It’s the time of year for getting back in shape but the work doesn’t end at the gym and the practice grounds – it’s also about returning to the mid-season lifestyle after several weeks of R&R.
The strict athlete’s diet is often one of the first things to go during the summer break. A key part of getting the players back to top-notch footballing condition is to get them eating the right stuff. But what exactly does a footballer’s diet look like during pre-season training?
Protein is essential all year round for post-match recovery but it is particularly important in at this time of year. Pre-season training isn’t just about maintaining muscle performance but improving it. After a summer of reduced activity, the muscles will have lost some of their strength and this is the time to get it back. That means heavier protein intake than you might expect at other times of the year.
Lean proteins like chicken, fish and tofu are best to maximise intake without taking on too much fat as well. It’s important to take on protein as quickly as possible after exercise so footballers will also make use of protein shakes to optimise their intake.
Building stamina is a key component of pre-season work and that means training can often go on much longer than it would mid-season. These epic training sessions need epic fueling and that means carbohydrates! The bulk of a footballer’s carb intake will be done the night before a match or training session but smaller portions are important in the morning as well.
Bread, pasta, rice and potato are all good sources of carbohydrates but footballers often avoid wheat-based food like bread and pasta on the day itself because they can cause bloating. More exotic grains like quinoa are also gaining popularity; quinoa has lots of protein as well as carbohydrates so it’s a nutrition double whammy!
Pre-season training can be much hotter most of the actual football season, making hydration even more important than usual. Water is essential to keep muscles functioning properly and if too much is lost through sweat, cramps and fatigue set in much more quickly. It’s not just about water though – key minerals are also lost when we sweat. Isotonic sports drinks help replace both minerals and water and are a critical part of the modern footballer’s diet.
With nearly 10 miles run in every match for your average professional midfielder, it’s no surprise that a footballer might need to eat up to 3,800 average calories every day (that’s the equivalent of 3 whole chickens or 7 Big Macs!). WorldSportsFoodFight.com has done a neat comparison of how football compares to other sports such as rugby, F1, UFC and American Football.
Footballers diets seem to score on the low end for calorie intake, with the likes of Swimmers needing roughly 10,000 calories and Cyclists consuming 6,000 every day. Using the above stat about chickens, swimmers need to eat about 5 chickens to footballers 3 chickens – every day!