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Fuel For Football is a football performance  company, based in the United Kingdom, that focuses on aiding footballers worldwide to reach their greatest potential.

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The correct nutrition is extremely important for players looking to progress, as our fitness and levels of fatigue are connected with nutritional intake. Feeling 100% fit is the ideal one should aim for at the beginning of every game, as even the slightest bit of sluggishness can hinder game speed greatly. Often it is the difference of a few milliseconds that can change entire situations in football. Additionally, many injuries are derived from poor nutrition. For example, bad hydration levels are often linked with muscle tears. Nutritional preparation for matches should begin long before the match day. At Fuel For Football we would like players to learn about how they should fuel themselves before a match day (preparation), on a match day (utilisation) and the day after a match (recovery). Furthermore, it is important to learn the optimum intake for yourself individually, as every player has slightly different needs and requirements. At Fuel For Football we have studied the best nutrition for every type of footballer. Use our online tips along with the daily informational posts on Instagram to improve your knowledge on correct nutrition. To get the most from Fuel For Football consider purchasing one of our services or e-plans.

Protein

Football requires aspects of both strength and endurance over a period of 90 minutes (or more). As a result, players are likely to benefit from a protein intake above average recommendations, not only because of their potential to enhance strength, but also to provide a supply of amino acids for increased amino acid oxidation that may occur during training and in competition. Footballers, as endurance athletes, need more protein than other individuals to maintain their auxiliary fuel source, which appears to become increasingly important as training and matches go on. As strength athletes they can also benefit from a greater protein intake because in combination with heavy-resistance training protein can provide an enhanced stimulus for muscle development. Based on the related exercise studies completed to date, it appears that a protein intake of 1.4-1.7 grams per kg of weight is best for footballers. Although diets high in protein are frequently condemned because of possible kidney problems, it appears these concerns have been over-emphasised. There is no evidence that protein intakes in the range recommended will cause healthy individuals any concerns. It is worth noting the difference between whey and casein powders which can both be used to supplement protein in the diet. While we prefer to receive our intake of protein through a regular diet some days it is difficult to find the time to cook the right meals. Here, whey protein shakes can be used to supplement diet. Whey protein is also great for post match/gym/training recovery. If you consume a shake (preferably with milk) within the first 30 minutes of finishing your session, your recovery time is likely to be severely reduced. Equally, chocolate milk is a great alternative that can also be used. These work well for two reasons. Firstly, they replace electrolytes lost in-game and secondly they provide a supply of amino acids needed for amino acid oxidation. Casein protein is a slow digesting protein. This makes it ideal for intake before going to sleep. It will provide a continuing source of fuel for muscles throughout the night. [16]

Protein

Football Nutrition Plan

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Carbohydrates

Carbohydrate is the key energy-providing nutrient that players must optimise during the lead-up to (including the day of) a match. Players who start a game with low glycogen stores will likely fatigue quickly. 'Carbohydrate-loading‘ is a great idea for these days building up to a game. Eating a large quantity of carbohydrate, about 8-10 g per kg of body weight per day, will within 2-3 days result in very high levels of muscle glycogen stores. We suggest that players find their favourite pre-match meal (based on in-game performance) and make it habitual. For some players who do less running during a match, the pre-match meal doesn't need to be predominantly carbohydrate. However, for the majority of players we generally advise to focus on carbohydrate-rich foods to provide a total of 1-4 g/ kg body weight of carbohydrate during the 6 hour period before a match. The main mistake players might make is to eat too little carbohydrate (below 1g per kg body weight) during the 1-6 h period before playing and then fail to consume any carbohydrate during the game. This small carbohydrate meal primes the body to rely more heavily on blood glucose, but it does not provide enough carbohydrate to sustain the player throughout the subsequent exercise. [15]
  

Fruit & Vegetables

Fruit & Vegetables contain two key nutrients used for performance as well as having other benefits:
Nitrates: Reduce after-load and blood pressure; Increase blood flow and nutrient delivery
Antioxidants: Reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress; Reduce muscle damage; Enhance recovery
Immune Support: Lessen immunosuppressive effects of intense exercise; Reduce incidence of URTI
Glycemic Control: Enhance glycogen resynthesis; Improve blood glucose regulation
Players should have a higher than average intake of fruit & vegetables due to greater needs for nitrates and antioxidants. Supplementation can be used to increase the intake of these nutrients. For example, cherry active is taken by many players in order to increase antioxidant intake. Saying this, it is very easy to add all of these nutrients to your diet with certain fruit & vegetables. Nitrate rich fruit & vegetables include lettuce, beetroots, carrots, green beans, spinach, parsley, cabbage, radishes, celery and collard greens. Antioxidant rich fruit & vegetables include prunes, raisins, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, grapes, cherries and spinach. 
While most vegetables are great to eat nearly all the time, it is better to consume fruit either: within the hour before or after training/a match/gym work; at halftime during a match or at breakfast.

Preparation Phase

Nutritional preparation for matches should begin several days prior to kick-off and focus on intake of carbohydrate and maintenance of hydration. The pre-match or training meal should focus on carbohydrate-rich foods to provide a total of 1-4 g/ kg body weight of carbohydrate during the 6-hour period before a match. The main mistake players might make is not eating enough carbohydrate (below 1g per kg body weight) during the 1-6 h period before playing and then failing to consume carbohydrate during the game. Having a small carbohydrate meal helps players to rely more on blood glucose. Ideally to counteract dehydration in-game, players should consume 200-300 ml of water or a suitable carbohydrate solution 5 to 10 minutes before kick-off.

