Nutrition Strategies for Soccer Athletes

Different sports require different amounts of nutrients. This is all because different variables (i.e. distance covered, speed, strength) are involved. Soccer is a particularly demanding sport because soccer athletes are constantly in a cycle of running, sprinting, and standing. 

Nutrition can make or break your performance. Here are some basic nutrition strategies and actionable tips to help you up your soccer performance!

Eat a variety of real foods.

The foundation of a strong sports diet is rooted in eating real food. This means eating a variety of vegetables and fruits, incorporating whole grains regularly, embracing healthy fats, and making sure you’re eating high quality proteins. 

Fuel for training.

It's no secret that soccer is a demanding sport. This means it’s especially important to make sure you’re eating enough. In other words, quality and quantity matter! This can simply mean keeping snacks on hand to make sure you’re not depriving your body of energy when it needs it the most. Here’s a quick list of my favorite grab-and-go snacks: like trail mix, energy or protein bars, packs of nut butter, dry cereal, pretzels, fresh or dried fruit, etc.

Stay hydrated.

Hydration is essential for soccer players. It’s important to remember that hydration should be prioritized daily - not just around a hard workout or game. Your baseline hydration goal should be half your body weight in ounces each day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be getting in at least 75 ounces of fluid. For perspective, that’s about 2.2 liters or about 4.4 standard sized water bottles. 

If you had a particularly hard practice or if the weather is especially hot and humid, be sure to drink more to compensate! I’d also recommend adding in a sports drink, like gatorade. Sports drinks that have both electrolytes and easily digestible sugars are great because they promote optimal hydration and they help fuel your performance.

Hydration is dependent on a bunch of different factors like exercise intensity and duration, air temperature, humidity level, fitness level, height, weight, body composition, etc. Because hydration is so variable, keeping tabs on your hydration status is a great daily habit to develop. You can do this by simply checking the color of your urine. You’ll know that you’re properly hydrated if your urine is a pale yellow color. If your urine is too clear and you may be overhydrate. On the flip side, a darker yellow color means you are likely dehydrated. 

Prioritize recovery.

What you eat right after a hard practice or a game plays a huge role in your recovery. Within half an hour after exercise, you’ll want to try and eat as soon as you can tolerate it. When it comes to optimal recovery nutrition, the goal is to eat snack or have a sports drink with a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein during the first 30 minutes after exercise. 

In other words, you want to make sure that you’re consuming mostly carbohydrates accompanied by some protein. This will help your body replenish its glycogen stores and repair and build muscle. For example, this can mean having a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a yogurt or whipping up a smoothie with your favorite fruits and some Greek yogurt!