Do you know what a footballer´s diet consists of? Football is a high-intensity, intermittent sport in which each player, over the course of a match, performs an average of between 30 and 50 high-intensity actions and travels around 10 kilometres. These actions will have an energy cost for the footballer that will practically empty their energy reserves.
Therefore, it is essential that the diet ensures the availability of energy necessary to overcome all the demands that arise in the field during the 90 minutes.
Do you know exactly what a professional footballer’s diet should be? In this post we tell you.
Foods for a Footballer
The recommended daily calorie intake for a footballer is between 3,819 and 5,185 kcal per day.
In terms of the specific nutrients a footballer should consume, we will focus on the 3 main groups: carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
This macronutrient plays an indispensable role in the player’s performance, as it is the main source of fuel for the Central Nervous System and the brain. Furthermore, it is a very versatile energy substrate for our musculoskeletal system, being used in both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.
Carbohydrates is present in our energy reserves, mainly in the form of glycogen, which will be stored in our muscles and liver, where they will be oxidised to obtain energy.
Within this group we can find pasta, rice, cereals, tubers and fruit, among others.
Formed by chains of amino acids, they will be the main substrate for muscle synthesis, as well as improving structural changes in other tissues such as tendons and bones.
On the other hand, proteins will be essential in the process of muscle repair, as well as in the process of adaptation to training.
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They will be a great source of energy, especially for actions of low and moderate intensity, mainly of an aerobic nature.
In addition, fats are essential elements of cell membranes and facilitate the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
Emphasis should be placed on the consumption of essential fatty acids such as Omega 3 and Omega 6, as they regulate various hormonal processes.
How many times a day should a footballer eat?
Despite the great debate that exists today about this, the number of meals per day will not be the most relevant factor for the recovery and performance of the footballer.
Professional clubs have kitchens and lounges for their players to eat daily.
Regardless of whether we have 3 or 5 meals, we must ensure that the daily intake, both in terms of calories and nutrients, is adequate in terms of quantities and proportions.
For example, energy needs will not be the same on a day with double training sessions as on a day of rest and therefore intake should also be different.
Regarding daily intake, the literature suggests:
- The daily intake of carbohydrates should be 6-10 g per kg of body weight per day (g/kg/day).
- The amount of protein that a footballer should eat per day should be 1.4-1.7 g/kg/day; the timing and quality of this intake is important.
- As for fat, its contribution to total daily calories should be around 20-35%, limiting the consumption of saturated fats to below 10% and paying attention to the ratio of consumption of Omega 3 and Omega 6.
Pre-season preparation is becoming increasingly important in the world of football.
The pre-season is a key stage in the player’s training, where the aim is to generate as many adaptations as possible to help him improve his performance.
Therefore, it will be the time when more emphasis should be placed on good nutrition to ensure the availability of nutrients to generate these adaptations.
One of the times in the pre-season when we should be particularly careful will be on double and/or triple session days, when we will have a few hours to replenish our energy reserves.
On days when we will have less than 8 hours between training sessions, we should ingest 1-1.2 g/kg of weight every hour of carbohydrates during the first 4 hours after exercise (high glycemic index carbohydrates are recommended) to maximise glycogen synthesis to replenish our energy reserves. Moreover, if we combine them with proteins, this synthesis will be even greater.
The aim of the diet for a footballer is to offer him the maximum guarantee of performance.
What does a football player eat before a match?
The nutritional strategy for the match will begin 36-48 hours before the match to ensure a high availability of carbohydrates for the competition.
Regarding the type of carbohydrates, those with a medium-high glycemic index, reduced in fibre so as not to compromise the intestine, are recommended.
On match day, the aim will be to provide a large amount of carbohydrates by eating as little food as possible to avoid intestinal problems that could compromise the player’s performance. In particular, it is recommended that 1-4 g/kg of weight is eaten 1-4 hours before the match.
What about a football goalkeeper? Does he have the same needs as another outfield player?
Does a goalkeeper eat the same as a striker?
The nutritional needs will be different for each player and therefore also for each position.
At the beginning of the article it was commented that a player travels on average about 10 km per game. However, the goalkeeper’s route will be considerably shorter, and his actions will be much shorter and more explosive. Their nutritional needs will therefore be very different.
This example can be extrapolated to any player, as both their body composition and their individual characteristics on the pitch will demand different amounts of energy and therefore their diet will have to be adapted to his individual demands.
Nutrition will be one of the main recovery strategies in football and should therefore be implemented immediately after the competition.
As for the sources from which to obtain such proteins, while it is true that such proteins can be obtained from foods such as meat, eggs or milk; a protein-based supplement is recommended, as it will ensure the availability of proteins for tissue repair in a shorter time.
In terms of quantity, an intake of 20-25 g of protein or 10 g of essential amino acids will be sufficient to ensure the start of this repair process.
In particular, the use of maltodextrins or other carbohydrates with a high glycaemic index is recommended to replenish muscle and liver glycogen reserves. Fruit is also an interesting option, especially if we take fruits with high levels of antioxidants such as pomegranates, cherries and blueberries.
Throughout the season, the footballer’s menu should be as varied as possible, guaranteeing the nutritional contributions that have been discussed throughout this article, but avoiding falling into the monotony of always eating the same thing.
We must remember that the player’s needs will change according to different factors such as the type of training session, the time of the season, the weather or stress, among others; and therefore his diet must be adapted to ensure an optimal nutritional status for each moment.
- González, J. A., Cobos, I., & Molina, E. (2010). Estrategias nutricionales para la competición en el fútbol. Revista chilena de nutrición, 37(1), 118-122.
- Ruiz, F., Irazusta, A., Gil, S., Irazusta, J., Casis, L., & Gil, J. (2005). Nutritional intake in soccer players of different ages. Journal of Sports Sciences, 23(3), 235-242.
- Bonfanti, N. (2019). Nutrición en deportes de equipo: recomendaciones y aplicaciones prácticas basadas en la evidencia. Revista Española de Nutrición Humana y Dietética, 23(Supl. 1), 28-29.
- Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 501-528.
- Mendes, A. P., Carvalho, P., & Teixeira, V. H. (2017). Nutritional Guidelines for Football Players. In Injuries and Health Problems in Football (pp. 595-606). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.
More reading on this topic:
- Hydration and Football: Key in Professional football. Read more
- Creatine to improve performance in football? Get to know what the experts think.
- Sports supplements in the world of football: What do elite players take? Get to know all the secrets.