Remember the orange slices from your house league games?
Most dieticians and fitness professionals tell people – even athletes – to limit their dietary intake of sugar, because consumption of excess amounts of sugar can lead to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and other negative health effects. For soccer players, however, there is one particular time and place that consuming sugar is actually good for you: half-time.
Muscle glycogen, which is the body’s stored energy in the form of carbohydrates, can get significantly depleted over the course of a 90-minute soccer game. Several studies have even shown that more than 50% of the body’s muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrates) can be depleted by half-time. Unfortunately, once muscle glycogen in the body gets too low, optimal athletic performance becomes impossible as a result of muscle cramps, decreased strength and power, and aerobic fatigue. The good news is that the quickest and most efficient way for soccer players to restore muscle glycogen is to ingest carbohydrates in the form that is most easily absorbed into the body’s blood stream – sugar. Furthermore, because half-time represents a natural, sustained break from play, it is the perfect time for soccer players to get the sugar their body needs.
There are several different sugary half-time options for soccer players to choose from. Among my favorites are:
- Gummy bears (personal favorite of the Canadian National Women’s U17 team at the 2012 World Cup in Azerbaijan)
- Starburst candy (used successfully with the UOIT Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team for the past 2 seasons)
- Dried fruit (tastier upgrades to the traditional raisin include dried cranberries – “craisins” – and blueberries)
- Orange slices (the one thing your house league coach in the 80’s/90’s got right)
Now that you are aware of this good news, please use caution when deciding what type, and how much, sugar you will consume at half-time. In general, you will get all the carbohydrate replenishment you need with 1 regular sized handful of any of the above food items. Eat too much sugar at half-time, and you will probably just end up starting the second half with a stomach ache.
I’d love to hear your opinions about this topic. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.