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.