Nutrition and diet is an area we can all improve on and as football coaches we are in a strong position to influence players to become healthier to improve their football fitness.
Football Fitness – Diet
In simple terms, what we eat and drink provides the fuel for us to train, play and recover from training. What we need to know is what is the best fuel?
Carbo education for the benefit of the players
Carbohydrates are recognised to have the most immediate affect on the players’ performance, so in this issue we are going to help you educate your team to eat better to operate better. It is impractical to give them specific diet sheets because of the variety of home cooking circumstances (e.g. mothers, partners, flatmates, schools). However, an appreciation of the benefits will help them choose better options and encourage them to either influence their cooks, or even cook the food themselves!
Low fat carbs for low fat players
Despite the horrors outlined by some trendy diets, there are many staple foods which provide excellent sources of carbohydrates e.g. potatoes and pasta. The key though is to avoid high carb foods with high fat content. This will mean that high consumption will also lead to weight gain. For example, crisps and pizza are two hazards to be avoided.
What’s good to eat?
Some good, low fat, high carb foods are: rice, popcorn, breakfast cereals, fruit, toast and honey, potatoes, pasta. Some treats as well: sweets e.g. fruit gums, chocolate and even Coca Cola (though this drink is not a substitute for water).
Baked potatoes and sandwiches are good “whole” meals, with fillings which avoid too much fat making an even healthier option. So cut down on the butter, cheese and mayonnaise and use baked beans, lean meats and low fat cheeses.
Keep the balance
A diet cannot just be carbohydrates, but also protein, fat and hydration. It is worth asking players what they are eating and drinking, if only to help them make their own more informed decisions.
On average, carbohydrates makes up at least half of a player’s total energy intake.
In football, the intensity of the sport means that carbohydrates are the primary energy source.
All milk has the same carbohydrate content, but differs in fat content, therefore football players would do better to drink semi skimmed or skimmed milk.
There is little evidence to suggest any difference for performance on whether a player should eat complex carbohydrates (e.g. pasta or potatoes) and simple carbohydrates (e.g. sweets and fruit).