Keeping fit for the beautiful game takes more than just regular practice: it’s also about great nutrition. And that doesn’t just mean the right foods, it means the right foods at the right time; your post-match snack is going to be different to the food that you eat while training, and both of these are different to the food that you eat for stamina just before a big game.
Today, it’s that third category that we’re going to be looking at, with a rundown of the key foods that should make their way into every footballer’s pre-match diet.
It might not get your taste buds tingling, but beetroot juice is a good choice thanks to the impressive burst of energy it provides. This is thanks to the nitrates, which help your muscles in three ways: improving blood flow, helping waste removal, and speeding up fuel delivery.
Bananas, apples and citrus fruits are all powerful stamina boosters – so a fruit salad before the match is never a terrible idea. By combining all three, you get the benefit of apple’s antioxidants, banana’s carbs, fibre and fructose, and the vitamin C that’s found in citrus.
Complex carbohydrates give a slow release of energy, which makes them ideal when you need stamina that will last throughout the full length of a football match. This includes food such as nuts, seeds, oatmeal and sweet potato and brown rice. As your body digests these particularly slowly, you’ll have enough energy for practice and the game itself.
Almonds and Walnuts
Omega-3 fatty acids are a really important nutrient to get into your diet if you take part in any sport, and football is certainly no exception. While fish is one popular (and effective) choice, you can also use walnuts and almonds to get your fill.
With all of the fibre and vitamin C that they contain, any leafy green veggies are a good choice for stamina and improved performance on the pitch. However, thanks to its additional helping of vitamin K (which helps strengthen your bones), kale is definitely the champion.
Remember, building your stamina isn’t just about choosing the right foods, but also about maintaining a suitable diet. Ideally, you want as much as 70% of your diet to come in the form of carbohydrates – with at least 2400 calories coming from carbs before a game.
With a well-balanced regular diet, and a carb-heavy pre-match meal, you should see your energy and stamina levels not just build, but stay at an optimal height.
In the fitness world, food is fuel. Getting the balance right of what food to each at which time of day is the key to optimising your workout performance. Correct nutrition can give your body a shorter recovery, more stamina and an overall better performance, but poor nutrition can have the adverse effect. Why is this? Well quite simply because eating before a workout forces your body to choose between processing the food or converting energy into performance, and the body will always process the food above anything else; you can’t stop digestion.
Not all foods are bad for you before a workout. In fact, some high energy foods can be useful to give you the energy to burn off; exactly what you need before a cardio session. But other foods can interfere with achieving your workout potential. So which foods should you try and avoid pre-workout?
The issue with eating yoghurt or dairy products before a workout is that the protein content means it takes longer to digest than easily absorbed foods or rapidly processed foods, so if you do want to eat dairy then be sure to eat it 2 hours before a workout so that your body is not still trying to process it. Dairy products can also give you cramps, abdominal discomfort and even diarrhoea, even if you eat dairy without a problem normally.
Avocados do have a lot of health benefits, but adding avocado to a meal before a workout is a mistake because of the high fat content, which means they are very hard to digest. The same is also true for olive oil and other fatty foods such as cheeseburgers – this type of food should almost certainly be avoided before a workout.
It’s probably quite obvious that scoffing a Mars bar before a workout is going to affect your stamina and performance. All the sugars in chocolate bars may give you an initial energy boost, but this is very short lived and the peak and trough in sugar levels will cause you to crash and play havoc with your stamina.
A great food for a healthy diet and weight loss, but not a great food for your pre-workout snack. The problem lies in the fact that they are packed full of fibre, and before a workout a heavy intake of fibre will lead to bloating and flatulence, so you need to avoid consuming these or any other high-fibre foods 2 hours before and after a workout.
Nuts are a great snack and are included in most nutrition programmes to get a good amount of healthy fats into your diet. However, before a workout nuts are not a great idea due to the salt content. This sodium content can effect the fluid balance that you need for an optimum workout and cause you to become dehydrated and increase the recovery period for your muscles afterwards.
While the foods above are ok to eat generally, to achieve a great workout performance and a healthy muscle recovery afterwards it is recommended that you don’t consume them within 2 hours either side of a workout. An idea pre-workout snack would be a small protein based snack with a good carbohydrate level that is eaten a few hours before. Don’t be tempted to take a protein shake with you either, as these are best consumed post-workout to assist in muscle recovery and repair.