Achieving peak athletic performance relies on three important components – training, nutrition, and rest. When it comes to nutrition, each person is unique, hence why it is so important to seek personalized advice from a qualified individual.
In athletes, nutrition is crucial to:
My name is Manuel Attard and I am a dietitian and nutritionist with specific expertise in sports nutrition. I hold a degree in biology and chemistry from the University of Malta, a degree in dietetics from London Metropolitan University and a Masters in Human Nutrition from the University of Glasgow. I am also a qualified fitness instructor (Level 2 YMCA Award, UK) and I am registered with the Council for the Professions Complementary to Medicine (CPCM Malta).
My experience working with sports persons includes football players, runners, weightlifters and bodybuilders, combat sports, and other team sports. Working with me you’ll get personalized guidance according to your goals, sport, and current training schedules.
Interested? Get in touch via phone or email.
Manuel Attard M.Sc RD – Sports Dietitian & Nutritionist
Sports Nutrition Case Example: Football Nutrition
Football training and games involve both aerobic and anaerobic activity and players will be constantly switching between walking, jogging, running and sprinting. During top level matches, players can cover around 10km of distance. Individual nutrition requirements will vary according to training demands, position played, current goals including body composition goals, health, and age in case of younger players.
A football training session or match can deplete muscle glycogen stores, which will bring about fatigue and result in a dramatic reduction of speed, agility, and skills, particularly in the later stages of the game.
Sports Nutrition Goals for Football
Nutrition for the football player will be based around carbohydrates to fuel the athlete, lean protein for muscle repair and recovery, and fruit, vegetables and healthy fats for important vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
A football player’s nutrition plan will change according to training load. During intense training periods, higher intakes of carbohydrates will be required.
A tailored hydration strategy is also crucial for optimal performance and health. Fluid losses will be exacerbated in hot weather, and dehydration will negatively affect football performance: not only physically (e.g. reduced speed) but also mentally (poor decision making).
Basic strategies to optimize hydration is to drink fluids with all meals and snacks, carrying a water bottle throughout the day, and drinking 200 to 600mL of fluid before the start of training. During breaks, fluids should be consumed at each opportunity. Sports drinks are often helpful during soccer training and games since these also help to replenish energy stores and electrolytes. The latter are particularly important during Malta’s hot weather months.
Adequate fluid consumption after training is equally important. Consuming salty foods and/or electrolyte-containing drinks can help speed up rehydration.
What should a football player eat before games?
It is essential to start a football game with full fuel stores. Ideal quantities and timing will be different for each player, making the input of a sports dietitian nutritionist invaluable. Generally, it is wise to aim for a pre-game meal around 3 to 4 hours before the start of a match – this should be rich in carbohydrates and contain some lean protein to prevent hunger during the game.
Some examples can include:
In addition to the pre-game meal, many players will also have an additional light snack about 1 to 2 hours prior to the start of the game. This should be high in carbohydrates but low in fat and fiber, for example:
What should a football player eat during games?
In-game nutrition strategies should be highly individualized and players should work with a sports dietitian nutritionist to find the best approach for each player. Heat and humidity will have an impact on both requirements and ability of players to tolerate foods, so these should be taken into consideration.
The half time break provides the only opportunity to consume carbohydrates during the game and this opportunity should not be lost, particularly by those players with the highest workloads (e.g. midfielders). Suitable examples could be fruit, cereal bars, or specialised sports nutrition products such as gels and energy bars.
What should a football player eat after games?
Recovery nutrition is based on lots of carbohydrates, some lean protein and plenty of fluids and electrolytes to offset sweat losses. Sweat tests should be carried out in training to identify particularly heavy sweaters, as these can have atypical fluid and electrolyte requirements.
The recovery meal should be consumed as early as possible after the game or training sessions. Some suggestions could include a milk and fruit smoothie, sandwiches with tuna, or chicken and rice.
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