Youth Soccer Nutrition: Tips for Premier Health
So your son or daughter loves soccer.
They train hard, they play hard, and they need to be in great shape physically and mentally to perform at their very best ability, right? Of course they do.
Knowing exactly what you should be feeding them and how best to protect them from getting injured is integral to keeping them healthy and able to fulfill their potential, no matter whether that is rising through the sport or enjoying playing with their friends.
Let’s face it, most kids would rather eat a bowl of Cocoa Puffs before a game than a celery stick and a handful of raw almonds so I’m addressing this to the parents. But I still believe the young players should be fully informed about what they are eating and why so perhaps the adults reading this can follow my nutritional advice as well.
Why not share in the benefits of a healthy diet?
There’s a lot of confusion out there – some nutritionists say you must eat just carbs before you play while others say no to carbs, but you should eat protein.
So which is it and, more specifically, what should your soccer loving children be eating and doing to help sustain them through several 90-minute games on a blistering hot weekend at a Cal South tournament, for example?
The right protocol for a soccer player is going to be different to that of a baseball player, or a swimmer, or a marathon runner.
Standard soccer injuries include calf and hamstring injuries and even the youngsters have to take care of their knees and feet to avoid problems later on. Girls, in particular, can suffer ACL injuries as teenagers, which, while treatable, can be a major setback to a young career.
If your child gets hit with an injury and, worse case scenario, requires surgery, then it is crucial to know how best to recover quickly so they can come back even stronger and fitter than before.
Now there’s a bonus!
Nutrition for young players is way more complex than feeding them a plate of spaghetti a couple of hours before the game. I often vary the diet for players in different positions, let alone different sports. A defender or center forward may want to bulk up while a wing back will need to be fast and explosive; a keeper needs to boost power and quick reaction; and a midfield player needs incredible stamina to move up, down and around the field.
To perform at their very best ability and beyond there are 3 key factors that will benefit every soccer athlete, whatever their position or skill level:
1) A player’s body and brain require real, high-quality, nutrient-dense foods with ALL the vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids to feed, energize and hydrate each and every single cell.
2) These days, even supposedly “healthy” food just isn’t enough – players need superior nutritional supplements. By superior, I mean pure, unprocessed ingredients with no excipients (toxic fillers) and using unheated capsules not tablets (which unfortunately kicks out 90% of supplements available in the store).
3) For injury and surgery recovery swift action takes precedence. Flooding the body with potent anti-inflammatories and pure ingredients nourishes and heals efficiently and will get the kids back out on the pitch as soon as super-humanly possible!
Must-Have Foods For Youth Soccer Players
So what exactly are the “must-have foods” a soccer star thrives on? They need:
- A diet that utilizes the advantages of long, slow-burning complex carbs, such as whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat rich with proteins and minerals, and fresh organic fruit and vegetables that contain natural slow release sugars needed for 90 minutes plus on the soccer field.
- Healthy proteins, grass fed and organic meats and whole eggs. Your body will drag with tons of highly cooked fatty proteins. When it comes to buying animal products, does that “born and raised in the USA” label make you relax and feel safe that you are consuming clean meat from happy cows, pigs, chickens etc.? Well, don’t be so sure. If it doesn’t say grass fed and finished, or at the very least organic (“NATURAL” does not count) then you have to assume that the animals are eating pesticide coated food with maybe some hormone or antibiotic laden cocktail thrown in for good measure. Which means of course you are now eating that too.
- Fish and seafood: wild caught smaller fish like salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines
- Protein packed foods like mushrooms, soaked nuts and seeds, beans, rice. coconut or avocado milk and raw dairy.
- Antioxidant rich foods such as: berries, prunes, broccoli, dark green leaves, beets.
- Essential fatty acids and healthy fat soluble vitamins from produce such as butter, coconut oil, avocados. They’re good for the body and packed with DHA to boost brain power needed for razor sharp quick thinking on the field.
