As a sport, soccer has evolved from just a game between two opposing teams to one with lots of vested interests. Over the years, one of the things that have taken center stage is the nutrition of players.
In the distant past, there was not much fuss about what soccer players ate, as long as they were well fed for the job at hand—running around the pitch trying to secure a win by scoring goals.
Back then, especially among English players, soccer players were known to share a couple of beers before and after a game. Players did not necessarily focus on having the best physique, so diet wasn’t an important aspect of the sport.
Things have changed a lot since then, as we can see soccer clubs investing millions of dollars on nutritionists and dieticians. It can be rightly said that all Premier League clubs currently have nutritionists on their payroll.
These nutritionists help plan diets for players and also instruct them on when and how to take drinks other than water.
This does not automatically mean soccer players are immune to fast food and junk cravings. It takes a lot of discipline to stay off these diets.
When these cravings start, how do soccer players handle them? The article delves into the lives of soccer players to see how they handle these cravings and if they are allowed to eat junk meals.
Can soccer players eat junk food?
There’s no law prohibiting soccer players from eating junk food. So yes, soccer players can eat junk meals.
However, continuous consumption of junk food (known to contain high calories) may not be good for the player’s health in the long run.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no such thing as “bad food”. However, what is highly discouraged by nutritionists is having bad diets.
What’s the difference? A bad diet takes a holistic look at what was consumed entirely in a diet. In other words, having 80-90% of healthy meals in a day wouldn’t make a 10-20% junk food intake bad.
As an energy-demanding sport, soccer players are encouraged to consume high-carb meals. These high-carb meals help provide the necessary muscle glycogen needed to maintain stamina and strength for training sessions and games.
Professional soccer players talk a lot about eating healthy as key to increased performance. Still, some struggle to maintain their laid-down diet plans behind the scenes.
Cristiano Ronaldo stands out whenever it comes to an ideal soccer player playing at the highest level, having what most will consider a fantastic fitness and diet routine. He is said to have a strict healthy diet routine, which he maintains regularly.
However, it took the sporting world by shock when his fellow Portuguese teammate, Jose Fonts, revealed that even the great Cristiano Ronaldo has a “cheat day” in his dietary routine.
This revelation takes away all the guilt that may have overwhelmed soccer players who have indulged in their junk food cravings at one time or the other.
This is in no way endorsing that soccer players should snack on junk foods whenever they feel like it. Top-level team managers and club management put a restriction on diets for a reason—to ensure players are at their best on every match day.
Just as soccer players have different skill and performance levels, they differ in how their bodies react to meals. To help throw more light on this, let’s examine some important factors.
Things to consider before eating junk food?
This will act as a guide to help soccer players who occasionally struggle with junk food cravings.
Are you meeting your daily energy needs?
In today’s world of competitive soccer, players have to play more games in a season than what was obtainable in the past. If we take into account Cup games, qualification matches, and the actual league games, soccer players have hectic weeks.
When they are not on the field playing a match, they are more likely in training sessions. The energy demands of professional soccer players are actually insane!
Eating healthy or clean does not necessarily translate to meeting your daily energy needs. The primary focus should be meeting this demand.
For instance, if you have had 90% of your daily energy needs and decide to take junk foods to supplement it, theoretically, there’s nothing wrong with this. You’ll be able to burn off whatever extra calories are gotten from the junk food during training or in the game.
Realistically, at the professional level of soccer, you will be prohibited from eating junk food before a game. If this were to happen, it would mean you are taking the junk food in the morning for a late afternoon or evening game.
Frequency of the diet?
Fitness experts and nutritionists incorporate cheat days in diet plans to help players stay committed and disciplined. Then again, how often do players look forward to their cheat days?
As earlier mentioned, junk food may not be bad in itself, but the quantity and frequency make it a bad diet altogether. In addition, having cheat days can be counterproductive if discipline is not applied.
Rather than trying to stick with a meal plan to kill cravings, the cravings are only just accumulated to be indulged at a later date. When the frequency of junk food intake is not controlled, addiction sets in.
Some soccer players are known to struggle with these cravings because they cannot always have their eating habits policed all the time. Since junk food can be addictive, it’s best to work on avoiding them entirely.
How long do you want to play the game?
Soccer has been blessed with talents all through its history. However, a common trend that the sport has is to see some of its best players go into retirement in their 30s or 40s. When players begin to approach a certain age group, performance is generally expected to decrease.
A player like Cristiano Ronaldo is living proof of how a good diet can help improve performance and increase the playing lifespan of the player.
To compare the feats he is still able to achieve at his age with the decline in the performance of former great stars validates the phrase ‘we are what we eat.’
Junk foods are nice to the palate and can sometimes provide a temporary burst of energy, but will it be worth it when you look at things in the long run?
Thanks to the remarkable breakthrough advancements in human genetics, we finally understand that some people carry genes that make them more susceptible to adding weight and/or obesity. In other words, two people can eat the same meal but end up having different body weights.
This is why soccer players have more tailored diets and exercise routines because what works for one player may not work for the other. Jumping on the bandwagon that since professional soccer players are allowed cheat days within the season to consume junk meals may turn out to be a bad decision for you.
Knowing your body fat ratio to lean muscle is a quick way to understand how your body may assimilate or need unnecessary calories.
Although soccer players are mandated to follow the club’s before and after match diets, no law expressly forbids soccer players from eating junk food. In the end, it all boils down to how seriously the player takes his or her health.
As a sport with high energy demands, soccer players need to consume energy-producing foods daily to provide the much-needed muscle glycogen. Although required in small amounts, calories are also needed.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
The Pitch is Ours is a new beginning for me and a stepping stone to prepare before retiring from the professional soccer team. Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!