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'Tis the Season for Tournament Play
By Selina Lai, M.S., R.D.
Well, who says there aren't triple headers in soccer? Last Saturday both my boys played three 60-minute soccer matches in a span of seven hours. Considering that just one soccer match is enough to deplete the muscle glycogen stores of the most intense players, this is when proper eating and planning makes or breaks a team's success. Here are some suggestions for preparing a player and team for this type of tournament situation.
A Few Days Before
Performance on the soccer field is influenced by training, hydration and nutrition. The baseline for adequate hydration is 8 cups of non-diuretic beverages (milk, non-caffeinated beverages, water, sports drinks, juice) in a day. On top of this, soccer players have fluid needs of approximately ¾ cup of fluid for each 20 to 30 minutes of play/practice. Encouraging players to focus on fluid consumption for 2 to 3 days before a tournament helps players arrive at
a match well-hydrated. Fewer injuries occur when players are adequately hydrated.
Another important aspect of tournament preparation is consuming a high-carbohydrate diet for 1 to 3 days before the event. True high-carbohydrate diets help resting muscles store increased amounts of glycogen, the energy source used for the fast, quick skills of soccer. Generally, a healthy diet needs to be modified somewhat to boost carbohydrate intake. Consider increasing portion sizes of high-carbohydrate foods like pasta, rice, cereal, bread, crackers, fruit
and beans. Often added sweeteners are appropriate for high-carbohydrate diets. Consider jams, sweetened/flavored dairy products, honey on toast, and sugar in tea among other things to increase carbohydrates in the diet.
After Game Recovery
The most important time to eat carbohydrates and a little protein is immediately following a game. Have a parent volunteer bring a suitable snack that the players will enjoy eating within 15 minutes following a match. Options range from low-fat chocolate milk and simple cookies (ginger snaps, vanilla wafers, graham crackers) to fresh fruit and a nutrition bar.
For athletes weighing 60-120 lbs, the recommended carbohydrate intake is 33 to 65 grams. The addition of a small amount of protein to the post game snack helps repair muscle damage that occurs with exercise. Nutrition bars, dairy foods (milk, yogurt) and grains all contain protein. Fluids also need to be replenished after a game. To increase overall post game fluid intake consider including a flavored beverage in addition to water.
Finally, it is important to avoid high fat foods during the recovery period as they take longer to digest and this can lead to less energy being available during the next soccer match.
Is There Time for Meal or Just a Snack?
A player needs three to four hours to digest a full meal (contains at least 3 food groups and 300 to 500 calories) before a match. If only one to two hours are available, stick with a snack (contains at least 2 food groups and 300 calories or less). As players get closer to game time the calorie and fat content of their food choices should go down and fluid intake should go up. If less than an hour is available between matches a quick sugar candy (lollipop, jelly
beans, hard candy) can provide a carbohydrate source. After that it is time to drink approximately 2 cups of water in the hour before a match.
At the end of the day a high carbohydrate, high calorie meal should be consumed. Along with plenty of rest and fluid, this will prepare a soccer player for the next day of fun and games.
©Selina Lai, M.S., R.D., 'Tis the Season for Tournament Play, 2010. Please send emails to email@example.com with questions, comments and for reprint permission, visit her new blog at http://goodeatsforsoccer.wordpress.com/.
About the Author:
Selina Lai has been a Registered Dietitian for 20 years. She studied Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of British Columbia and California State University, Long Beach. She has worked as a nutrition educator with a wide range of clients.
Her recently published book "Good Eats for Soccer - Nutrition Choices for Competitive Youth Soccer" focuses on diet modifications for the moderate to high intensity physical demands of youth soccer players during tournaments.