Monday, May 24, 2010

Tip of the week by Gloria Averbuch - learn with a soccer legend

Nutrition with Women’s Professional Soccer
See Inside the Soccer Bag of the Legendary Kristine Lilly!

Last week, the controversial issue of sodium—to take in more or less—was the topic. This week, we tackle one of the most prevailing topics of all: the issue of calories. Many soccer players, on all levels, are in drastic need of paying attention to the most important aspect of their sport: getting enough fuel to power their game.

Kristine Lilly of the Boston Breakers of Women’s Professional Soccer is the world’s most capped (international appearances) player of all time, male or female—and a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and World Cup Champion team member.


Youth soccer players are calorie-burning machines. Consider that an average youth player runs anywhere from 2 to 4 miles per game, while older players and pros can cover up to 10K (6.2 miles). If you compute for a typical two-day tournament, that’s an amazing 10 to 15 miles per day for the youth player. Running alone burns 100 calories per mile (the equivalent of a
medium banana). Toss in the other demands of the sport, the caloric requirements of just growing and existing, and you can appreciate that playing this game requires enormous energy expenditure.

In one British study of top 14-year-old swimmers, soccer players, and track athletes, all three groups failed to meet the recommendations for caloric intake (at least 3,000 calories per day for active young athletes). Soccer players were also deficient in vitamin D, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Nutritional knowledge was also low, as a questionnaire revealed. From a possible score of 56 points, soccer players averaged 15.5.

We encourage you to think of yourself as an endurance athlete—like a cyclist or marathoner — with “a banana in one hand and a sandwich in the other.” Basically, you should feel like you are eating “all the time.” This is because most youth players fail to eat enough.

They are distracted, nervous or excited, and not focusing on food. Or, they eat a normal amount—for a sedentary person.


Here’s what Boston Breakers player Kristine Lilly commonly uses to refuel after a hard game.
She tosses the food into her soccer bag, so it is ready and waiting to be devoured!

  • Chocolate Gatorade Shake
  • Chocolate Chip Fiber-One Bar
  • Water
  • Sandwich of some sort (like her favorite PB&J, made with soft bread, raspberry jelly and peanut butter)

Excerpted from Food Guide for Soccer—Tips & Recipes From the Pros, with Women’s Professional Soccer, by Gloria Averbuch and Nancy Clark, RD. Available on or

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tip of the week by Gloria Averbuch - Replacing Sweat Losses

There is a general movement among many soccer players and other athletes to avoid salt. However, this is not always necessary; in fact, if you are a heavy sweater, or you crave salty foods, you may benefit from indulging in them. Below is an explanation of the possible sodium needs for active youth athletes.

Take a tip from Rachel Buehler, quoted below,  captain of FC Gold Pride, the current number one team in Women’s Professional Soccer standings. To learn more about WPS, log onto

Do You Need Extra Salt to Replace What You Lose in Sweat?

As a recreational player who exercises for about an hour, you are unlikely to be losing gallons of sweat, nor significant amounts of sodium. Your standard diet undoubtedly offers more than enough sodium.

Even if you are in a tournament and sweating heavily for two or three hours, you are unlikely to become sodium depleted. You might lose about 1,800 to 5,600 milligrams of sodium, but the average 150-pound person's body contains about 97,000 milligrams of sodium. Hence, a small 2 to 6% loss is relatively insignificant.

However, if you are a salty sweater, and find yourself craving salt, you should indeed respond appropriately by eating salty foods such as salted pretzels, soups, crackers and/or salt sprinkled on baked potatoes or other foods. There is no harm in enjoying salty foods post-exercise. If you tend to avoid the saltshaker, as well as processed (high-sodium) foods, you might feel better with a bit more salt added to your diet.

Instead of replacing sodium after the game, choose some salty foods, like chicken noodle soup or a ham and cheese sandwich, before the soccer session. These will help your body retain fluid and reduce the risk of dehydration. 
If you repeatedly experience muscle cramps, experiment with boosting your sodium intake on a daily basis, especially if you are doing hard workouts and extended training in the summer heat.

