Eat Smart, Play Smart

By Adrian Parrish

Do you ever wonder why Landon Donovan of the U.S. Mens National Team can run non-stop for 90 minutes?  Or why Mia Hamm can play at her top level on only one day of rest?  The reason is that these elite players eat a healthy and balanced diet as part of their training program. Good nutrition allows them to maintain a high level of energy.


What you eat has an enormous impact on how your body copes with activity. The four main elements to a healthy diet are: carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fluids.


Before training and/or playing, a diet high in carbohydrates and proteins can aid your performance.  By choosing a carbohydrate-rich diet you will notice that your body has more energy during activity and is able to recover a lot quicker after activity.  It is highly recommended that when soccer players are preparing for a match, they eat foods that are loaded with carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates come in the form of starches and sugars and can be found in many foods, such as:


* Pasta, Bread, Rice and Potatoes

* Breakfast Cereals

* Fruit, (fresh and dried), especially Bananas


Proteins are important in the diet as they provide the body with the ability to re-strengthen muscles after fatigue and injury.  Examples of protein-rich foods are:


* Meat (i.e., chicken and pork)

* Dairy Products


Once exercise has finished, it is advised that you build your bodys energy levels back up again.  This can be achieved by consuming almost any type of food (even a candy bar), but mainly foods that are high in sugars and fat. Some fat in the diet is important as a source of energy for low intensity, long duration activity.


It is important to replace the fluid your body has lost during exertion especially if exercising in a warm environment. What many players forget, however, is that fluid intake before and during exercise is just as important.  Thirst is not a good indicator of when to drink, as dehydration has already occurred. If you fail to intake fluids you will begin to dehydrate and will quickly lose your edge.  Examples of proper fluids you should drink are:


* Sports Drinks(avoid carbonated drinks!)


Each person has their own personal preference as to what foods and fluids they prefer to eat and drink. We all like to stay fit and healthy, but while running, jogging and jumping keeps us feeling fit for soccer, what we put into our body is just as vital.


So the next time you are preparing for the finals of your state tournament, invite your team over a couple of nights before the game, so they can enjoy a dinner full of pasta, chicken, fruit and water.  After youve won the tournament, have your team over again for some cake, ice cream, and more water!

ASA Sponsors