Fitness, For Parents, Nutrition, Science

Soccer Players – 3 Reasons You DON’T NEED Nutritional Supplements! Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #51: 8/17/2017

Hi Everyone,

Do you use nutritional supplements?  Have you considered using them?  In this edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog, I discuss some of the science behind nutritional supplements, and provide 3 reasons why soccer players should NOT use them as part of their diet and daily routine.

I hope you like it and as always, please feel free to post your thoughts and comments!

For Parents, Nutrition, Science

Why Low-Carb Diets DON’T WORK – Gols Video Blog #35: 4/3/2017

Hi Everyone,

In this next edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog, I discuss the importance of carbohydrate intake for optimal performance and recovery in soccer, and why low-carbohydrate diets are not a good choice for soccer players or any other athletes.

I hope you like it and as always, please feel free to post your thoughts/comments!

Nutrition, Science

Everything You Need to Know About Carbohydrates for Soccer


Written by Soccer Fitness Internship Student Jessica Deeth.  Edited by Richard Bucciarelli.

The word “carbohydrate” is synonymous with sports nutrition. The immediate impact of carbohydrate intake, or conversely its absence, on daily training and competition performance has been widely researched. Recent trends in society have suggested that low carbohydrate diets are beneficial for weight loss and other health benefits. In addition, different tactics based on fuelling for sports performance have become a popular discussion among scientists and researchers recently as well. Carbohydrates are a major fuel source for exercise, especially during prolonged continuous or high-intensity exercise.

Carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen within the muscles and liver, however this storage capacity is limited. When these carbohydrate stores inadequately meet the fuel needs of an athlete’s training program, this can negatively impact their performance. Resulting in: reduced ability to train intensely, diminish competition performance, and reduced immune function. For these reasons, athletes are encouraged to ensure adequate carbohydrate intake according to their requirements based on training regime.

Dietary carbohydrate requirements are dependent on the fuel needs of the athlete’s training and/or competition program. Exactly how many grams are required is ultimately dependant on the frequency, duration and intensity of the activity. The chart below outlines some general requirements, based on activity level, that are recommended by the Australian Sports Institute (ASI):


Much like activity levels change from day to day, carbohydrate intake should vary based on these changes in training as well. On high activity days, carbohydrate intake should be increased to account for the increase in activity ultimately increasing energy expenditure. This will help to maximise performance from the training sessions and also promote recovery between exercise sessions. Alternatively, on low-activity training days and/or rest days, carbohydrate intake should be reduced to reflect the decreased training load.(“Carbohydrate – The Facts : AIS : Australian Sports Commission”, 2016).

An athlete’s carbohydrate requirements before, during and after training or competition will depend on a number of factors including: type, intensity, duration of exercise, frequency of exercise, body composition goals, training background and performance goals for the session. While ensuring an athlete is consuming a sufficient amount of carbohydrates it is also important to consider the timing of carbohydrate, specifically approaching competition. Carbohydrate ingestion before exercise should assist in topping up blood glucose levels and glycogen stores in the muscle and liver. This is especially important if the competition or training is taking place first thing in the morning or if the event will continue beyond 90 minutes in duration. Replenishment of carbohydrates during prolonged exercise can benefit the athlete’s performance in various ways. Carbohydrate replenishment will ultimately affect the muscle by delaying the onset of lactic acid build-up and fatigue. This will also directly affect the brain and central nervous system by delaying the decline in mental concentration, pacing strategies etc. Carbohydrate intake following exercise is essential for optimal recovery of glycogen stores. Often times, athletic performance is dependent upon the ability to recover from one session and perform it again and more efficiently in the next session. Incomplete or reduced replenishment of muscle glycogen stores between training sessions can lead to a reduced ability to train effectively, feeling fatigued physically and mentally and potentially leading to over-training. During competition, inadequate carbohydrate replenishment may also reduce subsequent performances where exercise sessions are repeated within or across days like tournaments, meets etc.

The rate of ATP synthesis is directly linked to the exercise intensity, which determines the substrate demands of skeletal muscle to generate ATP. During exercise, skeletal muscles use primarily Fat and Carbohydrates for energy, and at low exercise intensities, fat is the preferred substrate although there is always some glucose utilisation. At higher exercise intensities, ATP synthesis demand increases and fat is unable to meet the rate of ATP synthesis quickly enough therefore, glucose oxidation increases. Although the utilisation of fat for energy yields a much higher amount of ATP, glucose oxidation is much faster. This is why carbohydrates play a major role during exercise performed at high intensities. Fat cannot provide the required energy for ATP synthesis. Even at low exercise intensities carbohydrates are always being used. Therefore, for prolonged exercise lasting longer than 1:45-2 hours, proper carbohydrate and glycogen intake are crucial.

A potential benefit to a low carb diet is that it may help to reduce inflammation in the body. Sore muscles can sometimes hinder future workouts, and high levels of fat consumption can help to minimise post-workout soreness otherwise known as “DOMS” or “delayed-onset muscle soreness”. When carbohydrate intake is decreased below 50 grams per day, the response of the body is to produce ketones, which combat oxidative stress and have anti-inflammatory properties. This benefit can be important for high endurance athletes, because the intense training schedule pushes the athlete to their physical limits. As a result, oxidative stress builds up a tolerance in the body, and can lead to aging. But, with a low carb diet, the effects of oxidative stress can be reduced (“Can Endurance Athletes Thrive on Low Carb/High Fat Diet?”, 2016).

Multiple studies, however, have shown that fatigue and decrease in performance is often associated with low carbohydrate diets that result in glycogen depletion. When glycogen levels are low or there is glycogen depletion, the muscles then increase the utilization of protein and amino acids to produce glucose to use as energy. Since protein and amino acids are the building blocks of muscle, the muscle may become catabolic and break itself down. Essentially, the muscle starts to breakdown by increasing the amount of amino acids available to be used for energy. This situation can be harmful over time and may lead to muscle damage. It can further lead to chronic over-training, and after a prolonged period of time muscle damage can interfere with glycogen stores and synthesis.






Nutrition, Science

Electrolytes in Soccer – Everything You Need to Know

Written by Soccer Fitness Internship Student Kayleigh Mines, edited by Richard Bucciarelli.


Electrolyte replenishment is very important during high intensity and/or long duration activities such as soccer. It is important to maintain hydration during these activities to sustain electrolytes levels. Sustaining electrolyte levels will allow optimal performance and ideal health for the athlete.

