Ultimate Soccer Training: Off-Season Soccer-Specific, Sex-Specific Strength & Fitness Training – Nutrition and Diet

by CoachZ on June 19, 2009

The key to an effective soccer-specific, sex-specific strength and fitness program is planning. A well constructed training regimen will yield greater results in a shorter period of time. Additionally, a well planned and well-thought out program will make it easier to track progress throughout the season. As noted in the previous article on this topic, soccer-specific strength and fitness training is quite a bit different from training programs for other sports and/or activities. It is widely known that the average soccer athlete may run several miles during the course of a match; and, goalkeepers being the exception, of course. Proper nutrition is vital for success, both in training and in competition. Dietary habits, combined with proper nutrition can make or break a program. This article, the second in a series will deal with diet and nutrition for an off-season, soccer-specific, sex-specific strength and fitness training program.

3 Components to Success

The key to an effective soccer-specific, sex-specific strength and fitness program is planning. A well constructed training regimen will yield greater results in a shorter period of time. Additionally, a well planned and well-thought out program will make it easier to track progress throughout the season. As noted in the previous article on this topic, soccer-specific strength and fitness training is quite a bit different from training programs for other sports and/or activities. It is widely known that the average soccer athlete may run several miles during the course of a match; and, goalkeepers being the exception, of course. Therefore, it is assumed that running and running alone is the secret to effective training. It is not unusual for other training methods and considerations, even diet and nutritional requirements particular to soccer athletes, male and female, to be totally ignored for this reason. In fact, one only has to watch top level amateur or professional soccer match to get a sense for just how physical, and physically demanding, “The Beautiful Game” can be.

On the Ball or Off?

For this reason, and for a myriad of others, a complete, soccer-specific, sex-specific strength and fitness program must be followed. The proper training routine will be one that takes into account diet and nutrition, stretching and flexibility, and strength and overall fitness. It is true, much of soccer training, particularly in-season training, should be done “on the ball;” and, this is not at issue. Yet, even in-season a suitable strength and fitness program should be adhered to, not only to maintain strength levels, but for flexibility and tone, as well.

Diet and Nutrition

The initial focus and primary stages of any off-season program, as noted above, should cover three factors: nutrition and diet: stretching and flexibility: and, the third stage is aerobic conditioning. This article will cover the first of the three stages, diet and nutrition in some detail. Nutrition and diet play a central role in any fitness program, particularly during periods of peak, strenuous training; and, for that reason, we will address nutrition and diet first. Diet, dietary habits, and nutrition are inextricably linked. Dietary habits, particularly when the athlete is involved in a strenuous strength and fitness training program, will make or break your results, determining the success or failure of your overall program. For a number of reasons, including how your body is able to break down and metabolize nutrients, meals should be taken in every two and one half to three hours, give or take a few minutes. The old days of steak and eggs before football and basketball games, and huge amounts of pasta the night before soccer matches and endurance events have made way for balanced, well-thought-out meals, planned at regular intervals. While carbohydrate loading is still used and may still have valid applications, that strategy is not applicable for our purposes.
Carbohydrates are extremely important as they provide immediate and intermediate range fuel for the body. Carbohydrates are made up of simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are generally made up of sugars and starches; and, they break down into glucose molecules as they are metabolized by the body. If the body does not have a need for immediate energy, glucose is converted to glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles for future energy needs.

Carbohydrates: Go Fuel!

The average athlete who weighs between 155 and 165 pounds, which may be a little, needs approximately 2400 calories, carbohydrate calories, to fully supply his glycogen tanks. To take in 2400 to 2500 carbohydrate calories requires 600 grams of carbohydrates. It should be obvious to anyone reading this that the body cannot take in and metabolize that sort of volume in one, two or even three sittings. It generally takes a day and one-half to three days to consume that many carbohydrate calories (approximately 40 pieces of whole wheat bread!). For that reason, and for others, carbohydrate loading is not only ill-advised, it is impractical. When the body uses up most of its store of glycogen, it will begin to burn fat for fuel. While fat may be a good fuel source, it is not optimal for our purposes and should be avoided at all costs. Ultimately, if the body depletes both glycogen and fat stores it will begin converting and consuming amino acids from proteins into fuel. This can be particularly problematic if dietary protein is not readily available because the body will begin to cannibalize itself, using muscle for fuel. Additionally, if the body must use amino acids, taken from ingested protein, this may weaken your immune system and inhibit muscular development.

