In elite football, nutrition plays a huge role in how teams and players approach games and training. What to eat and when to eat it is now a highly detailed part of a team’s weekly schedule to ensure players get the right nutrients and the right time to fuel and aid recovery.
While at the amateur levels, players nowadays are more concerned about how they prepare for games with regular trips to the gym and eating well, however fuelling for training might not get the focus it requires.
With players working during the day and eating when they can fit it in will naturally mean they are unlikely to be at their best for training in the evenings.
As coaches and managers, though, it’s our role to help support players as best we can, and not just through tactics and technical guidance. Understanding more about the nutritional needs of players is something that can give you and your team the edge – the 1 per cent marginal gain.
It’s important to bear in mind, though, that a player’s nutrition plan on the day of training and throughout the week in general, should go hand in hand with their full training and fitness plan, and ideally be individualised based on their own needs, i.e. position they play and their expected output in games or training.
So, we’ve put together a few tips for you to share with your players giving you some thoughts and ideas on what types of foods they should be consuming on training days, so they are ready to go and you can make the most of your limited time with them on the pitch.
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Energy is clearly vital for any physical activity, and even more so after a day of working, so it’s important that players get some carbohydrates on board to give them fuel for training.
These carbs should mainly come from sources low on the Glycemic Index (GI), i.e. slow-release carbohydrates, and should also include some proteins to help support muscle health.
Also, being well-hydrated for any session or match is vital – studies suggest that around half of amateur players begin a training session or match under-hydrated, so drinking steadily throughout the day to maintain hydration is the aim.
Generally, there’s no need to eat during training, unless it lasts longer than 90 minutes, in which case getting some quick-release carbs (high GI foods) into the system to fuel the rest of the training session is a good idea, too.
And it’s important not to forget about eating after a session, too. Recovery is important to restore energy levels and to begin the repair and restoration of muscles.
So again, carbohydrates should be consumed to replace the energy, while proteins will aid muscle growth and repair. Eating vegetables will also ensure players get key vitamins and minerals to help reduce any inflammation but also provide other positive effects.
Often snacks are another area that some players fall down on, so it’s important that poor choices are avoided, as these will hinder performance and affect energy levels and concentration.
Good snack choices, such as smoothies, high-protein yoghurts, and chicken wraps, will provide the key macronutrients that the player requires.
To help you further, here is a simple guide to some food ideas and timings that you can share with your players to help them prepare for training from a nutritional point of view.
This article supports our Nutrition Planning course which is part of our coaching CPD Series ‘Nutrition For Football‘ which will give you an even greater understanding of nutrition and enable you to support the performance objectives of your team and players.
The courses, developed with Sports Nutrition expert Jen Carter who works at the elite level of football in England, will help you fuel and maximise your player’s performance, reduce the risk of injury and illness, optimise recovery and boost concentration.