A footballer’s performance and the potential they can reach is largely influenced by their genes but also depends on their daily training regime. However, a correct and balanced diet can maximise a footballer’s performance during training and, ultimately, during a game. A footballer needs fuel which will include a proper balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and just the right amount of fluids, and this is precisely the plan followed by your favourite footballers. Besides, they know very well that it is their diet and the food they consume that will give them the right energy to be well prepared and respond to the challenges of training as well as football games.

The nutritional benefits you need to know

Carbohydrates are the best fuel for footballers and should be included in every meal. Protein, along with the right workout, is necessary for muscle gain and for recovery after training. Fat is an excellent source of energy that helps transport fat-soluble vitamins and enhances satiety. Vitamins and minerals contribute to optimal body function and, consequently, better performance. Finally, hydration is essential for preventing early onset of fatigue in every sport. But how can an athlete include everything in their daily diet?

Athletes’ meals

The first thing that a footballer should do after waking up is have a good breakfast. This meal is very important. Glycogen levels in the liver are normally very low in the morning hours and need to be replenished. Also, a good breakfast breaks the overnight fasting and boosts brain function. Some healthy options for breakfast include yoghurt (plain or with fruit), turkey and cheese or egg sandwich, cereal or muesli with milk, yoghurt with honey and fruit or dried fruit, or a banana with peanut butter, eggs, fruit and fresh juice. At least 3-4 hours before training, a meal rich in carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta, boiled or mashed potatoes, vegetables and a protein source, such as chicken, fish or a patty should be consumed. Moreover, water and fluid intake throughout the day is also very important.

Before and after training

An hour before training, a footballer should eat a small snack, also rich in carbohydrates, such as a cereal bar or low-fat yoghurt or a rusk or a banana. The snack should always be accompanied by fluids.

During training and immediately after, the first thing that footballers do is replenish fluids and glycogen. Whenever possible, during training they should drink fluids and immediately after the end of training they should start replenishment.

The fast replenishment of glycogen stores in the muscles and liver is equally vital. Within the first thirty minutes after training, a small snack, rich in carbohydrates, should be consumed, such as fruit or a small piece of nut brittle, followed by a good supper, combining more carbohydrates and protein, always accompanied by a salad or vegetables.

Moreover, many footballers may also eat a small snack before sleeping to ensure optimal replenishment. A good snack before bed is a low-fat yoghurt or low-fat cottage cheese or fruit or some popcorn.