Before understanding how to replenish electrolytes we have to first understand what electrolytes are. An electrolyte is a substance in the body that produces an electrically conducting solution when dissolved in water, or H2O. Electrolytes carry an electrical charge and are essential for everyday life. They are found in your blood, urine and bodily fluids. Maintaining the optimal electrolyte balance aids in your body’s blood chemistry, muscle activity, and other metabolic processes. All higher forms of life need electrolytes to survive (Christian Nordqvist, 2016). In our bodies we carry electrolytes. These electrolytes comprise of minerals that include; sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), calcium (Ca2), magnesium (Mg2+), chloride (C1), hydrogen phosphate (HPO42-), bicarbonate (HCO3), and hydrogen carbonate (HCO3).

We need electrolytes in our bodies for many reasons. These reason include; regulating our nerve, organ, cell, and muscle functions, temperature control, hydration/fluid levels, glucose metabolism, ion and fluid transportation, pH levels, blood pressure, and aid in rebuild any damaged tissues. If we experience imbalanced electrolytes it is because the amount of water in the body has changed, either it is dehydrated or overhydrated. We usually experience this through exercising where we tend to sweat more frequently and heavily. If low or imbalanced electrolyte concentration occurs you could experience symptoms such as; muscle weakness or spasms, irregular heartbeat, blood pressure change, confusion, fatigue, nausea and more severe symptoms like chest pain, seizures or lethargy convulsions. Reasons for imbalanced electrolytes can be caused by kidney disease, vomiting over a prolonged period of time, severe dehydration, congestive heart failure, acid/base pH imbalance, eating disorders, and some drugs such as diuretics or ACE inhibitors (Christian Nordqvist, 2016). Treatment for imbalanced electrolytes include either increasing or decreasing fluids and mineral supplements may also be given by mouth or intravenously if the body is heavily depleted.

Electrolytes come from the foods and liquids we consume. These foods and liquids contain sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, phosphorous, and bicarbonate, all the key components that make up electrolytes. All of these components have a certain role as an electrolyte that is beneficial to the body. Sodium helps to control fluid in the body that is necessary for optimal muscle and nerve function along with impacting blood pressure. Calcium is important for the movement of nerve impulses and muscle. Potassium helps in regulating the heart and blood pressure along with aiding in transmitting nerve impulse to allow for necessary muscle contractions. Magnesium is essential in helping to maintain heart rhythm, regulating blood glucose (blood sugar) levels, and enhancing the immune system. Chloride is vital for providing equilibrium to the acidity and alkalinity, which helps to maintain optimal pH levels along with helping in digestion. Phosphorous is essential in aiding in the production of tissue growth and repair by providing energy to the cells. Lastly, bicarbonate’s role is to correspondingly aid in the body maintaining healthy pH levels along with regulating heart function (Cotter, Thornton, Lee & Laursen, 2014). Each of these components aid in the health of each individual and maintaining them will only prove their worth.

To maintain or restore electrolytes back to their optimal levels there are a few things we can do. Paramount among these is maintaining your body’s fluids by drinking plenty of water. It is advised that athletes drink 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before starting their exercise, drink 8 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise, and drink 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after exercise (WebMD, 2016). You can also maintain electrolytes through your diet. Replacing electrolyte loss through eating foods high in the minerals that make up electrolytes such as; bananas high in potassium, salty snacks like nuts containing sodium, phosphorus, and chloride, milk products high in calcium, and leafy greens high in magnesium (Isabel Smith, 2014). Athletes can also replenish their electrolytes though drinking sports drinks such as Gatorade or PowerAde that contain carbohydrates (CHO) and electrolytes. These drinks replace sweat that has been loss during exercise along with aiding to retain fluid in the body/blood. You should only drink sport drinks when an exercise exceeds past 30 minutes since you need to replace CHO that have been used for energy and electrolytes that have been depleted through high sweat volumes. However there are “pro’s” and “cons” of consuming sport drinks. Pro’s include; replacing fluids lost during high intense exercise, replacing CHO used for energy aiding in bring blood glucose back up to normal levels, replacing protein, and the fact that in general the drinks are easy to digest, taste good, and replenish vitamins and minerals. The cons include; the acidity in sports drinks can dissolve teeth, they are expensive, they are often used to replace water when unessential, they are high in sugar, they may contain caffeine, and some also have unproven claims such as; improving one’s speed, endurance, concentration, agility, and overall athletic performance.  Companies who market and sell sports drinks do not have factual proof to back up these performance-enhancing claims (Lifescript, 2016).

With these alternatives it proves that there are different possibilities in maintaining or replenishing electrolytes loss during high intense, low intense, or long duration exercises. Keeping electrolytes in mind when exercising. Making it a priority to maintain electrolytes at optimal levels, so as an athlete you can perform the best you can in any activity you may be performing in.

For Parents, Nutrition, Science

Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #19: Friday, February 19th, 2016

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the next edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog. In this Blog, we will be providing weekly video content relating to all things soccer and fitness. In this edition, we discuss the importance of protein consumption for soccer players, including daily protein requirements, as well as whether or not protein supplementation may be needed for soccer.

I Hope you enjoy it, and as always, please feel free to post thoughts/comments!

For Parents, Nutrition, Science

Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #8: Friday, October 30th, 2015

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the next edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog. In this Blog, I will be providing weekly video content relating to all things soccer and fitness. In this edition, I discuss carbohydrate/muscle glycogen replenishment in soccer, and how to ensure that players get the right amount of carbohydrates to maintain energy levels and optimize performance.

I Hope you enjoy it, and as always, please feel free to post thoughts/comments!

Fitness, Nutrition, Science

Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #7: Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the next edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog. In this Blog, I will be providing weekly video content relating to all things soccer and fitness. In this edition, I discuss electrolyte replenishment in soccer, and how to ensure that players get the right amount of electrolytes to prevent dehydration and optimize performance.

I Hope you enjoy it, and as always, please feel free to post thoughts/comments!

Nutrition, Science

Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #5: Friday, October 9th, 2015

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the next edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog. In this Blog, I will be providing weekly video content relating to all things soccer and fitness. In this edition, I discuss soccer nutrition, including optimal amount and timing of meals throughout the day.  In addition to the video this week, I have also posted the “What You Should Eat” document (which I discuss in the video).  A PDF copy of this document can be downloaded below the video link.

I Hope you enjoy it, and as always, please feel free to post thoughts/comments!


