Food for the Active- Part 2: Football & Gym Training


Part 2
 Football ( Soccer)
Being one, if not, the most popular sport in the world, football involves a lot of sudden bursts of energy and sprinting where a player’s leg-muscle fuel stores (aka glycogen) can be easily depleted.The two main nutritional challenges are avoiding dehydration and maintaining sufficient carbohydrate stores.

FluidsMaintaining an adequate fluid intake is ESSENTIAL before, during and immediately after training and matches. Water is always the most readily available drink but sports drinks provide the extra advantage of providing carbohydrates (glucose & sucrose) in order to enhance performance. As a general guide, if drinking: 

*Before: 300-500 ml, 15 minutes before starting.
*During: 150-250 ml every 15-20 minutes

*After: To replace sweat losses. The amount required is individual, for every kilogram lost, you need to drink 1.5 litres of fluid.

Meals to have pre-event have to be: easy to digest, low in fat & high in carbohydrates.  

3-4 hours before: Pasta with a red sauce, 400mls fruit juice
2 hours before: 200 g low fat fruit yoghurt & 40g of raisins
1 hour before: 500 ml of a sports drink

During a match or training, drinking sports drinks are always the best option as they supply carbohydrates to maintain circulating levels of glycogen as well as optimise fluid intake.
Post match or training – The goals are to replenish glycogen stores and replace fluid losses. Make sure you consume carbohydrate rich foods and drinks within 2 hours after the end of the match/training.

Gym Training 

Whether you are at the gym to keep your activity levels high or for weight training, a nutritionally balanced diet is vital to enhance your performance. 

For those who are usually involved in cardio based exercises- i.e. running, cycling, aerobic exercises – it could be useful to have a small snack 1 hour before activity since a lot of my patients have complained of being so hungry after their work out. Things to consume can include – a banana with some low fat yoghurt, wholegrain crackers, 1 slice of toast with a low fat spread. 

Also, a common question is- when is the best time to exercise? My answer – WHENEVER YOU ARE ABLE TO! In order to encourage physical activity, I am never too picky about timings. If you tend to work out late at night, then you can have dinner before, as long as u go to the gym say 2-3 hours after the meal. If you feel hungry after coming back, have a piece of fruit or a small tub of low fat yoghurt (200g).

For those who are weight training or want to increase their muscle bulk – the most talked about nutrient is PROTEIN! The evidence out there in regards to an eating plan high in protein is still not solid. This section is taken from a statement made on website of the Australian Institute of sport: 

Endurance athletes in heavy training require extra protein to cover a small proportion of the energy costs of their training and to assist in the repair and recovery process after exercise. Strength athletes, who are interested in gaining muscle size and function, require more protein in the early stages of very intensive resistance exercise. However, strength athlete’s muscles seem to adapt to the stress of resistance exercise, so that the protein requirements to maintain protein balance in very well-trained athletes are only marginally greater than those of generally active people.”

When it comes to protein supplements – I don’t find them necessary as you can generally get a good intake of protein from a well mixed diet. Protein supplements come in many forms such as– Whey, Casein, Soy, Glutamine, Creatine. Each has their pros and cons and talking about the different types will be subject for a future post. Bottom Line – Protein supplements are NOT FOR EVERYONE wanting to bulk up. Taking large doses of supplements can have side effects such as dehydration, weight gain, impaired kidney function and liver. 

If you want to know more about a specific diet plan for weight training, contact me at

For more information on Protein requirements, examples of meals and foods, follow this link:


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