Carbohydrates, particularly complex carbohydrates, are the best source of fuel for your muscles, as well as for the brain which is a voracious carbohydrate consumer. Keeping in mind that a strenuous, soccer-specific strength and fitness training program will deplete glycogen stores, as well as fluids from the body, lost as sweat, it may take between one and two days for the body to fully recover. It may take longer if you’re not eating a high quality diet made up of complex carbohydrates, plenty of fluids, and easily digested, high-quality proteins. You should be able to see why, if you do not adhere to the proper dietary and nutritional guidelines, you may go into nutrient debt, and stay, there in a relatively short period of time.

Vegetarians Beware!

I am assuming, for the course of his program, that the reader is not a vegetarian. The vegetarian dietary requirements are very complex and may not be conducive to this sort of a training regimen. While I am not making a value judgment, a vegetarian diet and optimal soccer performance may not coincide, unless of course an incredible amount of forethought and planning, particularly as it relates to combining the necessary proteins in the proper ratios to make available all of the necessary amino acids for easy assimilation and metabolism.

Protein Intake

Protein intake, like carbohydrate intake, is central to a good overall program. The average male, at 5’ 10” and an ideal body weight of 165 to 175 pounds, depending on musculature, must take in between 50 and 60 grams of protein per day. Protein, in large quantities and in one sitting, is very difficult for the body to completely digest, meaning much of it may go to waste. However, if the protein is broken up into five, even six smaller meals, the body will have little or no trouble using most, if not all of the protein taken in. There are approximately 28 grams in an ounce, and since there is not a precise one to one ratio of ounces to protein, even in the leanest meat, it will usually take between two and 4 ounces of lean meat per day for the average person, twice that if you are involved in a strenuous training program. For a female, 5’6” tall, protein intake should be between 40 and 50 g per day, with the same sort of meal schedule.

Fats

Fats are also very important, not only for nutrition but for nervous system health; and, for other reasons beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, and diet high in quality carbohydrates, a moderate level of high quality proteins, and low to moderate fat content will keep the body fueled and the athlete engaged in a strenuous, soccer-specific strength and fitness training program fueled and lean. The proper balance will ensure the development of the musculature and endurance for optimal performance by the time the season rolls around.

Hydration!

For all of the above reasons and many more, it is extremely important to eat smaller meals, at regular intervals, and as well balanced as possible. In addition to the above carbohydrate, protein, and fat considerations, hydration must play a central role. Carbohydrates are crucial for holding water in the body until needed. Water consumption also plays a vital role in dietary role when it comes to nutrient intake and digestion. While sports drinks have been shown to have some use, water is the training beverage of choice, period! Vitamins should also be considered, particularly if life events and/or work or school prohibit you from taking in all of the proper nutrients. Ultimately, a well thought out, daily and weekly plan for nutrient consumption, including what you are going to eat and when, is as important to the overall success of your program.

In Conclusion!

Nutrition is as important to the success of the program as any exercise or group of exercises you may do. If you do not provide your body with the necessary fuel, it will soon revolt, and you will go into a state known as overtraining, something we will cover in an upcoming article. Overtraining is a condition no athlete can long endure and still perform at peak levels. In the next article we will discuss stretching and flexibility, followed by an article on the aerobic foundation. Do you think you are flexible and aerobically fit? We will see soon enough! For now know this, a soccer-specific, sex-specific strength and fitness training program, properly design and fueled by the proper dietary habits and nutritional guidelines, will make you into a different athlete, a formidable presence on the pitch by the next season.

Junk Food is Out!

Oh yeah, one last thing! Cut out the junk food. That’s right, cut it out! How bad do you want it? Do you think your competition for the spot you envision yourself playing next season is pigging out on Big Macs and fries? Or buttered popcorn and nachos? Carbonated beverages and Kool-aid? If you are going to be a top-level athlete, start acting like one, training like one, and eating like one! If you want garbage? Give yourself a cheat day one day every couple of weeks, as a reward. You will find you enjoy the reward more and, after a while you will crave the junk less and less. But again, it’s up to you, you will get out of this what you put in. Garbage in, garbage out…just like a computer!

Coach Z, John Zajaros
216-712-6526
Skype: johnzajaros1
coachz@ultimatesoccertraining.com

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