For Parents, Nutrition, Science

Why You Should Never – EVER – Eat a Low-Carbohydrate Diet

As part of my Nutrition for Sports Performance course, I was recently assigned to create a project (anything other than a written report) about a topic of my choice related to nutrition for a sport of my choice.  Of course, there was no choice of a sport other than soccer, and the topic I decided on was carbohydrate intake for high performance players.  I decided to make a “funny” video, with some useful information that applies specifically to university varsity soccer players on game days.  Here is a link to the video which I just posted on our Youtube page:

In my career, I have had a lot of experience with this particular topic, from being a university varsity athlete myself, to taking undergraduate kinesiology courses in nutrition and post-graduate courses in fitness and weight management, and finally to the work I did later at the higher levels of the game (including the Canadian Women’s U17 National Team and the Toronto FC Academy teams) that involved very specific nutritional education and player monitoring.  Throughout all this time, I have noticed that in the field of nutrition, many trends and “fad diets” come and go, from the Atkins diet in the early 2000’s to the more recent “Paleo” and “de-tox” type fads.  Unfortunately, one central theme among a lot of these fad diets has been recommendations for low – or even no – carbohydrate intake.

I don’t really have a problem with people in the “general population” (non-athletes) reducing their carbohydrate intake, even if I don’t necessarily agree with it.  This is because people who are not competitive athletes typically consume too many calories in general, and since a significant portion of their caloric intake is likely to be carbohydrates, they will likely experience some weight loss simply by reducing and/or eliminating carbohydrates from their diet.  The problem with low/no carbohydrate diets when applied to athletes – and specifically, soccer players – is that they simply do not provide soccer players with enough energy to perform the work they need to do on the pitch.  Here is a simple breakdown of scientific facts (not my personal opinions) about carbohydrates and soccer:

  • Professional soccer players cover, on average, between 9-12 kilometres per game
  • Included in this distance covered is an average of 2-3 kilometres of high intensity running (fast running and sprinting)
  • The average heart rate of professional soccer players in games is 170-180 beats per minute, or roughly 60-80% of age-predicted maximum heart rate
  • The ONLY nutrient available in the human body to provide the energy needed to perform work at these intensities is carbohydrate, which are stored in the body (in the muscles and in the liver) as a compound called “glycogen”
  • A large body of scientific evidence exists which demonstrates the relationship between stored muscle glycogen and physical performance in soccer, including:
    •  A linear relationship between resting muscle glycogen levels pre-training/game, and time to exhaustion in soccer (thus, the more energy a soccer player has stored, the longer he/she will last in training/games)
    • An inverse relationship between muscle glycogen used, and resting muscle glycogen levels in soccer (thus, the longer a soccer player plays the game, the more of their energy gets used up)
    • A linear relationship between high carbohydrate intake post-training/games, and muscle glycogen re-synthesis (thus, the more carbohydrates a soccer player eats, the better their will be able to replenish its energy stores)
    • A linear relationship between muscle glycogen re-synthesis, and increased physical performance (including muscular strength, power, and endurance) in soccer (thus, the better job a soccer player does of restoring his/her energy levels, the better he/she will perform physically in training/games)

Adding to the overwhelmingly strong argument for soccer players to eat a high carbohydrate diet is the fact that there is not one government-regulated organization in North America (including Health Canada, the Canada Food Guide, the Food and Drug Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services) that recommends healthy adults to get less than 45% of their total caloric intake from carbohydrates.  Most of these organizations recommend a range of 45-65% of total daily caloric intake to be from carbohydrates, and that is for the “general population” of non-athletes, not elite soccer players.

Taken together, this information presents soccer players with an easy and clear message that they should eat a lot of carbohydrates each day, to optimize both performance, and recovery.  How much carbohydrates should you eat if you are an elite level soccer player?  A great study done by Burke et. al. in 2001 determined that elite soccer players should follow the following guidelines:

  • Consume 5-7 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per day on non-training/game days
  • Consume 7-10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per day on training/game days

I think it’s time we take a science-based approach to carbohydrate consumption in soccer.  Unless the advocates of low/no carbohydrate diets can come up with a way to provide soccer players with the energy to run 12 kilometres, with 3 kilometres being run at high speeds, and an average heart rate of 175 beats per minute, for 90+ minutes per game, without using carbohydrates, then a diet high in carbohydrates is the only science-based solution.  I hope that any elite level soccer player (or their parents/coaches) who read this article will think twice before they consider a low carbohydrate diet in the future.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Fitness, Nutrition, Science

Common Training and Nutritional Mistakes in Elite Level Soccer

As the final assignment in my Advanced Exercise Physiology class, I had to write an 8-10 page paper about common training and nutritional “mistakes” in the sport or exercise of my choice.  Of course, for me there was only ever one sport of choice!

Below is the entire paper, including references.  I’d love to know your thoughts.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Fitness training and nutrition in elite level soccer are both topics that should be of primary importance to coaches and fitness coaches wishing to optimize players’ development and performance.  If elite level soccer players are not presented with adequate and optimal training loads, their bodies’ physiological systems (including the cardiovascular system, neuro-endocrine system, and musculoskeletal system) will not undergo any performance-enhancing changes or adaptations.  Thus, all aspects of physical fitness training in elite level soccer, including time/duration, intensity or training load, type or specificity of exercise, as well as recovery and rest periods, must be comprehensively planned and executed in order for beneficial changes to performance to occur.  Similarly, nutrition and hydration in elite level soccer must be optimized to allow players to maximize performance and minimize the damage and risks for injury that can be caused by training and playing matches.  This paper will discuss some common training and nutritional mistakes made in elite level soccer, and suggest strategies to correct these mistakes.

One common training mistake that can occur in elite level soccer is the addition of too many extra or supplemental fitness training sessions in a given period of time, commonly termed “overtraining.”  This problem can lead to an increased risk of injury, as well as decreased physical performance.  Coaches or fitness coaches must be careful that they do not overload players with extra fitness training, in order to prevent overtraining stimuli from occurring.  In one recent study done on elite level Portuguese professional soccer players, researchers from the University of Lisbon examined the effects of the addition of either one (1) or two (2) supplemental contrast training sessions per week to a professional team’s regular training schedule (Maio Alves et. al., 2010).  Results of this study indicated that,  regardless of one or two contrast training sessions per week, speed and vertical jump were improved compared to the soccer players who did not participate in the additional contrast training (Maio Alves et. al., 2010).  The implications of these findings for coaches and fitness coaches working with elite level soccer players are that, because significant improvements in speed and vertical jump were seen with only one supplemental fitness session per week, they may be able to avoid overtraining stimulus by limiting their supplemental training to one session per week instead of two or more.

