Preseason training is in the past, school has started and the fall season is now in full swing.
When you think about what you want to achieve in the coming months, there’s a lot that’s out of your control – things that depend on your coach, your opponent, etc. – but you can give yourself the best possible chance of success by staying one Routine that keeps you prepared, increases your performance and ultimately decreases your risk of injury.
It’s important to realize that all of these metrics are interconnected – if you cut back in one area, you’ll feel the ill effects elsewhere, but if you stay committed throughout the season, you’ll become the best version of yourself practice every day, which will unleash a whole different beast on game day.
Stay prepared and properly fueled
Between school, practice, games, and everything in between, your fall schedule is jam-packed and raises serious questions about your ability to prepare for physical activity and repair upon completion.
“What does the body need before it engages in physical activity? Fluid is definitely number one,” says Leslie Bonci, an accomplished nutritionist. “It affects strength, speed, endurance and recovery, and also reduces the risk of injury. When the body is not well hydrated, the risk of heat injuries increases sharply, as does the risk of soft tissue injuries. The second would be carbs, and we’re talking about football here, so it takes a lot of energy from the body.”
Carbohydrates are perfect for quick absorption and provide long-lasting energy for the body and brain, but it’s also important to have enough protein for muscle building and a healthy immune system. It all starts with breakfast, so some good carbs and proteins might include:
From there, we can focus on the performance snacks that will keep us full and energized pre-workout, while also having them available post-workout to begin the recovery process.
“The enzymes in the muscles are very receptive to literally starting this refueling process as soon as you stop exercising,” says Bonci. “Eat something within 30 minutes. Something like peanut butter because it has a shelf life and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Be prepared – that is, bring it with you. Shin guards, socks and uniform.”
Some examples of durable and perishable performance snacks are:
Avoid performance plateaus and build muscle
Since soccer is an incredibly challenging mix of sprinting and endurance, you need enough carbs for fuel, but you also need to maintain your protein intake during meals to maintain muscle rather than lose it. It might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but fat is also an essential fuel for exercise.
“Fat is critical when you’re doing a more moderate-intensity exercise, such as running. E.g. running up and down the field compared to sprinting,” says Bonci. “That’s why peanut butter is ideal in that regard, because it provides all the protein and fat, and this nice combo with carbs is — you can put peanut butter on bread, you can put it on a bagel, you can make little peanut butter bites.”
“Food assembly doesn’t have to be complicated, but it has to be there. And it is a kind of ‘added value’. Not “health” because that just falls on deaf ears — what’s getting me the biggest bang for the buck in terms of what I’m eating? How will that affect my strength, my speed, my endurance?”
While there is no need to eliminate fat from your diet, you should limit your consumption of fatty foods before you exercise, as this can upset your gut. Some examples of good fat sources include:
They should also include protein as part of every meal and snack. Post-workout protein helps your body synthesize muscle protein, allowing you to repair and recover post-workout, while eating enough protein supports your immune system, healthy bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Some examples of good proteins are:
Reducing the risk of injury
As we discussed above, one of the best ways to beat the injury virus is to consistently take your diet seriously.
“If someone isn’t optimizing their protein intake, they’re at risk of bone and muscle injury,” says Bonci. “If someone isn’t optimizing their fruit and vegetable intake well, part of it is preventive and proactive from an anti-inflammatory standpoint, so all of those things are critical.”
“Being proactive, preventative and protective, that’s the other thing Essen does. You won’t be in the field in armor, it’s not very practical, so your armor is more indoors. Can I bring The least injury prone player on the field with the things I can control?
To become an elite soccer player, focused individuals are out there every day honing their skills. However, this consistency must also be present off the pitch: drinking regularly, eating at least three meals a day, eating before and after activity, getting eight hours of sleep a night, and not eating right before bed. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it has to be consistent.