Dairy Council Northern Ireland

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Food for football

Fuel for football

Eating and drinking the right things at the right time can really improve your training and matches. Like a car, your body needs fuel – you wouldn’t consider going a long car journey with no petrol so don’t think about going to training or matches without putting fuel in your engine!

What type of fuel do you need?

Just like there is petrol and diesel for cars, there are different types of food that give you different types of fuel. For football you need to put the right fuel in your engine otherwise you will be very sluggish and probably won’t last the whole game or training session. 

Carbohydrate

There are hundreds of scientific studies showing that getting enough carbohydrate can improve performance across a range of sports but especially in football, if it is eaten in the right amounts at the right times.

The science bit

Glucose, a type of carbohydrate, is the main fuel for exercising muscles and is stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver. The higher the exercise intensity, the greater amounts of glycogen will be used. When glycogen stores are low or empty your ability to make good runs, tackle well or be accurate in front of goal will be affected. Unlike our stores of fat and protein, we have only small stores of carbohydrate and keeping a good level is often difficult for athletes.

As the season progresses you will be able to store more carbohydrates but even then you probably have enough stores to do you for 50–60 minutes and most of your matches and training sessions will be much longer than that. 

How much do you need?

How much you need will depend on what weight you are. A 70kg player (11 stone) should be trying to eat or drink at least 420grammes of carbohydrates per day. To do this you need to be having meals and snacks that are based around carbohydrates – see the ideas below.
The good thing is that these foods will also give you other things that are important e.g. fruit and vegetables will give you vitamins, minerals and fibre; milk or yogurt will also give you protein and calcium; pasta, rice and potatoes can be good sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Refuelling

Immediately after training, it is recommended that carbohydrate intake to aid recovery should be approximately 1g / kg body weight.

Getting food and fluid in after training and matches will refuel the muscles and prepare them for your next training session. If you only have a short time between sessions (for example, training on both a Saturday and Sunday), then you need to really make sure that you eat / drink carbohydrates as soon as you can after training (see ‘Getting your timing right’).

It’s easy to forget about your eating habits on rest days but often these are just as important because these are your recovery days.

Sources of carbohydrates

[providing approximately 50g carbohydrates]

  • 2 medium pieces of fruit or 1 large banana
  • 60g of raisins
  • 410g tin of fruit salad
  • 150g baked beans* (small can of baked beans is 200g)
  • 1 corn on the cob or small tin of sweet corn
  • 1 bowl of homemade vegetable soup
  • 1 medium baked potato
  • 1 round of sandwiches (meat/chicken/fish/cheese/egg*)
  • 2 slices of bread
  • 1 bagel with spoon of honey/jam/peanut butter*
  • 60g breakfast cereal with 150mls of low–fat milk*
  • 2 medium pancakes
  • ½ pint of flavoured milkshake* or smoothie
  • 300mls of drinking yogurt *
  • 250g of rice pudding* (Pots contain approximately 40g)
  • 1 ice lolly (solero, starburst, twister)
  • ½ pint of dilute squash
  • ½ pint of pure fruit juice
  • 700mls of sports drink

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