Other studies have also demonstrated that it is possible to achieve improvements in physical fitness through a minimal training load.  A recent study by Buchheit at. al. (2010) demonstrated that just one training session per week over a 10-week training period (10 training sessions in total) of either repeated shuttle sprint training, or explosive strength training, was able to elicit significant improvements in maximal sprinting speed in elite level youth (under-15) soccer players.   It was noted that the repeated shuttle sprints improved the athlete’s best and mean repeated shuttle sprinting more than the explosive strength training, whereas the explosive strength training had a greater effect on countermovement jumps and hopping (Buchheit et. al., 2010).  These findings seem to reinforce the notion that significant improvements in elite level soccer players’ physical fitness can be achieved through a low or minimal training load.  Coaches and fitness coaches working with elite level players should thus plan to limit their fitness training interventions to one supplemental fitness training session per week, in order to minimize or even eliminate the risks of overtraining.

A second common training mistake in elite level soccer can occur when the wrong type of training is selected.  If, for example, coaches or fitness coaches have the goal of improving players’ running speed and power, but they choose to have players perform a lot of aerobic endurance training or long slow distance running training, they will likely not achieve the desired goal of improvements in speed and power.  In a recent study done by Mujika et. al. (2009), researchers working with professional soccer players in Spain compared the effects of a short-term (7-week) protocol of either contrast training (alternating heavy-light resistance with additional soccer-specific drills) or sprint training (2-4 sets of 4x 30m line sprints with 180 and 90 seconds of recovery, respectively) on soccer players’ short-distance (15 metre) sprinting ability.  Results of the study indicated that in the short term, contrast training is superior to linear sprint training when trying to improve 15 metre sprint performances in soccer players (Mujika et. al., 2009).  These findings should be especially valuable to soccer coaches, as they demonstrate that having players conduct some of their fitness training with the ball (“additional soccer-specific drills”) can lead to improvements in physical fitness and performance.

Because the sport of soccer requires high levels of both aerobic fitness (high intensity running ability), and anaerobic fitness (muscular strength, speed, and power), coaches and fitness coaches may often feel the need to combine aerobic and anaerobic training exercises in their fitness sessions.  The exact training loads (intensities) as well as the amount of time spent working on the different energy systems can be difficult for coaches and fitness coaches to plan for.  If too much load or too much time is spent on either the aerobic or anaerobic, improvements in one or both energy systems may be compromised.  In a recent study done by Wong et. al. (2010), professional soccer players in an experimental group participated in concurrent strength and high intensity interval training (2 times per week) in addition to their regular soccer training (a control group participated only in regular soccer training).  Results of this study indicated that the experimental group significantly increased their scores in vertical jump height, 10 metre and 30 metre sprint times, distances covered in the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test and maximal aerobic speed test, and maximal aerobic speed (Wong et. al., 2010).  Another study, done by Jasterzebski et. al. (2013) examined the effects of mixed aerobic and anaerobic training, using either “lactate training” – aerobic training – or “nonlactate training” – anaerobic training – in elite level male youth soccer players (Under-17).  The training produced no significant increase in the players’ VO2Max, however, the players did maintain VO2Max levels of an elite caliber; the starting first team players reached their peak in the middle of the season whereas the substitute players reached theirs at the end of the season (Jasterzebski et. al., 2013). In addition to the maintenance of elite caliber endurance (VO2Max), the training also significantly improved the players’ leg power and speed endurance, decreasing their 5m sprint times (Jasterzebski et. al., 2013).   If, as these results indicate, concurrent use of aerobic and anaerobic training might lead to enhancements in soccer players’ aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, then coaches and fitness coaches in elite level soccer with short pre-season training periods may be able to make the best use of their time by using a similar approach and combining aerobic and anaerobic training protocols.

Optimizing nutrition and hydration for elite level soccer players is another challenge faced by coaches and fitness coaches working in the sport.  Soccer is a sport, in which competitive matches are played at a high intensity for a minimum of 90 minutes, and often players must play more than one of these intense matches every week during the competitive season.  Throughout the week, elite level players and teams will also likely be participating in training sessions almost every day.  This combination of intense training and match loads with limited recovery serves to highlight the importance that must be placed on optimal nutrition and hydration strategies in soccer.  A primary concern regarding soccer-specific nutrition is the intake of carbohydrates, which serve as the main source of energy during soccer training and match play.  Of specific importance is the intake of carbohydrates post-training/match, as muscle glycogen – the body’s  stored form of carbohydrates – can be significantly depleted during an intense training session or game.  One common mistake made by elite level players is to ingest too few carbohydrates following training and/or match play.  A recent study by Bangsbo et. al. (2006) examined the effects of a carbohydrate-rich diet versus a normal diet on muscle glycogen resynthesis in elite professional Danish soccer players at specific times (0-42 hours) post-match play.   Results of this study indicated that the carbohydrate-rich diet resulted in significantly greater muscle glycogen resynthesis at 18- and 42-hours post match play as compared to the normal diet (Bangsbo et. al., 2006).  Because of the aforementioned high training and match loads in elite level soccer, faster muscle glycogen resynthesis can make a big difference in a soccer player’s ability to sustain the necessary levels of energy and to participate fully in all training sessions and matches.

Protein intake following training and match play is another important nutritional concern in elite level soccer.  Dietary protein helps to rebuild the damage caused to muscles and tissues following intense exercise.  Inadequate intake of protein following intense exercise will thus lead to inadequate repair of muscle and tissue damage.  In soccer, elite level players who make the mistake of not adding enough protein to their diet post-training and match play will likely be putting themselves at greater risk of injury and overtraining stimulus.  While it is important and essential for elite soccer players to consume protein throughout the day, oftentimes protein consumption immediately following a training session or game can be more difficult because of limited availability of high protein foods during this time.  A simple solution that is supported by empirical evidence is to ingest a high-protein drink such as chocolate milk.  In a recent study by Ferguson et. al. (2011), elite level cyclists were given either a chocolate milk drink, a carbohydrate drink, or a placebo drink post-exercise, and instructed to perform a 40-kilometre time trial exactly 24-hours post-exercise.  The results of this study indicated that the group given the chocolate milk drink (which contains both protein and carbohydrate) had both a significantly lower time in the time trail, as well as a significantly higher power output (measured in watts) as compared to either the carbohydrate drink or placebo drink groups (Ferguson et. al., 2011).  Although this study was done on elite level cyclists as opposed to soccer players, the results are still applicable to soccer because they indicate an improved aerobic/anaerobic capacity in athletes with adequate protein intake following intense training.  Soccer players who want to improve and optimize their post-training or match recovery should consider using chocolate milk or a similar high-protein drink during this time.

