We believe in creating nutrition programmes for the individual, however, if you’re looking for somewhere to start here are some general guidelines:
Eat and drink for health
- Health is the number one underpinning focus of any good nutrition programme. Without good health, none of the rest matters.
- The main stays of your diet should be fresh, naturally occurring, nutrient dense, high quality, non-processed, single ingredient whole foods. Thinking about where it comes from can help; does it fly, walk, swim, or grow? Examples include meat, fish, chicken, fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Another good rule of thumb is if it has a cartoon character either on the packet or advertising it, then there is probably a better food choice!
- That said, improving your nutrition doesn’t mean living like a monk! A sustainable programme, including foods you enjoy (in moderation), is not a problem; even if these foods don’t always fit into the above category.
- Eat an appropriate amount of calories for your needs. Too little and you will lose weight and this will hinder performance, too much and you can feel sluggish and gain unwanted weight.
- Consume a variety of foods. This will not only make your nutrition more enjoyable but also help ensure that you get a good intake of micro nutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.).
- Consistently consume mixed meals with an appropriate balance of protein (e.g. lean red meat, chicken, fish, etc.), fat (e.g. oily fish, avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, etc.) and carbohydrates (vegetables, whole grains, and fruit). We are constantly bombarded by media and advertising with special diets (Food Avoidance Diets – FAD’s), sold on the basis that they will give us a dream physique or allow us to perform better. The truth is, both for health and as athletes, we require protein, fat and carbohydrates, as well as an adequate amount of fibre, to function and perform at our best. We need protein for growth and repair, carbohydrate primarily for energy and fat for vitamin transport, insulation, cell membrane and hormone production.
- Try to spread your meals out throughout the day and avoid binge eating. Find a pattern of eating that works for you. Eating between 3-5 meals a day usually suits most people.
- Stay well hydrated.
- With all that said, keep it simple, don’t over complicate/think it! Don’t stress too much about individual food choices. We advocate tracking your nutrition on an application such as MyFitnessPal. Be flexible and follow the 80/20 rule; if at least 80% of the time you are getting your nutrition spot on, then you can afford to have a little of what you fancy the other 20% of the time.
- Many of the above points are applicable to performance. Consistently eating the appropriate amount of calories and macro nutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats), making good food choices and staying well hydrated are all key factors.
- Carbohydrate is the key energy-providing nutrient. Starting a game/training without enough fuel inside you will, without doubt, affect your performance!
- After training or a game, it’s important for footballers to optimise their recovery and refuel.
- Carbohydrates will help replenish energy (glycogen) stores.
- Protein will help repair tissue damage.
- Begin rehydrating.
- Alcohol straight after a game or training is probably not the best start to the recovery process. In fact, it is likely to have a significant negative impact on recovery by affecting hydration, hormones and muscle protein synthesis. Alcohol can also lead to making poor food choices, as well as overeating, and can leave you feeling unmotivated the next day, potentially having a knock on effect at training/match play.
Reference: (FIFA/F-MARC 2010 Nutrition for football)