Utilisation Phase

The period in-game or training including half-time and breaks can be seen as a utilisation phase. Here our bodies are utilising nutrients, electrolytes and water to fuel our performance. Given football is comprised of 45 minute halves it is difficult to re-fuel. Therefore, half-time and stoppages for injuries should be used to refuel as a matter of importance. At half-time 300-500 ml of a sports drink can be very beneficial for replacing lost electrolytes in time for the second half. Injury stoppages should be used as a chance to sip from a sports drink or water bottle. During hot weather or strenuous training sessions, coaches should try to provide their players with a break for drinks about every 20 minutes.

Recovery Phase

Recovery post-match or training must address three key principles known as the ‘3R’s of recovery’: rehydrate, refuel, repair. The first process, rehydration, involves replacement of lost fluid and electrolytes. During a 90-minute football match it is expected that players will lose between 0.5kg and 2.5kg of body weight. Baring this in mind, adequate hydration is imperative for the recovery process. Flavoured milk is a strong candidate for a post-match drink given its ability to replace lost electrolytes, rehydrate and offer protein and amino acids that aid muscle cell reparation. When co-ingested with a caffeine-based supplement, footballers can achieve all their key objectives of recovery. As well as rehydration, it is important to refuel our bodies after football. This principle looks to replenish depleted glycogen levels in muscles and the liver. The best way footballers can quickly replenish muscle and liver glycogen is to consume 1.5 g of high-glycaemic carbohydrates per 1 kg of body weight immediately after exercise. Examples of such foods are pasta, rice, noodles and bread. The final principle to consider in recovery is reparation of muscle damage and promotion of body adaption. This focuses on increased consumption of protein and amino acids which are required to help maximize the speed of cell reparation. Footballers should look to consume 20 to 40 g of protein that includes 3 to 4 g of leucine per serving to increase muscle protein synthesis. This can be found with adequate amounts of chicken, turkey, salmon and many more food items.

 

Past theories suggested it was important to receive the adequate nutrition for recovery within a short period post-exercise known as an anabolic window to be effective although more recent studies have dispelled this as somewhat of a myth. Either way, consumption of all the stated nutrition above should come as early as possible to begin the recovery process.

Hydration

The effects dehydration (loss of body water) can have on performance:

  • An increase in heart rate, that causes needless fatigue.  

  • An increase in body temperature, that can endanger your health.

  • An increase in perception of effort, meaning you’ll feel like you are working harder than you are. 

  • A decrease in motivation. You’re more likely to want to quit.
     

In football, dehydration can decreased speed, passing/shooting , dribbling and focusing ability. Also, sweat losses can contribute to muscle cramping.

 

Scientific research has shown that a loss of as little as 1 to 2% (particularly in hot environments) of body weight during exercise is likely to impair performance (assuming loss of weight is of water).

Every player must aim to be well hydrated before, during and after training/competition.   

The effects of good or bad hydration can be felt on performance as much as 3 days later. This means players need to maintain good hydration nearly all the time.

As a rough guideline players should look to drink 3 litres of water daily. This figure is likely to be higher on match days and often training days as well. Key times to re-hydrate are late evening, early morning and post-training or post-match. While we sleep water is still being used for body processes. In the ideal world we could continue drinking during periods of sleep. As this is not possible players should drink both in the evening and the morning to make up for this period. As a guideline, 500ml should be adequate at both times. It is important to re-hydrate following training and matches to replenish water lost from the intense exercise. Without weighing yourself before and after a session it is hard to work out how much water you need to drink. The majority of players will need at least 1 litre of water after a match so this should be seen as a minimum in most cases. [17]

Supplements

The following are supplements that can have a positive effect on performance:

  • Whey Protein - should be taken within 30 minutes after a match/training/gym session

  • Casein Protein - should be taken at night before you go to bed

  • Montmorency Cherry - should be taken first thing in the morning

  • BCAA - should be taken before, during and or after a gym session, on the morning of a training session or match.

  • Amino Acids - should be taken in the morning or similarly to BCAA.

  • Creatine - should be taken before a gym session; there is not yet enough proof that creatine benefits match performance so can not be advised pre or post match at this moment of time.

Football Nutrition Guide - Free PDF

Injury Rehabilitation Nutrition

Recovery from injury can be split into 3 separate stages:⠀

Stage 1 - Inflammation
Stage 2 - Proliferation
Stage 3 - Remodelling⠀

Nutrition has great importance in each stage and should be covered differently as the recovery process progresses.⠀

Stage 1:
Inflammation is an important part of the healing process, however too much inflammation can cause further damage.⠀

It is advised that you eat a higher amount of anti-inflammatory foods during this stage, such as:
olive oil; avocados; fish oil; flax oil; fish such as salmon and mackerel; mixed nuts and seeds.⠀

You should also look to avoid pro-inflammatory foods, such as:
processed foods; high saturated fat foods; vegetable oils such as sunflower and corn; foods with trans fats such as cakes, pies and burgers.⠀

Stage 2 & 3:
The proliferation and remodelling stages of recovery have similar nutrition requirements.⠀

As metabolism can increase by up to 50% more than a typical rest day, you’ll need a higher calorie intake than when you are usually sedentary, but less than on a typical training day.⠀

Also look for an adequate protein intake from minimally processed meats, plant based proteins, eggs and protein supplements.⠀

Try to balance dietary fat: about 1/3rd saturated, monosaturated and polysaturated. If you are unsure on the content of a food item check online.⠀

You’ll need a slightly lower carbohydrate intake than usual, however you should still maintain a high proportion of your daily intake as carbohydrate. Again look to eat minimally processed carbs such as: oats, rice, grain breads and quinoa.⠀

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