Replenishment of electrolytes during elite level soccer is another area of nutrition in which mistakes can be made.  Because electrolyte content in individual players’ sweat can vary, players who follow general guidelines may not necessarily be optimally replenishing the electrolytes they lose during match play.  Inadequate replenishment of electrolytes and low electrolyte levels in the body can lead to serious health consequences including impaired muscle function, impaired neural function, and even death.  Compounding the problem is the fact that typical sports drinks, while they do contain the electrolytes sodium and potassium, may not necessarily contain enough of these electrolytes to replace the quantities lost by elite level soccer players during match play.  One recent study which highlights this problem was done by Stone et. al. (2005).  This study examined  specific water and electrolyte needs among three different professional clubs in the English Premier League.  The findings of this study indicated that there was a large variability in “salt” (or sodium) content of players’ sweat among the three professional clubs.  The range of “salt” loss through sweat was as low as 1.8 grams (1800 milligrams), to as much as 5 grams (5000 milligrams) (Stone et. al., 2006).  As mentioned previously, typical sports drinks like Gatorade or PowerAde contain only 250 milligrams per 500 millilitre bottle, so a professional soccer player who attempts to replenish lost electrolytes by drinking one full bottle of Gatorade or PowerAde will not be adequately replenishing lost sodium during match play.  In order to address this problem, elite level players should consider adding some salt to their sports drinks when playing matches on hot days.  This way, they will add to the total electrolyte content of the sports drink and help with replenishment of this necessary nutrient.

The sport of soccer presents many unique challenges to coaches and fitness coaches, including those related to physical fitness training and to nutrition and hydration.  When planning fitness training, coaches and fitness coaches working with elite level soccer players must try to utilize exercises that present players with a high intensity, but a low training volume (possibly as low as one training session per week).  In order to maximize players’ energy system development, the use of combined aerobic and anaerobic training protocols, as well as the combination of physical fitness training with ball work, are likely to be more effective methods of training.  When considering elite soccer players’ nutrition, special attention must be given to ensuring optimal intake of carbohydrates, protein post-training/match play, and replenishment of lost electrolytes.  Taken together, a well-planned training and nutritional program will help to ensure that elite level soccer players stay healthy and perform at their best over the course of the competitive season.


Bangsbo, J., Mohr, M., Krustrup, P. (2006).  Physical and metabolic demands of training and match-play in the elite footballer.  Journal of Sports Sciences, 24(7): 665-674.

Buchheit, M., Mendez-Villanueva, A., Delhomel, G., Brughelli, M., Ahmaidi, S. (2010).  Improving repeated sprint ability in young elite soccer players: repeated shuttle sprints versus explosive strength training.  Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(10): 2715-2722.

Ferguson-Stegal, L., McCleave, E.L., Ding, Z., Doerner, P.G., Wang, B., Liao, Y.H., Kammer, L., Liu, Y., Hwang, J., Dessard, B.M., Ivy, J.L. (2011) Postexercise carbohydrate-protein supplementation improves subsequent exercise performance and intracellular signaling for protein synthesis.  Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25: 1210-1224.

Jastrzębski ,Z., Rompa, P., Szutowicz, M., Radzimiński, L. (2013).  Effects of applied training loads on the aerobic capacity of young soccer players during a soccer season.  Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(4): 916-923.

Maio Alves, J.M., Rebelo, A.N., Abrantes, C., Sampaio, J. (2010).  Short term effects of complex and contrast training in soccer players’ vertical jump, sprint, and agility abilities.  Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(4): 936-941.

Mujika, I., Santisteban, J., Castagna, C. (2009).  In-season effect of short-term sprint and power training programs on elite junior soccer players.  Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(9): 2581-2587.

Stone, M., Shirreffs, S., & Sawka, M. (2006). Water and electrolyte needs for football training and match-play.  Journal of Sports Sciences, 24(7): 699-707.

Wong, P.L., Chaouachi, A., Chamari, K., Dellal, A., Wisloff, U. (2010).  Effect of preseason concurrent muscular strength and high-intensity interval training in professional soccer players.  Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(3): 653-660.

Fitness, Nutrition, Science

Does Staying Hydrated Really Improve Performance?

Recently, in my Advanced Exercise Physiology class, I was given the assignment of writing a paper about the effectiveness of hydration on both the prevention of heat illnesses, as well as improvements in physical performance.  As I went through the relevant literature, I quickly noticed that there seemed to be dozens – if not hundreds – of papers published about how hydration can prevent mild and severe heat illnesses, ranging from simple dehydration to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Finding information about the effects of optimal hydration on athletic and sports performance was a bit more difficult, but some pretty clear evidence does exist.    For example, Walsh et. al. (1994) demonstrated the performance benefits associated with remaining fully hydrated during exercise. They had subjects cycle for one hour at 70% of VO2 peak before exercising to exhaustion at 90% of VO2 peak, a task that required about 6-10 minutes to complete. When the subjects were allowed to dehydrate by only 1.8% of their body weight, they lasted slightly more than six minutes before becoming fatigued. When they remained fully hydrated by ingesting fluid at regular intervals throughout the hour of steady-state cycling, they were able to cycle for almost 10 minutes, a large and significant improvement in performance.

Similar effects have been seen with studies done on competitive runners.  Casa et. al. (2010) examined physiological and performance variables among trail distance runners when running in the heat.  Their study measured these variables among 2 groups of elite trail distance runners during both a sub-maximal and maximal race trial in the heat.  One group of runners was well hydrated, and the other was dehydrated, during both the sub-maximal and maximal trials.  The results of the study demonstrated decreased body mass and body water loss, lower core body temperature, better running economy, and faster running times over time trials, in hydrated distance runners versus dehydrated distance runners.  The researchers surmised that “even a small decrement in hydration status impaired physiologic function and performance while trail running in the heat.”

The “take-home” message for soccer coaches and fitness coaches is that proper hydration will not only prevent heat illness, but it will also allow players to maximize their physical performance.  Improvements in running economy, as well as in aerobic and anaerobic endurance, should translate directly into better soccer performance on the pitch.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the converstion started.

Fitness, For Parents, Nutrition

Macro-Nutrition For Elite Soccer Players – By Andre Orlando and Richard Bucciarelli

Below is an article written by University of Guelph-Humber Internship Student Andre Orlando (who is presently completing an internship with Soccer Fitness Inc.) and edited by me.  The article discusses “macro” nutrition, or nutrition at the macro (nutrient) level, for soccer players, with an emphasis on pre-, during-, and post- training/game nutrient intake.  Any soccer player, parent, or coach should find this information useful.  Below is the article, including references.  As an aside, I have to advise any person considering making changes to their diet, to first consult with a physician and/or registered dietician.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.


