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Nutrition is an essential part of an athlete’s lifestyle. Without proper nutrition, no athlete will ever be able to reach their best. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to nutrition, as it depends on the person’s body shape, fat percentage, weight, height, and the amount and type of exercise they get. However, there are certain nutrition rules that apply to almost everyone.

Richard Mallett coaches football and has a degree in Sports Science, which looks at proper nutrition for football players. More information about the topics covered in a Sports Science degree can be found in the PDF attachment to this post.

Football players who pay attention to what they eat and ensure they get proper nutrition will likely find that they progress faster than those that rely on less healthy options to generate energy.

Protein

Protein is one of the most essential components of an athlete’s nutrition and should be consumed at every meal. Many people eat plenty of protein for their evening meal, but forget about it at other meals, particularly breakfast.

The portion of protein consumed should take up about a quarter of the plate for each meal to ensure the body is getting regular protein. This helps to build muscle and repair any injuries or strains, as well as helping to ensure a constant supply of energy throughout the day.

Good proteins include lean poultry and meats, eggs, fish, beans and nuts. Protein can also be added to snacks to help maintain these energy levels, such as making smoothies full of fresh fruit, nut butters and natural yoghurt.

Water

Hydration is key for peak fitness and water is the best drink to stay hydrated with. The average person consumes approximately 450 calories each day from drinking liquids that are not water – athletes should be ensuring these calories come from foods, not drinks.

As a rough guide to proper hydration, you should be drinking half an ounce of water per day for every pound you weigh. Drinking two cups of water first thing in the morning and before each meal helps achieve this target, along with sipping more during workouts and between meals.

Morning Fuel

It is often said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and this is especially true for footballers. A good breakfast is one that contains protein, fruits or vegetables and whole grains, such as granola with berries and Greek yoghurt.

The infographic attachment looks at the essential ingredients required to make a high-energy breakfast.

Healthy Fats

Many of us are conditioned to believe that all fats are bad, but this is not the case. There are many fats that are good for us in the right quantities and we need these fats to help the body grow, get stronger, repair and stay healthy.

Each meal should include a small portion of something containing healthy fats, such as tuna, salmon or oily fish, avocado, egg yolk, olive oil or nuts. Unhealthy fats include fatty cuts of meat or poultry, anything fried, full-fat dairy products and partially hydrogenated oils, so intake of these should be limited.

Fibre

Most people only consume about half the amount of fibre they need to be at their best. Adding high-fibre foods such as whole grains including oats, quinoa, beans or sweet potatoes to each meal – and combining them with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables – helps to ensure your body will be able to perform optimally.

Snacking is also an important part of a nutritious diet. The embedded short video looks at the types of food you can eat to snack smarter.