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Importance of healthy eating

The coaching team at the Irish FA will highlight the importance of hydrating the body before, during and after playing football.

However, aspiring footballers also need to ensure that they eat healthily in order to maintain a high level of performance throughout their matches and training sessions.

Throughout an average day, the body consumes a variety of different nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, fibre, water and fats. The key for top footballers is to make sure that they eat a balanced amount of these nutrients.

Footballers should first consider the amount of carbohydrated food they eat, since neglecting this will contribute towards tiredness during matches or training. Players should obtain as much as 70% of their daily energy requirement via carbohydrates, which then helps players to consume adequate quantities of the other nutrients found in foods such as pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, cereals and fruit.

As it is very difficult to achieve this intake through a normal routine of three meals a day, professional footballers are encouraged to supplement this intake through snacking. This is especially important immediately after playing, so the muscles that have just been working can have their energy stores refuelled.

Some popular snacks amongst players include banana sandwiches, cereal bars, muffins, bagels, jelly babies, sports drinks, yogurts and fruit. However, it is important to remember that snacking only works when also eating three proper meals!

Carbohydrates - Pasta, rice, pizza, bread, potatoes.

Fats - Butter, pasties, cheese, whole milk, sunflower oil, oily fish, nuts.

Protein - Milk, cheese, meat, yoghurt, chicken, fish, eggs.

Vitamins and Mineral - Fruit, vegetables, nuts, fish, eggs, cereals, dairy products.

Fibre - Peas, beans, vegetables, fruits, wholegrain cereals.

Water - Sports drinks e.g. Lucozade Sport, Powerade, bottled water.

Why is warming up important before playing football?

The warm-up prepares the child for activity and increases his or her body temperature, heart rate and breathing rate. Each warm-up should be supervised and involve movements used in the sport itself, and start at low intensity then build up. Usually it takes five to 10 minutes.

Stretching activities should be included because they reduce the chances of injury and increase muscle flexibility. There are seven rules for stretching:

  • Warm up before you stretch
  • Stretch before and after exercise
  • Stretch all muscle groups that will be involved in the activity
  • Stretch gently and slowly
  • Never bounce or stretch rapidly
  • Stretch to the point of tension and discomfort, never pain
  • Do not hold your breath while stretching: breathe slowly and easily.