Soccer is a unique and complicated sport that requires multiple energy systems dominating throughout the game. The games usually last 90-95 minutes, with a 15 minute break at half time. One would assume that soccer is mostly dominated by aerobic fitness and the aerobic energy system, but it is not. Soccer consists of short bursts of speed and strength followed by a long chase or battle with opponents, all of which are performed by the anaerobic energy system. Other soccer movements include quicker bursts of power to jump up and win a header or (for goalkeepers) to the side to make a save and in these movements the anaerobic ATP-CP system dominates. All of these different movements occur in several combinations lasting 90+ minutes, so they can also take a toll on the body’s aerobic energy system, which must provide the body with sufficient energy to recover.  With all three of the body’s energy systems working at once, how does one prepare for optimal performance during a game, and for optimal recovery afterwards?  An elite soccer player cannot just eat like a sprinter, or a marathon runner, or even a hockey player because the energy requirements for a soccer player can be much more diverse. A balanced diet focusing on all the essential macronutrients is very important for soccer player’s performance and recovery after a game.

Pre-game or Pre-training nutrition:

On game or training day the player will need to store up optimal energy for optimal performance. If the player eats too little they will fatigue a lot faster and performance will decrease. If a player eats too much they can feel bloated and sluggish and performance will decrease. But if the player has the right meal with at the right time they will perform optimally.

Carbohydrates are a very important macronutrient for soccer players. Once ingested, they are broken down into glucose which is used in glycolysis (anaerobic energy system) or stored as glycogen for later energy use. The recommended amount of carbohydrates for elite soccer players is 200-300g 3-4 hours before exercise or 3-5g CHO/kg of body weight (1). This will provide enough time and carbohydrates to maximize maintenance of blood glucose (1).  Protein is another important macronutrient for soccer a player that forms the building blocks for muscle tissue. The recommended amount of protein is 20-30 grams of lean protein 3-4 hours before exercise (2).  Fat, the third main macronutrient, contains a lot of energy but can cause gastric distress and bloating if consumed close to exercise. It is recommended that the consumption of fat and fiber is low during the pre game or training meal to minimize bloating and gastric distress. Also it is important to note that all pre game meals should be familiar to the athlete, and in general athletes should avoid new or exotic meals before training/playing. Lastly the meal should be accompanied by enough fluid to keep the athlete hydrated and satisfy their thirst, preferably water.

Post-game or Post-training recovery:

It is arguable that post-game nutrition is even more important than pre game nutrition. The post-training/game time period is where all the work done in training and during the game is transferred into actual physical results. The body is broken down during exercise and after exercise it needs to recover and build back up. A primary key to recovery is proper rest and nutrition.  After an intense bout of exercise, muscle glycogen is depleted and needs to be refueled.  This muscle glycogen is what the muscles use to create energy during exercise when there is no immediate access to glucose. To refuel this depleted muscle glycogen carbohydrate ingestion post-exercise are recommended.  It is recommended to consume 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight of carbohydrates to optimally replenish glycogen storages post exercise (3).  Protein is also key post exercise to optimize muscle protein synthesis. During strenuous exercise muscle tissue is damaged and needs to be repaired. Protein holds the building blocks (amino acids) for this repair of muscle tissue. To optimize muscle protein synthesis it is recommended to intake 20 grams of protein post exercise in three hour intervals up to 24 hours post exercise or until daily protein requirements are reached (4).  Fat intake is not crucial post exercise as long as the daily recommendations are met. It is very important to rehydrate the athlete and make sure they consume enough water so that they do not feel thirsty.


Daily Macronutrient Requirements for Soccer players

Throughout the day an elite soccer player should have multiple smaller meals, rather than three big meals. These meals should include fruits and vegetables and meet the full requirements of a soccer player’s daily recommended macronutrient intake. The daily recommended carbohydrate intake for elite soccer players on none training days is 5-7 grams per kg of body weight (5). On training and game days 7-10 grams per kg of body weight of carbohydrates is needed to provide optimal energy and maintain or replenish blood glucose and muscle glycogen storages (5).  Recommended daily protein intake for soccer players is 1.4 grams per kg per day (6). This will allow for optimal muscle protein synthesis and reduce the risk of muscle break down.  Fat consumption is very important for a soccer player as well, because it is required to transport and store fat soluble vitamins throughout the body.  Fat is also a high energy source used by endurance athletes. Fat oxidation provides more energy than any other substrate, and fat is also used for long term energy production (aerobic energy system). The recommended amount of fat is 20-25% of your daily caloric intake (7). Preferably, athletes should consume healthy fats, such as unsaturated omega-3 and 6 fats.  It is also important to note that hydration throughout the day is also very important, and any athlete should be consuming as much water as possible to maintain optimal hydration.


1. Potgieter, S. (2013). Sport nutrition: A review of the latest guidelines for exercise and sport nutrition from the American College of Sport Nutrition, the International Olympic Committee and the International Society for Sports Nutrition.South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition26(1), 6-16.

2. Boisseau, N., Vermorel, M., Rance, M., Duché, P., & Patureau-Mirand, P. (2007). Protein requirements in male adolescent soccer players.European journal of applied physiology100(1), 27-33.

3. Van Loon, L. J., Saris, W. H., Kruijshoop, M., & Wagenmakers, A. J. (2000). Maximizing postexercise muscle glycogen synthesis: carbohydrate supplementation and the application of amino acid or protein hydrolysate mixtures.The American journal of clinical nutrition72(1), 106-111.

4. Moore, D. R., Areta, J., Coffey, V. G., Stellingwerff, T., Phillips, S. M., Burke, L. M., . & Hawley, J. A. (2012). Daytime pattern of post-exercise protein intake affects whole-body protein turnover in resistance-trained males.Nutr Metab (Lond)9(1), 91.

5. Burke, L. M., Cox, G. R., Cummings, N. K., & Desbrow, B. (2001). Guidelines for daily carbohydrate intake.Sports medicine31(4), 267-299.

6. Boisseau, N., Vermorel, M., Rance, M., Duché, P., & Patureau-Mirand, P. (2007). Protein requirements in male adolescent soccer players.European journal of applied physiology100(1), 27-33.

7. Burke, L. M., Kiens, B., & Ivy, J. L. (2004). Carbohydrates and fat for training and recovery.Journal of sports sciences22(1), 15-30.

Fitness, Nutrition

Soccer Players – Go Ahead and Eat Some Unhealthy Food This Holiday Season!

