Soccer: the world cup diet

To this day it is well known that what we eat can influence our lives in many ways and that a change in nutrition in certain situations can be a solution to many health related problems. This is especially true for high-level athletes. It is not surprising, therefore, that all the national teams involved in the World Cup have nutrition professionals on their staff, as in the case of Germany, defending world champions, who even have a world famous starred chef in their ranks.

The importance of healthy nutrition in soccer

Soccer is an intermittent rhythm sport based on the team: players stop and start again and again, with a cycle of running, sprinting and positioning. Because of these particular characteristics, the calorie requirements of the players are particularly high. The nutrition of the different players changes according to the position they keep on the field, since different roles correspond to different physical efforts and therefore different calorie requirements: distance covered, shots, jumps or sudden changes in direction are all factors that are taken into account by nutritionists to prepare a proper nutrition table. The most important element is glycogen, which is assimilated through carbohydrates, which are the basis of any soccer diet.
Elite soccer players expend an average of 1107 kcal of energy during a match and up to 3442-3824 kcal on training days. Added to the ordinary need, the intake calories that an average player takes is around 5000 kcal during a competition like the World Cup, where there are few days off. A secret? Don’t avoid fats, which are extremely useful as an energy store, although it is a good rule to avoid fat-rich foods just before you go out on the pitch. Eating fat before exercise can cause gastrointestinal problems or stomach pain.

During the match

In soccer, the average longest distance travelled is about 12-13 km, but you can reach up to 20 km in some game modules, especially for midfielders engaged in game modules that include the midfield to 3. Next in the ranking are the midfielders, who manage an average of 10 km per match, and finally the attackers, with an average of 9 km per match. Precisely because they cover shorter distances, while performing more sprints, the latter need to include more carbohydrates in their diet, so they have enough glucose in their body to be able to produce TPA to fuel their sprints. Halfway through the game, in fact, there are many attackers who munch on something, or who are even forced to do so. It is usually a snack containing 30-60 g of carbohydrates, such as energy bars with cereals, easy to digest and low in fat.

A team of researchers from the Universidad de Oviedo and the University of San Pablo-CEU in Spain found that back-backs, defensive midfielders and lateral midfielders on average take about 42-52% of their caloric needs in carbohydrates. Goalkeepers and central defenders, on the other hand, consume about 38-47% of it.

A starred chef for the German National Soccer Team

So what are the golden rules on nutrition for athletes? As already mentioned, Germany uses a starred chef as nutritionist, Holger Stromberg, who has decided to establish very flexible general rules, stressing that the nutrition of players requires a constant adaptation to individual situations. But as he had to cook for 23 players, the chef decided to meet as many requirements as possible through a huge healthy food buffet, where everyone could find satisfaction in terms of taste and nutrients. Soups, salads, vegetables, main courses and desserts, all rigorously homemade in order to perfectly balance complex carbohydrates (usually with whole grain products), protein and healthy fats. Stromberg said that the experience of the World Cup in Brazil, won by Germany, was particularly difficult:

It wasn't easy to get good quality ingredients while we were there. For this reason, I worked mainly with what was available, such as pumpkins, carrots, avocados, beetroot, beef and fish.

The diet of the British national team for the World Cup in Russia

As far as the World Cup is concerned, one of the few teams to have leaked information about power was England. All the major British newspapers have reported that coach Gareth Southgate has categorically forbidden players from eating anything available in the Starbucks of the Russian Hotel where the national team is staying. On the other hand, English players are allowed tiny pieces of dark and white chocolate or small dishes based on apples or brownies. Breakfast includes up to five eggs, cooked in the way each player prefers. Five eggs and toasted bread: carbohydrates and proteins to support the entire day of training or play.

The menu is established by the British nutritionist James Collins, who has structured both lunches and dinners on the union of proteins and carbohydrates. So what meat can they eat? Turkey, beef, salmon and mackerel are considered the best and healthiest sources of protein which are lean and easy to prepare. All this variety of meat and fish is always accompanied by pasta or rice, or at least carbohydrates, for a minimum of 5 meals a day. The menu also includes a dessert: a rice pudding. And before the most important matches, the "protocol" provides scrambled eggs and baked beans on toast.

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