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Soccer Nutrition Advice
Soccer Nutrition Advice | Nutrition, Myths, Dr. Jason Deyo

Dr. Deyo has been designing science-based nutrition programs since 1993

Soccer Nutrition: Busting Soccer Nutrition Myths

Updated 3.12.12

Most youth players and parents have heard nutritional advice, such as eat a lot of carbs the night before the meal or always eat bananas,  and we all want to know if it is true. Is this the best advice for our soccer players? What helps soccer players reach peak performance on the field?  What helps the body recover faster?  SoccerNation News has launced Sports Nutrition, a new feature to help answers our readers questions and determine what are the optimum choices for soccer players.

Have you ever heard...

“Eat a big plate of pasta (carbs) the night before a big game.”

“What you eat after a game doesn’t matter.”

“You should get 40% of your calories from carbohydrates, 40% from fats and 20% from protein.”

“Start hydrating right before the game.”

“If you pee clear you’re well hydrated.”

SoccerNationNews is proud to launch our new soccer nutrition feature: Myth Busters with Dr. Jason Deyo.

According to Doctor of Naturopathy and Nutrition Specialist Dr. Jason Deyo, in many cases these long-held beliefs are actually counter to good sports nutrition. Dr. Deyo, who holds degrees in Naturopathy and Holistic Nutrition and has studied at UCLA and USC, works with top athletes to help them reach peak performance. 

Let’s look at some of these nutrition myths and what Dr. Deyo has to say about them.

Myth 1: If you eat a lot of carbohydrates the night before a sporting event you will have sustained energy to last through the competition.

Dr. Deyo says: I still see schools and coaches doing “carb loading” pasta and pizza dinners the night before a big game. Today we know this just causes interrupted sleep, fat storage, and even lower blood sugar levels in the morning on game day for most athletes.

The meal the night before a game should be protein, fiber, and fat.

Adding a chicken breast to a pasta meal before for dinner dramatically shifts the blood sugar response from fat storing to fat burning so it's important to remember that it is not just about pasta but what you eat with it.

Carbohydrates with very little fiber, like bread and pasta, can cause blood sugar swings that prevent deeply restful sleep.

When it comes to healthy choices it’s a narrow road. Carbohydrates are best in their natural or organic form. If you can’t visualize the food source, avoid it. Apples grow on trees; white bread and nacho corn chips grow on what, exactly?

Again, not to over complicate, but there is so much individuality among players that a general recommendation is tough and if I have to make one, I say avoid they processed foods

Myth 2: What you eat during the game day doesn’t really affect your performance.

Dr Deyo at the FootyAde Video Shoot last month

Dr. Deyo says: On tournament days most of the normal rules apply for stable blood sugar. Meals and snacks combining protein and vegetables along with carbohydrates will keep energy levels higher for a longer period than just eating carbohydrates alone. Players who take the time to plan meals and snacks in advance always have an easier time on tournament day.

Let’s start with breakfast. For peak performance it’s essential to start the day with some protein. Oatmeal isn’t enough. Sure, it’s a better choice than pancakes, but without some eggs or some organic Canadian bacon alongside it to provide an athlete with their higher needs for protein and sustained energy, our player is going to be running at half-speed later in the day.

Players who take the time to plan meals and snacks in advance always have an easier time on tournament day. Running to the vending machine or the concession stand is a recipe for disaster. Snack combinations like an apple with almond butter, a half cup of trail mix or some veggies dipped in hummus all replenish nutrients and keep energy levels stable far longer than a bag of chips or a greasy hamburger. 

I often advise athletes to go a little lighter on fiber and protein on event day so digestion is easier and knowing foods like a bakes sweet potato or rice will be burned quickly instead of stored as fat, leaving the athlete energized instead hypoglycemic!

Myth 3: After a game it really doesn’t matter what you eat because you’ve already burned off all those calories.

Dr. Deyo says:

A lot of well-intentioned advice about how to recover from sports with bread or fast-acting sugars is still going around and it’s doing nothing but contributing to insulin resistance. The dinner meal after the game is often a time for celebration, and after burning 4000 calories during the day most athletes are thinking, “If I can burn it, I can eat it.” 

Knowing a feast is probably on its way, I ask my athletes to think of themselves like a sports car. A high performance engine might run on cheap gas, but it’s designed to run at peak performance with high octaine gas. Instead of running out for pizza and ice cream, go celebrate at a Mexican restaurant with black beans and chicken with salsa and guacamole, or try a sushi place and replenish with lots of fish, rice, and seaweed salad.

Most players who celebrate with a pizza team event will want to play soccer again soon. Developing good eating habits is a lifelong benefit.  Chose foods that fuel the body and respect the athlete's passion to perform.

Myth 4: You should get 40% of your calories from carbohydrates, 40% from fats and 20% from protein.

Dr. Deyo says: At the risk of overcomplicating this, there are a few variables to consider when building the perfect nutrition program for an athlete. A 200 pound athlete eating 4000cal/day would get all the protein they need at 20% but an overweight 200 pound athlete eating 3000cal/day would lose more muscle than fat at 20% protein intake, so it depends on total calories and individual needs.

I have a few athletes thriving on 50% carbohydrate intake and a few athletes thriving on very low carbohydrate intake, but most feel, look, and perform their best a little closer to 30% carbohydrate intake.

Protein needs are easier to determine. Most of my athletes thrive on 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight, sometimes more if doing very high intensity (high heart rate) training.

Once we have protein and carbohydrate intake on track, then fats fill in for the rest of the caloric needs. If carbohydrate intake is higher (40-50%), then fats are much lower. If carbohydrate intake is found to be lower for optimal performance (20-30%), then fat intake will be much higher, being that protein intake will be fairly constant regardless of total calories.

Myth 5: You’re okay as long as you drink enough right before a big game and again at halftime.

Dr. Deyo says: Hydration should start when you wake up in the morning and continue throughout the day. If you wait until 20 minutes before a game to start hydrating, it’s too late.  During the game I like to see 5-10 ounces of fluid intake every 15 minutes.

Again, halftime is like any other time. If the athlete hasn’t been following the rules of hydration all day, it’s too late by halftime.

My general rule of thumb for daily hydration is about half your body weight in ounces. For athletes I push the envelope closer to three-fourths of body weight in ounces.  

Stay Hydrated...keep out of the ER! 

Great players can end up going from the action of the field... To the ER with dehydration.  Proper hydration is critical.

Myth 6: If you pee clear then you are well hydrated.

Dr. Deyo says: Truthfully, most of the pros I work with take so many supplements throughout the day that’s it’s almost impossible for them to see clear urine, even when fully hydrated. Think shade scale and volume instead of just looking for clear urine. If the athlete doesn’t have to urinate very often throughout the day, or if the urine color is darker than lighter, then consider more liquids.  

Younger soccer players should be able to pee clear!

SoccerNation News wants to thank FootyAde and Dr Deyo for this information on nutrition.


*The information and material provided and any recommendations contained herein are not intended to replace the advice of your physician. As always, before making changes to your diet, please see your personal physician or nutritionist. You are encouraged to seek advice from a competent medical professional regarding the applicability of any recommendations with regard to your personal situation and how to improve your sports performance.

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