When I was an athlete, I had the worst diet in the world. Drinking soda, extra butter popcorn, and ice cream were my favorite pre-practice snacks. I never was educated on what to eat before I played. Although I didn’t learn proper pre-workout nutrition until college, I educate all my young athletes on proper nutrition.
Nutrition has a crucial role on sport performance, but it is not known to what extent nutrition knowledge is associated with physical fitness. It’s assumed that better nutrition knowledge education results in better nutrition choices, which in turn might enhance various physical fitness components (e.g., body composition, anaerobic power, and endurance). When we look at our athletes, it is important to realize (a) the current level of nutrition knowledge of the athlete (b) whether this level is associated with physical fitness.
Soccer is a sport that uses both aerobic and anaerobic energy transfer systems. An estimate of the energy cost of training or match-play in elite players is above 1500kcal (Nikolaidis 2014). The metabolism during the game is based on muscle glycogen and free-fatty acids. Muscle glycogen is an immediate reserve source of available glucose for muscle cells. Soccer players should adopt a diet that provides a sufficient carbohydrates. The intake of carbohydrates might range from 5 to 7g per kg during moderate training to 10g per kg during intense training or match-play (Nikolaidis 2014). The diet should include 55–65% carbohydrate, 12–15% protein, and less than 30% fat and should be according to soccer players’ age (Nikolaidis 2014). It is very important that all athletes need to have plenty of water and electrolyte levels.
Nikolaidis (2014) examined the current level of nutrition knowledge of soccer players and whether this level is associated with physical fitness. Soccer players (n = 185, aged 21.3 yr, weight 72.4 kg, and height 177.5 cm) performed a battery of physical fitness tests (sit-and-reach test, SAR; physical working capacity in heart rate and Wingate anaerobic test, WAnT) and completed an 11-item nutrition knowledge questionnaire (NKQ). Soccer players with high score in NKQ were older (4.4yr) mean difference and heavier with higher FFM (4.0kg) and peak power (59W) than their counterparts with low score. The moderate score in the NKQ suggests that soccer players should be targeted for nutrition education. Although the association between NKQ and physical fitness was low to moderate, there were indications that better nutrition knowledge might result in higher physical fitness and, consequently, soccer performance.
The main findings were that the overall nutrition knowledge score of the large sample of soccer players participating in this study was evaluated as poor and this score was related to age, weight, height, fat free mass, flexibility, and anaerobic power. The comparison between groups differing in nutrition knowledge revealed differences with regards to body composition and anaerobic power.
COR provides athletes with a basic nutrition plan to help them out with their performance.
Nikolaidis PT, Theodoropoulou E. Relationship between Nutrition Knowledge and Physical Fitness in Semiprofessional Soccer Players. Scientifica (Cairo). 2014;2014:180353.
Written by Chris Barber, CPT