The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team. This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.
Today’s Tip of the Day is about sugar. Yes, the same sugar that your parents, your dentist, and probably everyone else in your life is always telling you that you eat too much of. Unless, that is, you are a soccer player who works with me! In that case, there are specific times when it is actually a good thing to consume foods that are high in sugar. The sport of soccer at the university varsity level is played at a relatively high intensity. Most studies conducted on female soccer have shown that players’ average heart rates during games will range from 155 to 180 beats per minute (BPM). At this intensity, the body’s only source of energy is stored carbohydrates, termed “muscle glycogen.” Over the course of a match, glycogen stored in the muscles gets depleted, and eventually the glycogen stores may become completely exhausted, at which point an athlete will no longer be able to produce the energy needed for muscular work.
In order to stave off this depletion of muscle glycogen, athletes should consume foods or drinks that are high in sugar during match play. Because muscle glycogen is broken down into glucose (sugar) to provide the body with energy, ingestion of sugar during exercise can replenish some of the stored glycogen that is lost over the course of a match. Candy, because it is high in sugar (and specifically, high in the type of sugar – glucose – which is most rapidly absorbed into the blood) is the most effective type of food to consume to replenish muscle glycogen. Half time of a match is the perfect time to have players eat some candy and start recovering their energy stores. The fact that candy also tastes great is just a bonus! With the teams I work with (including UOIT), I prefer to use Starburst, which come in a variety of flavors and in individually wrapped servings that are easy to distribute. Each player will chew on 1 or 2 candies over the course of the 15-minute half time break, while they are cooling off and listening to the Head Coach’s team talk.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.