Even Barcelona’s star soccer player, Lionel Messi, has to fight fatigue – Messi at Nou Camp football stadium during the soccer Spanish Cup match: FC Barcelona – Real Betis, 5 – 0.
Soccer Player: Nutrition Information — Fighting Fatigue: Why am I so tired….???
Youth Soccer Player: Nutrition Can Fight Fatigue – Why am I so tired on the soccer field? What are you eating? Eat right and have more energy to be at your peak performance – Nancy Clark’s great advice on what soccer players should eat to fight fatigue and perform better.
Soccer players commonly complain about fatigue and feeling too tired, too often. Granted, some of them wake up early to train, and some do killer afternoon workouts that would leave anyone feeling exhausted. Many routinely get too little sleep.
“I feel tired a lot. What vitamins will give me more energy?”
“When I get home from work, I’m just too tired to cook dinner…”
“I feel like taking a nap most afternoons. I get up at 5 a.m. to run—but really, should I feel this tired at 3:00 p.m.?”
The question is: How can I have more energy?
Soccer can be exhausting and frustrating and you need to fuel your body properly. Even Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid can be exhausted and need more energy on the soccer field after missing a goal in a La Liga match.
Vitamin pills will not boost your energy. Vitamins help convert food into energy, but they are not a source of energy. Save your money.
Adequate sleep, however, will indeed boost your energy. Sleep is essential to recharge your body with the rest needed to feel fully functional and perform well. Eating the right foods at the right times is also energizing and fights fatigue.
The combination of adequate food plus adequate sleep not only sharply reduces fatigue—but also the need for caffeine. In particular, the late-afternoon cup of Joe that contributes to the bad cycle of sleeping poorly at night, snoozing through breakfast, under-fueling during the day, and fighting chronic fatigue all afternoon. Sound familiar?
If you feel too tired, too often, you might want to learn from this case study. Tom, a recreational adult soccer player met with me because he wanted to have more energy, eat better, and ideally lose a few pounds of excess body fat.
Here is his spreadsheet for a typical day of food and exercise:
No wonder, when Tom got home from work, he felt starved. He had consumed less than half the calories he deserved to have eaten for the entire day. Youth soccer players even require more nutrition to fight fatigue on the soccer field. Here are three suggestions I gave Tom to fight fatigue:
Three ways to fight fatigue
#1. Eat a substantial breakfast and lunch—plus a second lunch. A second lunch at 3:00 or 4:00 boosts afternoon energy. It does not add extra calories; it’s just trading evening snacks for a healthy afternoon meal. You are better off eating those calories at the proper time of day, when you need the energy, and not before bed. A second lunch is particularly important if you are training in the late afternoon or early evening.
#2. Limit caffeinated beverages. Little is wrong with enjoying a morning cup of coffee, but a lot is wrong with abusing coffee to keep you alert in the afternoon. Eat food for true energy, not caffeine, for a stimulant.
#3. Make sleep a priority. You might not be able to go to bed earlier every night, but maybe every other night?
Making a calorie spreadsheet
Most athletes have no idea how much food is appropriate to eat at Breakfast, Lunch #1 and Lunch #2. No wonder they are tired all the time! Many think a yogurt for breakfast, salad for lunch, and an apple for a snack is appropriate. That’s only 700 to 800 calories — way too little!
The best way to estimate your calorie needs is to meet with a local sports dietitian – use the referral network at SCAN, the largest dietetic practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic. For a reasonable estimate, add together these three components of your daily energy needs:
Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) — Weight x 10 calories/lb.
Calories for daily life: 30% to 50% of RMR
Calories for training: ± 500 to 800 cals/hour
Sample energy needs for Tom, who weighs 180 lbs:
- 1,800 calories to stay alive
- (RMR; 180 x 10 cals/lb)
- 600 calories for desk job/light activity
- (33% x 1,800)
- 600 calories for an hour training
- 3,000 calories /day to maintain weight. 2,400-2,600 to lose weight
Soccer Player Nutrition Goal: Target intake should be 600-800 calories every 4 hours
Tom started eating:
- Breakfast: a banana pre-training; then refuel with bagel + PB + latte
- Lunch #1 at 11:00: Soup + sandwich
- Lunch #2 at 3:00: Graham crackers + peanut butter
- Dinner: smaller meal that contributed to better sleep.
After just one day of eating enough food at the right time, Tom commented, “I feel great!!! I have more energy and less fatigue…”
Food is indeed a powerful energizer. Give it a try?
Sports nutritionist Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD has a private practice in the Boston-area (Newton; 617-795-1875), where she helps both fitness exercisers and competitive athletes create winning food plans.
Her best-selling Sports Nutrition Guidebook, and food guides for soccer players, as well as teaching materials, are available at Nancy Clark
Photo Credit: CRISTIANO RONALDO of Real Madrid – Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley / Shutterstock.com, Lionel Messi – Natursports / Shutterstock.com