances banned in football.

How Many Carbohydrates Should a Footballer Eat?

There is a myth in sports and fitness that all carbs are bad…this is false. As mentioned earlier, carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel for training. However, your body can only store enough carbohydrates to power one day of intense training. Therefore you should plan your daily food and drink consumption for days you and training and days you are not training. To ensure you have the adequate fuel (carbohydrates) for the exercise and recovery (glycogen).

Guidelines for carbohydrate intake for football players:

Immediate Recovery
0-4 hours after matches or training: Eat 1g of Carbohydrate, per kg of your body weight, per hour.

Daily Recovery
After low-intensity football training: Eat 5-7g per kg of your body weight per day

Heavy Endurance Recovery (pre-season)
Eat 7-10g per kg of your body weight per day

Fueling for a match
Eat 7-10g per kg of your body weight per day

These are general guidelines and you should assess your feelings after training and matches as to whether you had enough energy available. Fatiguing early can result from low carbohydrate intake.

food-meal-combinations-rish-in-carbohydrates

How Do Footballers Choose Food and Drinks High in Carbohydrates?

A Lot of your carbohydrate intake depends on the level you are playing and the rest periods in between training and matches. If you have less than 8 hours between training sessions (elite players, during pre-season), then you should take on carbohydrates immediately after the first session. This will allow the for a longer muscle recovery time. You may also want to consume high carbohydrate snacks throughout the recovery period.

If you have a longer rest period between training, of 24 hours or more, the carbohydrate intake timing is more relaxed. It is often best to spread your carbohydrate-rich meals over the 24 hour period, eating little and often, in the form or solid and liquid foods.

You must ensure you are adding carbohydrates, protein, and other nutrients to your recovery meals. As these extra nutrients will also aid in your recovery, and the extra protein can counter for any carbohydrate deficits, by promoting glycogen recovery.

When choosing Carbohydrates, you are looking for options with a moderate to high glycaemic index (GI). These will be the basis for all of your recovery meals. If you are playing an evening game or an away match, make sure you eat the required amount before your set off on your journey home. This will ensure your recovery process isn’t delayed.

How Much Protein Do Footballers Need for Training or for Bulking Up?

Protein is one of the most important nutrients of any sporting diet, and this is no different for a football player. However, there is still confusion on the amounts needed for footballers and how best to get the numbers you need. With a huge variety of amino acid and protein supplements, there is no excuse for not hitting your daily protein needs.
protein-rich-foods-meat-vegetables

The amino acids from proteins help to build and repair muscle tissue. They also help your metabolism and function of the body by building hormones and enzymes. In a small way, these proteins are also a fuel source for the exercising muscle.

Experts suggest that the protein needs of a player can rise by as much as 70-100% on a day of resistance or endurance exercise. You should be able to reach your daily protein needs from eating select nutrient-rich foods. This will even cover a spike in protein requirements after high-intensity training.

Excessive consumption of protein can be expensive, and may not help enhance your training or gains. So make sure your protein is included as a balanced diet as opposed to a high protein diet.

For protein intake, the most important factor is the time you consume rather than the amount you consume. Studies have shown that 20-25 grams of high-quality protein taken straight after training or matches can combat protein breakdown and increase muscle growth and repair.

You should always look to get your protein needs from nutrient-rich food. However, if you are in need of an extra top up, then some sports bars or liquid meal supplements can be an adequate alternative. Although these compact protein options can be very expensive.

Which Vitamins, Minerals, and Anti-Oxidants Should a Footballer Consume to Stay Healthy?

As mentioned earlier, the best sources for all of your nutritional needs are nutrient-rich foods. These foods comprise legumes, beans, fruits, vegetables, grains, fish, dairy products, unsaturated oils and lean meats.

Football Players must have adequate amounts of the below for optimum performance and health:
· Protein
· Iron
· Copper
· Manganese
· Magnesium
· Selenium
· Sodium
· Zinc
· Vitamins A, C,E, B6 and B12

As with proteins and carbohydrates, you should be able to reach the correct amounts of vitamins and minerals needed from your everyday diet. However, you may be at risk of not reaching the recommended levels if you:

1) Don’t eat or drink for long periods to lose weight
2) You lack variety in your diet
3) You eat foods low in nutrients

If you feel you are at risk of any of the above, we suggest speaking with a sports nutritionist to help put you on the right track. Life isn’t perfect.

There may be times when you cannot purchase fresh nutrient rich food, or your body may just be lacking in a specific vitamin or mineral. In these situations you may need a safe sport supplement to replace these deficits.

The most common supplements are multivitamin or mineral supplements. You may also require a more targeted nutrient supplement if you have a specific deficiency.

Antioxidant Nutrients for Footballers

Colourful-healthy-food
Football training and matches increase the body’s need for antioxidants. Specific antioxidant nutrients protect the tissues in the body when you train or workout. A healthy diet will create all the defenses that your body requires after high-intensity exercise. However antioxidant supplements are sometimes used for any low deficits. It is also best to consult a sports nutritionist first before taking these.

Ways a footballer can vary diet and consume more nutrients
• Try new recipes and food often
• Try to always eat foods that are in season
• Mix up your diet and explore different foods
• Include vegetables and fruits in every meal

A simple way to ensure you receive the right fruit and vegetables each day is to make sure you eat natural colours. Try to make sure you are always eating colourful food with every meal.

How much calcium should a footballer consume?

It is very important that you have healthy strong bones to compete at any level. The best nutrient to look after your bones is calcium. Found in dairy products, adult players should try to consume three servings of calcium per day. Whereas, younger players will have an increased requirement during their growth and development.

Some great natural sources of calcium are:

Cheese
Yoghurt
Milk
Spinach and Kale
Raisin Bran, Corn Flakes
Orange Juice
Soybeans

Did you find this page interesting? Want to ask our experts something about nutrition. Post a note in the comment below and we try to answer every question. Also if you have any interesting pre-match nutrition routines that could help our readers please share with the community in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,
Player Scout Team