“I sweat a ton and lose a lot of salt when I play. I usually crave salty food after games. The salt tastes good and helps me feel better.”
Rachel Buehler, Defender, FC Gold Pride

Excerpted from Food Guide for Soccer—Tips & Recipes >From the Pros, with Women’s Professional Soccer, by Gloria Averbuch and Nancy Clark, RD. Available on or


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tip of the week by Gloria Averbuch - Traveling with the team

From Food Guide for Soccer—Tips & Recipes from the Pros, with Women’s Professional Soccer: 

Tips for Parents, Managers and Coaches when Traveling with the Team

• Remind each player to bring her personal supply of emergency food and fluids. For insurance, request each player bring an extra filled large water bottle.

• If flying, have each player pack one or two empty water bottles to be refilled after going through airport security.

• If the team will be eating as a group, order a buffet-style meal, so each player can choose the foods s/he wants, and to be able to get the desired quantity.

• Find restaurants immediately after arriving to your destination. Ask if they can prepare to feed a large group (so you don’t have to wait forever for service, give them a heads up) and if they can accommodate your group’s sports food needs.

• Request pitchers of water be put on each table.

• Locate the local supermarket. Find a volunteer to buy snacks for the group. Ask for volunteers to organize team meals or snacks at game sites, if necessary.

• Provide fresh fruit, yogurt, granola bars, and juice boxes for snacks to be available in hotel rooms.

• Remind players to pack their plastic zip lock bag of non-perishable snacks in their soccer bags, so it is with them at all times. And then, not to forget to eat those snacks!

Food Guide for Soccer — Tips & Recipes from the Pros, by Gloria Averbuch and Nancy Clark, RD, is available on <> or <>

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Fueling before soccer practices and matches

When it comes to preparation for soccer practices and matches, do you always count nutrition in? Are you “too busy”, too often? Learn why you shouldn’t neglect pre-soccer nutrition…

In fact, one of the biggest mistakes made by soccer players, particularly those who rush from school or work to practice, is to train on empty. Their biggest excuse is “lack of time”, but many times it is rather a lack of responsibility.
The same point of view is shared by Nancy Clark and Gloria Averbuch, in chapter 10 of Food Guide for Soccer: Tips and Recipes From the Pros, where they explain the importance of pre-soccer nutrition. Here’s a shot on their perspective:

• Pre-soccer food helps prevent low blood sugar
The carbohydrates in your pre-exercise bagel, oatmeal, banana or other carb-based snack help prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and its symptoms of light-headedness, needless fatigue, blurred vision and indecisiveness - all of which can interfere with top performance.

• Pre-soccer carbohydrates fuel the muscles
Pre-soccer food fuels your muscles, with both carbohydrate that you eat far enough in advance to get stored as glycogen and carbohydrate that you eat within an hour before exercise, which is digested into glucose and burned for energy. Fueling with carbohydrates before a soccer practice/match will feed not only your muscles but also your brain, to help you think clearly and concentrate.

• Pre-soccer food helps settle the stomach
For most of you, a pre-soccer snack may help settle your stomach, absorb some of the gastric juices and ward off hunger. However, you must be aware of that you cannot eat a hefty lasagna dinner instead of a light snack of some pretzels or graham crackers just 20 minutes before exercise! Here’s a general “rule of thumb” for digestion time before a hard practice:

• 3-4 hours for a large meal;
• 2-3 hours for a smaller meal;
• 1-2 hours for a blended or liquid meal;
• Less than an hour for a small snack, as tolerated.

• Pre-soccer beverages contribute to hydration goals

By drinking fruit juice or sports drinks before exercise, you can optimize your fluid intake, as well as boost your carbohydrate and energy intake.

Simply put, my message is the following: Just as you put fuel in your car before you take it for a drive, you want to put fuel in your body before you exercise. If choosen wisely, this preexercise snack or meal will help you perform at your best for a longer time.

Feel free to leave your comments and ask your questions, I’ll be glad to help you!

To learn more on this topic and others of interest please read:

Food Guide for Soccer – tips and recipes from the pros (
Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook (

Wishing you the best performance ever,

Diogo Ferreira, RD
Sports Nutritionist, Lisbon, Portugal
“Promoting best health and performance through nutrition”