- Healthy snacks like celery and carrots packed in water with lemon (to naturally ferment the food for easy digestion) or almonds, pecans or macadamia nuts that have been soaked overnight to sprout them and make them rich in energizing enzymes.
- Salt. Crucial to the body, solar dried sea salt provides the full panel of trace minerals, sadly lacking in our soil today. Not to be confused with common table salt which is highly heated, processed to death and terrible for you.
- Large amounts of water - 2/3 of body weight in ounces – and more if sweating out in the sun.
- Try Fermented foods for energy, easy digestion and healthy gut probiotics such as miso, kefir and sauerkraut. Avoid soy if it is not organic, and if grown here it is more than likely genetically engineered, poor quality and difficult to digest.
Nutritional Supplements for Youth Players
When you are looking for nutritional supplements for your young players, for strength and circulatory support try:
- Vitamin D to move calcium from gut to blood and Vitamin E to help upload that calcium from blood to tissues so it can build bone strength and connective tissue like ligaments (and the Vitamin E also counteracts sun exposure).
- The best multi vitamin/mineral sourced with young barley and oat grasses, packed with chlorella and blue green algae. Chlorophylls eliminate carbon dioxide and lactic acid.
- Trace minerals like copper and zinc to help nerve and brain power and electrolytes to hydrate and energize.
- Low levels of anti-oxidants will deplete energy reserves. Boost and nourish with anti-oxidants like green tea and Vitamin C to eliminate free radicals (the bad stuff that damages cells and play havoc with the immune system).
- To boost adrenal support – helping the “stress” glands which produce the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, to name just two – you need water for hydration, sea salt, magnesium, Vitamin C and the whole Vitamin B complex.
Supplements That Best Support Bones and Joints
As for helping avoid those pesky injuries or building up the body after a setback, the following products are excellent for bone, joint and connective tissue support:
- Ionized minerals for muscle relaxation and bone hardness to help with cramps, muscle fatigue or pulls.
- Vitamins to help with ligamental and connective tissue health.
Constant pivoting on the ankles can cause injuries such as a torn gastrocnemius muscle in the calf so connective tissue support is vital. For this, try:
- A nucleotide with up to 60-70% reduction in wound healing time.
- Turmeric is known to be a wonderful anti-inflammatory, anti-pain, antioxidant, anti-carcinogen spice. But did you know that turmeric goes rancid very quickly after harvesting, so as well as having to be grown organically, it needs to be prepared and encapsulated immediately and effectively in order to really benefit you.
- I offer a powerful liquid anti-inflammatory drink with added milk thistle for rapid detoxification when the need is greater.
- A gentle pure aloe pro drink provides soothing anti-inflammatories as well as helps to deliver minerals to alkalize body tissues and regain equilibrium.
- The best anti-inflammatory broth on the planet! (email me for the recipe, address below)
- Use the ingredients parsley, apple, cilantro, beets, lemon or ginger in different combinations for a surprisingly tasty anti-inflammatory juice
- Organic Greens powder/caps providing all the pure vitamins and minerals
Technically, exercise actually tears muscle down - it is through nutrition and rest that muscle repairs, rebuilds and becomes stronger.
Without the proper care and nutrition, muscle tissue will rob organ reserves of the valuable nutrients needed to build the muscle. It probably goes without saying that sleep is one requirement that a young soccer player’s body can never get enough of.
As I said at the outset, sports nutrition is nowhere near as simple as the food marketeers will have you believe. But with knowledge and advice, you can help your children play for longer and with more enjoyment. They may still crave the candy by the supermarket cashier and may not fully understand right now why what they eat is so vital to their soccer life.
But trust me on this, they will be thanking you for the rest of their lives for putting them on the path to premier nutrition.
About the Author:
Michelle Gardner is a Clinical Nutritionist residing in Laguna Beach, California. For more information, you can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (949) 633-9032.