The Holiday Season is here, and if you are a youth soccer player, this means a few weeks off school, and probably off of soccer as well.  In my previous post, I commented that the winter /  Holiday break should be treated only as a break from soccer (and not from all forms of exercise) and gave some exercise reconsiderations for players to maintain their aerobic fitness during the time off.

In this post, I will be discussing the Holiday “diet.”  For professionals in the health and fitness industry, a common practice during Christmas time is to bombard the public with information and tips about how to eat healthy during the Holidays, to avoid the dreaded weight gain that typically accompanies a 2-3 week period of over-eating foods that re high in fat and sugar.  While I can see the rationale for advising the general population (non-athletes) to avoid eating unhealthy foods over the Holidays, I just don’t see the point in expecting the same of trained athletes.

Any competitive soccer season (whether it is in a club/academy, college/university, or professional environment) presents a significant amount of physical and mental stress on a player.  The Holiday break is the perfect time for well trained soccer players to recover both physically and mentally from this stress. In my opinion, one of the best ways to achieve optimal off-season recovery is to eat food that tastes good, even if it may be high in fat and/or sugar.  When I worked with the Canadian Women’s U17 National teams, we always ended stressful 10-14 day training camps with one “unhealthy” but popular meal (hamburgers and fries, pizza, cheesecake, etc..).  The players loved it and they would always return home happy and motivated to work harder in between camps.  Of course, eating a balanced diet, high in fibre, fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates, and lean protein over the course of the year is advisable for any competitive athlete.  But the pleasure that comes from rewarding yourself for a hard season of training by indulging in some “comfort food” is undeniable.

If athletes are trained properly, they will likely finish the season is excellent aerobic shape, and have relatively low body fat percentages.  As mentioned above, an athlete can and should use the time off over the Holiday season to perform at least 3 days per week of some form of aerobic exercise, combined with some form of resistance or strength training.  So long as this maintenance training is done consistently, the positive outcomes of eating a few days’ worth of high fat/sugar foods outweigh any potential (and minimal) weight gain and increases in body fat percentage that may occur.  In the long run, soccer players who train hard and eat right throughout the season, but treat themselves over the Holiday break, will lead happier and healthier careers.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.


UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 25 – Fast Food

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 eating healthy on the road.  In university soccer, road games typically occur on weekends, with long (3-plus hours) drives in addition to some over-night stays in cities around Ontario.  Typically, teams must stop for food during the drives and/or the over-night stays, and the spending money distributed to the players for food may not be more than $5-10 per day.  With this type of budget, many teams have no choice but to stop at fast food restaurants to eat while on the road.

Just because you eat at a fast food restaurant, however, does not mean you cannot eat healthy.  In general, athletes should try to get the following out of each meal on the road:

  • 2-4 servings of complex carbohydrates
  • 1 serving of complete protein
  • 1-2 servings of fruits and/or vegetables
  • (maybe) 1 serving of dairy
  • total number of calories: between 300 and 700 per meal

Below are some examples of healthy meals that can be eaten at popular fast food restaurants, which will allow players to get all or most of the required nutrients listed above:

  1. McDonalds: grilled classic chicken sandwich (no mayonnaise), fruit and walnut salad.  Total calories: 630
  2. Burger King: Jr. Whopper, tender-gill chicken salad.  Total calories: 510
  3. Subway: 6-inch grilled turkey sub, honey oat bread, 2-3 vegetable toppings, medium salad with Italian dressing.  Total calories: 365
  4. Tim Horton’s: toasted chicken club sandwich, whole wheat bread.  Medium fruit/yogurt.  Total calories: 420

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.


UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 15 – Bananas

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 hip pre-game snacking.  In general, soccer players need two things from their pre-game snacks:

  1. Carbohydrates to provide some energy for muscular work
  2. Electrolytes (sodium and/or potassium) which are essential for optimal muscle contraction 

Foods chosen as snacks before a game should also be convenient and easy to eat in a short amount of time.  Based on these criteria, one food stands out above all others as the perfect pre-game snack: bananas.  Bananas contain natural sugars (simple carbohydrates) that are useful to provide the body with energy prior to soccer training and games.  They are also high in potassium, one of the key electrolytes involved in muscle contraction.  Of course, bananas taste great, and 1 banana can easily be eaten in a few minutes, so they are very convenient to have in locker rooms and even when traveling.  I typically provide each player a banana to eat 30-60 minutes prior to kick-off.  Other coaches and fitness coaches are advised to do the same.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Nutrition, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 10 – Anti-Oxidants

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.

Nutrition, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 9 – Protein

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 protein.  Considered the “building block” of muscle, protein is made up of smaller compounds called amino acids, which enter the blood stream through the diet, and help the body repair and grow muscle tissue.  There are 9 “essential” amino acids, which the body cannot synthesize, and thus must be provided through diet.  Animal protein, such as chicken, beef, pork, and also fish and eggs, contain all 9 essential amino acids and are thus the most efficient sources of protein.  Other plant based foods, such as nuts and seeds, beans, tofu, and certain vegetables, as well as dairy foods like milk and cheese, contain some but not all of the 9 essential amino acids.  These types of food can be eaten in combination (for example, nuts and cheese) to get all of the amino acids the body needs.

In elite level soccer, muscle damage caused by the repetitive load of training and games can accumulate fairly rapidly.  Soccer players must consume a daily amount of protein that will allow them to repair this muscle damage, as well as to help their muscles grow bigger and stronger to be able to withstand the future training/game loads.  In general, soccer players should aim to consume 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.  For example, a female soccer player who weighs 65 kilograms, should consume 130 grams of protein per day.

In a typical 3 meal per day diet, this amount of required protein can be consumed as follows:

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs (26g protein); glass of milk (5g protein); toast with peanut butter (15g of protein)
  • Total Breakfast protein: 46g
  • Lunch: turkey sandwich with cheese (30g protein); chicken salad with nuts and beans (30g protein)
  • Total Lunch protein: 60g
  • Dinner: steak (25g protein); cup of yogurt (10g protein)
  • Total Dinner protein: 35g
  • Total daily protein intake = 46 + 60 + 35 = 141g   

Any soccer player aspiring to play university, professional, or national team level soccer should look to follow these guidelines to make sure they are getting the adequate amount of daily protein.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Nutrition, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 8 – Carbohydrates

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 carbohydrate consumption.  In elite level soccer, players’ average heart rates during intense training sessions and almost all games will typically be between 160 and 180 beats per minute (BPM).  At this intensity, the only nutrient the body can oxidize to produce fuel is muscle and/or liver glycogen, its stored form of carbohydrate (fat cannot be used as an energy source for higher intensity activities such as soccer).  Complex carbohydrates (starches) are the most efficient type of carbohydrate to be used as energy, because they last much longer in the body than simple carbohydrates (sugars).  Thus complex carbohydrates must be a staple of the diet of all high level soccer players.

