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 how consumption of fruits and vegetables can help performance. Pre-season in university soccer comprises 2-3 weeks of 2 training sessions per day, interspersed with 2-3 games per week, plus weight training sessions, interval running, recovery, yoga, and several other forms of exercise. Then the season starts, and the next 2 1/2 months will consist of 4-6 training sessions and 2 hard games per week. All of this soccer and exercise can place a huge physiological stress on the body. Among the stressors that affect elite level athletes is oxidative stress on the cells of the body, which comes about as a result of oxygen interacting with muscle, tendon/ligament, and bone cells during exercise. A symptom of oxidation – damaged muscle cells – are called “free radicals” (the word “free” is used because, through oxidation, the cells loose an important molecule, and as a result they will actively try to bind with and damage other “healthy” cells in the body). Free radicals can lead to short term health problems in athletes, such as over-training syndrome and injury, as well as more serious long term diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Thankfully, there is a simple and efficient way for soccer players to deal with the production of free radicals due to oxidative stress: eat more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals, including compounds called anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants work in the body by either stopping the damage done to cells from free radicals, or preventing the process in the first place. There are several different types of anti-oxidants, and by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables each day, soccer players can ensure that they consume enough of them to deal with the oxidative stress of playing the sport. In general, I recommend that soccer players eat 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Among the best choices are:
- citrus fruits (containing vitamin C)
- carrots (containing vitamin A and beta-carotene)
- spinach/broccoli (containing B vitamins and vitamin E)
Eating a variety of different fruits and vegetables each day will help all high level soccer players perform at their optimum level. I always do everything I can to encourage the players I work with the meet the 10 servings per day standard. Other coaches and fitness coaches would be wise to do the same.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.