Nutrition is a very vital concept not just for soccer but for any athletic sport. This important parameter of player’s success is often overlooked or ignored. There have been several misconceptions since a long time regarding nutrition of soccer players. Here we try to put light on these misconceptions and understand the unsung importance of proper nutritional habits.
WHAT A PLAYER EATS NEVER AFFECTS HIS/HER PERFORMANCE:
The biggest and the most basic misconception which people have is that the performance of a player is not affected by what he/she eats. It is indeed affected and the performance of a player drills down to the components of the food he/she consumes.
Traditionally soccer players are recommended to consume a diet consisting of 40% Carbohydrates, 20% proteins and 40% fats.
Several nutritional studies have revealed that for players who need to run faster and for a longer time, a diet rich in carbohydrates is highly beneficial. Carbohydrate consumption directly influences the running performance of any athlete, be it a soccer player or a sprinter.
SPORTS DRINKS ARE JUST FOR MARKETING:
Several people consider sports drinks like Gatorade, Lucozade, etc just flavored drinks sold with a false promise of energizing athletes. In reality, these drinks are formulated with contents which help our body assimilate the necessary nutrients at a faster pace.
In short, they are not just flavored drinks, but rather a good formula for increasing the metabolism of active athletes. A lot of factors are considered while preparing these drinks like the volume, concentration, timing and temperature of its components. These drinks are prepared to not only hydrate the players but also to energize them.
For effective results, it is necessary to limit the concentration of sugars in the drink otherwise the drink would only remain in the stomach and would do no benefit to the player consuming it. In order to facilitate the assimilation of the drink from the small intestine into the blood an optimal concentration of salt is added too.
Such a level of energy manipulation cannot be achieved by consuming only water. Water can only rehydrate but it cannot replace the lost nutrients which many formulated drinks can quickly bring into your body after consumption.
IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT PLAYERS EAT AFTER A MATCH:
Many coaches, players and parents are unaware that food that the players consume after a game is a very important factor for their energy replenishment. This is because for the one or two hours after every game, the muscles of the body are highly eager to receive a fresh supply of fuel. If in this period we subject our players to eat anything that is not nutritious it is as good as wasting an opportunity to healthily nourish their body for the next game.
Instead of subjecting the body to a diet full of unhealthy stuff like chips, snacks, chocolates or fries, players must consume food rich in carbohydrates probably from a carbohydrate drinks or foods which are highly glycemic. Raisins and pretzels are a good source of energy after every game. Decisions on what food to consume immediately after a game are highly critical when there are a lot of matches lined up one after the other.
THE BODY NEEDS WATER WHEN WE START FEELING THIRSTY:
The thirst mechanism of humans is highly misleading. A normal human being doesn’t feel thirsty until his body has lost 2% of its weight through sweat and by the time a player feels thirsty his performance level has already started to decrement. This brings to our notice a very common nutrition myth that our body is the best indicator of when to drink. It is not!
It is recommended to keep consuming water without waiting to get thirsty. It is good to have some water once within every quarters of an hour during play. Water bottles and fluids must be kept geared up along the sidelines during a match. Playing in cold weather is also dehydrating and consumption of water or fluids is as necessary even in the cold weather when we usually won’t feel thirsty.
ATHLETES GET PLENTY OF PROTEIN NO MATTER WHAT THEY EAT: \
Protein is a very vital nutrient for athletes. Though food is the primary source of protein, it must be known that most of the protein usually comes in combination with fatty foodstuffs. Examples of such protein-rich but fatty diet include marbled meat, chicken in the skin and ground beef.
All the excess fat from meat should be trimmed off, the skin of the chicken should be removed and the beef should be lean. It is very important to inculcate protein in the post-exercise meal. This is because protein helps in assimilating the new fuel faster into the body. An ideal source of protein could be carbohydrate replenishment drinks that also contain the ingredient of protein.
ALL SPORTS DRINKS ARE ALIKE:
People are in a hazardous misconception when they consider all the sports drinks to be alike.
It is very important for all to know that there are three different types of drinks, one for the replenishment of fluids, second for the replenishment of carbohydrates and lastly the energy drinks.
What’s the difference among the three?
Fluid replenishment drinks as the name suggests are solely for the purpose of rehydrating the player. Their main motive is to replenish the lost water within the body. These drinks have a perfected combination of salts and sugars which helps them to get absorbed by the blood quickly.
Carbohydrate replenishment drinks are for restoring the energy levels of active players during the game as these fluids get absorbed by the small intestine quickly and provide an instant source of energy. These are like fuel for the active body. They are used to keep athletes and players running for a longer time. Some drinks have a certain proportion of protein in them which further boosts the assimilation of fresh fuel into the body.
Energy drinks are basically caffeine drinks which act on the central nervous system and give an immediate high to the consumer. However these drinks don’t provide any sort of benefit to the muscles of the body and they are also a diuretic, that is, they can lead to urination and thus a further loss of body fluids.
I AM JUST A COACH, PLAYER NUTRITION IS NOT MY CONCERN:
We talk about nourishing the players but completely overlook the concern of who will properly guide the nourishment of the players. Players need a proper guide to their nourishment and though their most common guides are teammates, it is always better if the coach takes the tab for proper nourishment. But practically, players tend to eat whatever is put in front of them and the coach cannot govern what the players eat at home or in their personal lives. So the parents of the players have to play the role of assistant coach responsible for the nourishment. It is very vital for the coach to clear all the nutrition related misconceptions which the parents are most likely to have. Parents usually encourage a protein rich diet without knowing that protein is actually good only for quicker acceptance of fuel by the body rather being the fuel. Carbohydrates are the fuel and along with proteins it is necessary for the body to get a diet balanced with a fair amount of carbohydrates and proteins as well.
Thus a coach must understand that in order to get the best out of his/her players on the field it is necessary for him/her to take responsibility of the players’ diet too.
It is very important for players, coaches and parents as well to get over blindly following these common nutrition myths.