While a steady intake of complex carbohydrates throughout the day is most ideal (1g of carbohydrate per kilogram of the athlete’s body weight per hour is a commonly recommended dose), in general, elite level soccer players should aim to consume 10-12 servings of complex carbohydrates per day.  When carbohydrate intake is broken down into meals, this number equates to 3-4 servings per meal.  A serving size is roughly equal to 1/4 of a regular sized bowl or dinner plate.  As an example, here is what the carbohydrate consumption in a day with three meals would look like:

  • Breakfast: 2 pieces of toast, 1 bowl of cereal (3 servings in total)
  • Lunch: large bowl of pasta (4 servings in total)
  • Dinner: large dish of rice, potatoes (5 servings in total)
  • Total number of servings: 12

Soccer players who consume 10-12 servings of complex carbohydrates per day can rest assured that they have provided their bodies with enough fuel to last for the entire duration of the day’s (and the next day’s) activities.  Any player aspiring to get to the university level or beyond should make sure they are prepared by fueling their body with the right amount of carbohydrates each day.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.


The One Thing Your House League Coach in the 80’s/90’s Got Right


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.



Fitness, Nutrition

Time to Add Some Salt


Soccer at the highest level can be very physically demanding.  Over the course of a 90-minute game, top level players can run up to 15 kilometres, including 2000-3000 metres at high intensity.  All that running has another important effect on players – it causes them to sweat.  A lot.  More, in fact, over a 2-hour time period than most healthy adults will sweat over the course of several days.  Recent research has shown that top level professional players can lose up to 5 grams (5000 Mg’s) of sodium during a regular 90-minute game in hot temperatures.  Sweat is the body’s mechanism for preserving its core temperature.  When we sweat, we are getting rid of excess heat in the form of water, while at the same time, also losing large amounts of one other important nutrient – sodium.  Sodium is an electrolyte – a form of salt – that is used by the body for muscle contraction, as well as other functions.  When sodium levels in the body get too low, proper muscle function becomes impossible, and there can be a serious risk of several different dangerous side effects, including seizures, coma, and even death.  Soccer players can be at risk of low sodium levels, based on the aforementioned large amounts of sodium they can lose through sweat when playing in the heat.

Now that you are sufficiently scared about the consequences of low sodium levels in soccer, here is the good news: most sports drinks, including Gatorade and Powerade, contain sodium.  Consumption of sports drinks during soccer games played in the heat, when a lot of sweating occurs, is thus a useful and recommended practice for soccer players.   The only problem with conventional sports drinks is this: most contain only 250 Mg’s of sodium in a standard sized 500-750Ml bottle.  As a result, players who sweat a lot in the heat (losing up to 5000 Mg’s of sodium) would need to consume an inordinate amount (16-20 bottles) of Gaotrade or Powerade in order to replenish all the sodium they lose.  So what’s the solution to this problem?  Simply add salt to your sports drink if it’s hot outside.  Salt, or sodium chloride, contains a high and concentrated dose of sodium, which is just what the body needs when playing soccer (and sweating) in the heat.  The exact amount of salt needed will vary greatly from person to person.  Start by making sure you consume 1 bottle (500-750Ml) of sports drink over the course of a 90-minute game whenever temperatures exceed 25 degrees Celcius.  The best way to determine exactly how much salt you need is to weigh yourself before and after a game.  If you lose less than 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) you will not need to consume more than 1 bottle of sports drink, and water.  If you lose more than 1 kilogram, it is likely that you are dehydrated, and would need to supplement your sports drink with a bit of extra salt/sodium.  A good guideline would be to start with a small amount (200-300 Mg’s).  Add this amount of salt to your sports drink, and see if the weight loss goes to under 1 kilogram.  If not, try adding another 200-300 Mg’s for the next game, and continue supplementing at this rate until you find the amount that works for you.  Once you find the right amount of salt/sodium, you should notice a significant improvement in performance and reduction in fatigue.  Always remember to drink as much water as possible in hot temperatures, regardless of how much sports drink you consume.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.     


A Legal Performance Enhancing “Drug”?


Earlier today, I had lunch with an old friend, who has become a very successful entrepreneur.  A new business he has started up this year is his own brand of premium coffee, which he has successfully taken into big name stores like Costco and Longo’s, to name a few.  We were speaking about coffee (specifically about caffeine in coffee), and I commented that I believe one of the main reasons the drink is so popular is not necessarily the taste, but the fact that people are addicted to the caffeine, and associate their “fix” of caffeine with the taste.  Caffeine, then can be seen as a “legal drug” (a phrase my friend has actually trademarked), in the sense that it is addictive, yet perfectly legal to sell, purchase, and use, in any quantity.

Since I began working with higher level soccer players about 8 years ago, I became interested in, and began doing research on, nutritional supplements that may give a performance-enhancing edge to the players.  One supplement that I frequently cam across was caffeine, which has been shown (in very small, safe, and legal doses) to provide a significant increase in endurance, as well as in the function of the central nervous system, in athletes.

Because soccer is a sport in which the aerobic system plays a huge role delivering energy to the body, and because caffeine is a safe and very commonly consumed substance with no negative short- or long-term side effects when taken in small doses, it seemed logical to me that it would be worthwhile for soccer players to use caffeine as a means of improving their aerobic endurance before training and games.

I have since written and published articles about caffeine use and its benefits for soccer players, which can be viewed here:

Parents’ Guide to Caffeine Use for Soccer Players

I won’t bore you with all the details if you don’t want to read them, but below are my guidelines (taken from the article) for caffeine use in soccer:

Non-Habitual Users (0-4 cups of coffee per week):

– take minimum dose of 75mg (about 1 cup of coffee); maximum dose of 4mg per kg of body weight, 30 minutes prior to start of competition

Habitual Users (7-14 cups of coffee per week):

– take minimum dose of 2-6mg per kg of body weight, 30 minutes prior to competition

It must be noted that caffeine is presently listed as a banned substance by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the NCAA / CIS (American and Canadian University athletics associations) but not the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).  The quantity at which caffeine is considered banned, however, is 15 mcg (micrograms) per mL (milliliters) in a urine sample.  In layman’s terms, this concentration would be the equivalent of a dose of 8 or more mg per kg of body weight (or the equivalent of 10-15 cups of coffee).

Please let me know your thoughts.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started!