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Nutrient Timing for Footballers – Fuel to Win


The key to football nutrition is nutrient timing. Knowing when to eat and what to eat can give you the edge over your competition, or leave you short of energy towards the final minutes of the game.

Professional players understand that proper footballers diet goes hand in hand with training to improve power, strength and body composition.

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So what is Nutrient Timing in football?

Nutrient timing is knowing what to eat before, during and after football training and matches. These specific timings help players at all levels achieve gain an advantage in their performance and recovery.

There are 3 key phases in Nutrient timing:

  • The Energy Phase – This is just before training and matches
  • The Anabolic Phase – This is 45 minutes after the match or training
  • The Growth Phase – This period covers the rest of the day

Recovering Football Player Nutrient Levels

What is the Energy Phase?

Football players use muscle glycogen as the main source of fuel during a match. When these glycogen levels are low, players cannot perform at a high intensity and muscle fatigue kicks in.


The Energy is a crucial time for players to top up their glycogen levels and prepare for the match.

During this phase:

  • Cortisol levels increase
  • Insulin levels decrease
  • muscle glycogen levels are depleting

So the aim of a player during this phase is to deliver more carbohydrates and protein to the muscles, to lower muscle damage and aid in a faster recovery. Once the match has finished, we move into the Anabolic Phase of nutrient timing.

What is The Anabolic Phase?

This phase is the most important phase for a players recovery and injury prevention. Supplying your body with the right nutrients within 45 minutes after of playing if far more effective than 2-4 hours after a game.

Feeding our muscle cells will provide maximum gains in strength and muscle endurance, whilst decreasing inflammation and repairing muscles.

Carbohydrates are essential to the body within this 45-minute window, resulting in a faster uptake of glycogen storage and muscle recovery.

The Growth Phase

What good is all the training and playing if your body isn’t improving?

The 18-20 hours after your match of training is when your muscles recovery repair and grow. You should look to a meal comprising both carbohydrates and protein within 1 to 3 hours after your training or match.

Aim for high glycaemic carbohydrate meals as these meals are digested quicker and improve your glycogen stores uptake.

However Nutrient Timing isn’t for everyone

Timing your nutrients may give you a competitive advantage.

However the benefits only work for players at a certain level. The following chart shows who gains the most out of nutrient timing:
Nutrient Timing Continuum


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