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Nations League: Nutrition in Football


Here we go, here we go, here we go! The 2018/19 football season begins and with it, the launch of the UEFA Nations League. With England doing much better than expected in the 2018 World Cup, surely doing away with the old friendly system with the arrival of a new international football competition, will only bring great support for the national team?

Key Points

  1. A run down of how the UEFA Nations League will work.
  2. Energy requirements and key stats in football by playing position. 
  3. Personalised nutrition is the key to success – nutrition based on playing position.
  4. Nutrition in football – the only set-piece that matters. 
  5. Earn 3 points with protein.

How it works – Nations League

In short, 55 European teams have been subdivided into 4 leagues based on UEFA rankings. With each league containing 4 groups of either 3 or 4 teams. The teams of each group will play each other, both home and away. There is a promotion and relegation system, however, the four teams at the top of league A will progress into the UEFA Nations finals in 2019. This new format also offers four places in the Euro’s 2020. Got it? 

From an English perspective we have been drawn with Spain and Croatia, all teams will play each other twice, home and away, with the overall winners qualifying for the finals in March. The losing team will be relegated to League B for the next Nations league in 2 years. Well one match in, and it’s not started as well as hoped for Southgate and his men, but there’s still plenty of games to be played.

How the stats stack up

Like with any sport, the supporting nutrition needs to be paired off against the exercise modality, intensity, duration and the individual. Putting individual variances on the side line for now, statistics from the 2018 World Cup indicated that players ran an average of 6.7 – 8.3 km per game. The total team mileage needs to be split by player and should be exactly how we determine the required energy intake. For example, Maximuscle ambassador Jordan Henderson is required to cover a huge amount of ground, covering an average of 10-12 km per game (midfielder stats from the WC).

Footballs Top Trumps (not including goal keepers)

  1. Centre Midfielders stands still longer than any other outfield player, but they also jog the most and cover the most amount of distance per game.
  2. Centre Forwards stands still the least and sprints the most compared to any other player.  
  3. A wing back or wide midfielder performs the most amount of high speed running than anyone else.  
  4. Central defenders cover most of their total distance running versus any other player.  

Over the last few years, football is played with a jaw dropping intensity with the pressing style becoming a fan and manager favourite. What is also evident is the increases in high intensity sprinting, be that from full-backs creating width, space and pace on the flanks or towering box-to-box midfielders going from solid defence to lung busting attack. But what is the role of nutrition?

The key Ingredients in Football

  1. Balanced Diet – A player’s diet should consist of 60% Carbohydrate, 15% Protein and 25% Fat, the calorific amount of each and the total daily energy intake (TDEI) should reflect the player, work load and position. 
  2. Carbohydrate – Football is largely an aerobic sport, a test of endurance and stamina, however, anaerobic sprinting is completed throughout a match and often the key to scoring. Daily carbohydrate intake should range from 4-10 grams per kilogram of body mass (g/kg/BM), this will depend on the daily work load, playing position and individual. For example, a centre back is often a larger athlete than a full-back, but the work load (energy expenditure) maybe greater for the full-back, therefore an increased energy demand is required. 
  3. Pre, during and post-match carbohydrate intake – All players should consume up to 2 g/kg/BM of carbohydrate in their pre-match meal (ideally 3-4 hours before playing) – predominantly starchy low glycaemic carbohydrate, foods such as sweet potato, brown rice and porridge oats. If possible, consuming 30-60g of carbohydrate at half time would help replenish the energy used and preparation for the 2nd half – foods that are higher on the glycaemic index, more akin to glucose, such as FuelMax Plus Gels. Post-match is about replenishing what has been used and aiding recovery. Start by consuming at least 1 g/kg/BM, preferably from low to medium glycaemic foods, such as a banana or baked potato.  
  4. 3 Points Protein – The match should be all about carbohydrate, but to help muscle restoration, repair and development, protein is the key ingredient. A footballer’s daily diet should contain approximately 1.4-1.6 g/kg/BM of protein with a post-match amount of 0.25 – 0.4 g/kg/BM (20-32g for an 80kg individual). Sports Nutrition is an easy and convenient way to kick start this, try Promax post-match and add in a serving either mid-morning or mid-afternoon to top up your daily intake. 

​No input, no output, this couldn’t be more on the money when talking about the energy requirements for football. Hopefully, this article has gone one step further by explaining that whilst energy, in this case carbohydrate, is a very important and required nutrient; personalised nutrition, based on the player, work load and playing position all need to be considered. For some ideas on snacking for football, check out our article on Snacking Guide in Football.