Recovery nutrition for footballers

Whatever level of the game you’re playing at, getting the correct nutrition after a game or hard training is essential.

Fatigue is a result of the fall in glycogen muscle stores, dehydration and damage to muscles. The correct nutrition provides protein, fluid and carbohydrates. Even if you take on fuel during training or a game, there will still be deficits in the body, and stores must be built up again.

Although the metabolism remains lifted for around half an hour post exercise, the body needs a kick start to aid recovery.

Hourly intervals

Whilst warm downs are part of many soccer drills, found online at sites such as, players need to replenish their natural body stores after games and training.

For optimum results, footballers should aim to take on around 1 gram of carbs per kilo of body weight at hourly intervals during the four hours after exertion. This, alongside some natural vegetables, will replace glycogen which has been diminished in muscle mass and increase vitamin and mineral levels. Rehydration will also help a healthy recovery of the body and reduce the risk of injury.

The three “Rs”, replenish, rehydrate and repair, are what to bear in mind when planning your post exercise nutrition.

Some basic foods help the nutritional aims outlined above.

Muscle tissue

Milk is a great recovery product, containing protein and carbohydrates, which will restore glycogen in muscle tissue and help repair any slight damage. It is also an excellent rehydration drink, with some studies suggesting it is better than water or energy products.

Although the common or garden white potato has fallen out of favour recently in favour of sweet potato or pasta, it does have high levels of iron and magnesium, protein and selenium, as well as vitamin A and most B vitamins. It has a high glycaemic index, which helps replace glycogen in muscles.

Whey protein is an increasingly popular product for maximising muscle protein synthesis, due to its amino chain acids and the speed at which it is digested.

Mixed berries are an easily portable source of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, as well as glucose. When mixed with natural yoghurt, they make a great protein-carbohydrate snack.

Lean meats such as chicken and steak will, like whey protein, improve muscle synthesis, and help repair any damaged tissue, although it will not be digested as quickly.

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