Perfecting your training is one step on the road to athletic improvements. But considering the time you actually spend on the field or in the gym, this is insignificant in comparison to the time you spend recovering and adapting.
A sure fire way of minimising the time you spend recovering and instead maximising your performance is dietary choices. Here’s 11 foods every footballer should have in their diet to maximise improvements in performance and keep recovery times to a minimum.
1. Oily fish
Fish like salmon are full of healthy fats such as Omega 3. Especially effective at reducing inflammation in the body, Omega 3 can help you recover, allowing you to train harder and more regularly.
Some of the other health benefits of oily fish include reductions in anxiety and stress, improve risk factors for heart disease, improve your immune system and improve bone and joint aches. It's also full of protein which is important to help repair muscle and recover after training.
Eating oily fish twice a week is one of the best ways to ensure optimal Omega 3 intake, but it's not your only option. Broccoli (more on those mini green-trees of superbness later) and walnuts are also good sources of omega 3.
Spinach is one of the original superfoods. Thanks to it's effects on everyone's favourite comic strip sailor Popeye (which may not be entirely accurate), spinach has (rightfully) taken it's place as one of thee foods to eat for sports performance.
Thanks to it's richness in iron, spinach has a number of positive effects on the quality of your blood. Off the back of that, spinach will have a significant effect on restoring energy levels and increasing vitality – two important factors on the road to recovery in sport.
Elsewhere, eating leafy greens regularly has been shown to decelerate mental deterioration and improve mental focus. Leafy greens in general are full of those delightful benefits, but kale, Swiss chard and romaine lettuce are all viable alternatives.
Plus, with high levels of iron as well as vitamins A and K which help reduce inflammation, improve bone health and reduce feelings of fatigue, spinach is just a must eat for any performance-conscious footballer.
Milk! According to a small child it's exactly what legendary Liverpool footballer Ian Rush drinks (YouTube it if you have no idea what I'm referring to there) – and with good reason.
Milk can become a vital part of your recovery; it's high levels of protein are important to muscle recovery and strengthening. Elsewhere, calcium is vital component to good, strong bones and teeth (not necessarily a sporting bonus...but we all like good teeth). Plus with plenty of carbohydrates, milk could become a part of your energy-storing pre-match routine.
As if all that wasn't enough, milk is loaded with vitamins and minerals which can improve your hydration levels. When regularly consumed, all of these factors add up to an improved recovery rate, especially when drank after training when the need is high.
Rocky didn't just chug down a glass of wholesome raw eggs because he likes the taste. Just like Hollywood's most famous boxer, eggs should be somewhere near the very top of every footballer's to-eat list.
Primarily, eggs are a great source of protein, supporting your muscle repair after a game. This is supported by a healthy dose of essential amino acids, including high levels of leucine, which has been shown to be a dominant amino acid in repairing muscle.
As well as this, the fats in eggs have been shown to lower blood cholesterol. They also contain the vitamins choline and bethane for brain development and function and feelings of happiness.
The best part? Eggs, when compared to other high sources of protein, are remarkably cheap.
Blueberries have recently taken their place as a esteemed member of the superfood elite. Not only are they so damn tasty, but they should also now take their place in your essentially post-match recovery diet.
And understandably so, they not only contain anti-oxidants that can protect your body from the effects of free-radicals (that are produced from training) and aid recovery; studies have also been conducted that link blueberries to good mental health and inhibit the growth of fat cells.
To round off the benefits of these epic small berries, they also contain Vitamins C and K which can help you feel energised, protect and repair bones and protect from infectious diseases.
Speaking of trendy superfoods, avocados is surely the absolute king. These green, stone-containing fruits are a great source of fibre which is needed for a healthy gut and can contribute to weight loss.
They're also packed full of good quality fats that can keep you healthy and keep your body functioning. Take a deep breathe, but here's a list of the nutrients you'll get some chowing down on an avocado:
Vitamins K, Folate, Vitamin C, Potassium, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, phosphorous, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2 and Vitamin B3.
These nutrients provide many health benefits, such as: maintaining a healthy immune system, produce hormones and aid in normal growth and development – three vital factors to aiding recovery and boosting performance out on the football pitch.
This little wonder veg is a tasty addition to most bistro style salads, but the health benefits can include a reduction in inflammation, speeding up the recovery process as well as energising performance, speed and mental focus (just watch out for their staining qualities on your clothes).
Plus, it can even provide you with a handy boost in stamina. How? Nitrates. These natural chemicals change into nitric oxide in the body, reducing the cost of oxygen for low-intensity workouts and increasing tolerance for high-intensity exercise.
You can try them pickled or roasted from raw form to eat like chips.
Quinoa as a carbohydrate is a great substitute to pasta and rice as it is low on the GI scale, low in fat and high in fibre and protein (with a full essential amino acid profile).
As a result, quinoa is often the the sporting carb of choice, especially pre training/competition. Quinoa still gives you all the sustained energy related benefits of other carbs such as rich and pasta, but does it without the heavy feeling in your stomach or long term effect on weight. It also has the added benefit of being totally gluten free!
Swap in quinoa as a component to your pre-match meal.
9. Chia Seeds
You'll be hard pressed to find a food that's so packed full of nutrients, yet comes with a form factor the size of the chia seed. They're high in a number of things you'll need for sports recovery and optimum performance, but contain little in the way of calorific content – making them a bonafide superfood.
Chia seeds are high in Omega 3, fibre and calcium, and have a high amount of protein compared to other seeds. These little gems can be added to yoghurts and baking instead of any other seeds or in addition to them.
Broccoli is in the same family as the leafy greens, but has some added vitamins and minerals that makes it a standalone super food.
As with pretty much all the foods outlined here, broccoli contains a number of nutrients such as Vitamin C and folate, as well as Vitamins A, K, calcium and fibre. But it also provides a healthy dose of choline, which will help your mental concentration and focus during a game. Choline can also help to produce high quality results even when under the energy sapping pressures of ninety minutes of football.
11. Coconut Water
Forgive us, but we're well aware that the water derived from a coconut isn't a food (in fairness, neither is milk). Still, it's benefits to your hydration levels before and after sporting activity cannot be ignored.
Coconut water has come into foodie-fashion due to it being an all-natural source of vitamins and minerals which can be easily absorbed by the body and aid with hydration levels. A 2% drop in your body mass from the loss of water (sweating) can significantly lead to reductions in mental performance, so keep your eye on the prize and focus till the end of the game.
Putting it all together:
Breakfast: Greek yoghurt, 2 tbsp. Chia seeds, 1 scoop of whey protein, 1 handful of blueberries.
Snack: 2 boiled Eggs.
Lunch: Chicken breast with; Avocado, beetroot, spinach, Quinoa salad and a glass of coconut water.
Post-training: Milk with a scoop of whey protein and a glass of coconut water.
Dinner: Salmon, steamed broccoli, potatoes.
If you don’t like any of the above, find out the active ingredients and see if you can get it from somewhere else, or in the MyProtein store. Just remember supplements should be used in conjunction with a healthy diet of whole foods, not instead of.
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*Any suggestions made in this blog are recommended as part of a healthy, balanced diet.