Physiological demands and nutrition considerations for soccer


Soccer is a popular team sport played worldwide from recreational to elite level. The main focus of this article is to explain the physiological demands and the nutritional considerations of soccer. This should make it easier for soccer players to recognize the demands placed on their bodies from matches and training, and understand how they can recover adequately between each session. Achieving performance goals like improved strength, power and fitness rely heavily on supplying the correct nutrients to the body, before during and after training and matches. Players will not perform to their potential unless they are providing their bodies with the necessary nutrients to fuel the demands of training and matches. Choosing appropriate sports nutrition supplements can be a huge asset to soccer players during intense training and to support performance during matches.

Sport-specific physiological demands

Soccer is a high intensity, repeated sprint sport that requires players to train on most days, usually with a game at weekends, or sometimes twice per week. A match lasts 90 minutes and usually involves multiple sprints, jumps, quick changes in direction, kicking and tackling, which results in a significant requirement for energy, and particularly carbohydrate food sources. Elite level soccer players require an exceptionally high level of fitness and physical conditioning as players can cover up to 12 km during a match, and reach heart rate levels of over 90% of their maximum heart rate for large portions of a match. The physiological demands on a player are governed by the irregular changes of pace and anaerobic efforts that are superimposed on a backdrop of sustained light to moderate aerobic activity. Training generally reflects these demands, and because there are significant demands on the different energy systems during soccer matches, training is designed to maximise the efficiency of each energy system. Gym-based resistance training may also form part of the weekly training regimen. This means that the daily energy requirements for an elite soccer player can range from the moderate (2,600 kcal) to large (4,200 kcal) depending on body size and activity level. Training and match activities require careful consideration for dietary practice, particularly the consumption of carbohydrate (CHO), which is important in all repeated sprint-type sports.

Nutritional considerations

The daily nutrition habits of soccer players are critical for maximising performance. A player´s diet must be high in carbohydrate (CHO), moderate in protein, relatively low in fat (but include healthy fats), and include sufficient micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Matches and training greatly increase the requirement for energy and other nutrients. Because CHO in the form of glycogen (which is stored in the muscles and liver) is the main energy source during high intensity exercise, special attention must be given to adequate CHO intake. At least 60% of daily energy intake should come from CHO sources To make the process of achieving these nutritional targets as simple as possible ROS nutrition have developed a range of products under the banner ROS FUEL® that ensures athletes are prepared to perform their best and can recovery optimally after each session.

General carbohydrate and protein needs for soccer

The carbohydrate requirements on a daily basis for an elite soccer player can be anywhere from 5-10 g of CHO per kg of body mass per day depending on training and match frequency. This means roughly 400-800 g of CHO for the average soccer player of approximately 13 st (83 kg). There is evidence that the intake of CHO in elite athletes´ diets is insufficient, and may limit exercise performance by resulting in premature fatigue. It is essential that players who train on most days of the week consume adequate CHO to improve performance capacity and mental focus during each session. If adequate carbohydrate is not consumed, high intensity exercise cannot be supported, and performance is likely to suffer. After training and matches, replacing glycogen stores with suitable amounts and types of CHO is critical for optimum recovery. The best way to replace glycogen stores after exercise is to consume a fast-digesting CHO supplement, which also contains a source of protein or amino acids. RecoverAce® Endurance is an advanced recovery drink formulated with these requirements in mind, and contains the optimum ratio of CHO (in the form of Vitargo), and protein [in the form of whey protein hydrolysate and branched chain amino acids (BCAAs)] to support recovery of carbohydrate stores. This balance also helps with the recovery of muscle protein that may be required when intense training and matches results in fatigued and damaged muscle. RecoverAce® Endurance should be taken after training and matches in order to prepare the body for the next session.

Protein is essential for recovery and adaptation from intense exercise. After each session a suitable source of high-quality protein should be consumed. The type, timing and amount of protein can be manipulated to enhance the adaptive response to training. As there are subtle differences in the nutrient requirements of soccer players after pitch compared to gym-based training, ROS Nutrition have developed two separate recovery products: RecoverAce Strength for recovery from gym-based training, and RecoverAce Endurance for recovery from pitched-based training. Each product is designed to provide the type and amounts of specific nutrients required for optimal recovery, with the essential difference being in the ratio and types of CHO and protein. For more information, please visit the individual product pages. In addition, soccer players can add a healthy, high-quality source of protein to their diet by consuming WHEY TRU®. WHEY TRU® contains added BCAAs and glutamine, which are essential to speeding recovery between training and matches. There is emerging evidence that protein supplementation, particularly essential amino acids (EAAs) and BCAAs consumed during and after high intensity exercise can reduce the feelings of fatigue, and promote muscle growth and adaptation after exercise. The type, timing and amount of protein can be manipulated to enhance the adaptive response to training. Using isolated amino acids such ISO BCAA, is appropriate in this regard. RecoverAce® Strength is a source of both quality protein and isolated amino acids, with the added benefit of containing a source of CHO.

Leading up to game

The food intake of soccer players 2-3 days before a match is critical to performance. This is the period of time when athletes should be maximising their energy stores and tapering (reducing the length and intensity) their training sessions. The aim should be to consume a higher than normal CHO diet at this time. Such high intakes of CHO may be difficult to achieve with solid foods, and athletes often turn to liquid sources. FUEL LOAD® provides easy-to-digest CHO with low glycemic index in the form of isomaltulose, and can be used daily as a means of easily increasing daily CHO intake, or specifically to increase CHO intakes on the days preceding matches. On the day of a game, the nutrition goal should be to top-up muscle CHO stores, and ensure adequate levels of hydration. The last substantial meal a player should consume is in the 2-4 hours before the start of the warm-up. It should be low in fibre, contain a substantial amount of CHO and a moderate amount of protein. Athletes who become dehydrated during matches and training are more susceptible to injury and will fatigue quickly if appropriate hydration strategies are not implemented. Adequate fluid in the form of water, or an isotonic CHO-electrolyte solution such as CHO CHARGE® should be consumed in the 2-4 hours before performance.

During matches

During matches, consuming a sports drink that contains CHO sources to maintain energy levels, along with electrolytes for hydration, can benefit performance. CHO CHARGE® has been formulated with multiple forms of CHO in order to provide the highest rate of energy delivery to working muscles. The addition of electrolytes in precise amounts is necessary to achieve an isotonic drink when mixed to the specified concentrations. This allows for fast delivery of fuel and fluid during exercise. The aim should be to consume 3-4 mouthfuls of CHO CHARGE® every 20 minutes. As recent research supports the use of caffeine to aid performance, CHO CHARGE® is also available in caffeinated form for athletes wishing to explore caffeine as a performance aid. Finally, there is also growing body of evidence that excessive sweat losses, especially high salt losses, can be a factor in muscle cramping, for this reason drinks containing adequate amounts of electrolytes may be particularly important. Soccer players should be properly hydrated leading up to matches and training by regularly consuming CHO CHARGE®, which contains an optimal blend of electrolytes, throughout the course of the match and even into recovery.

Recovery nutrition

After training and matches your body is fatigued, dehydrated and energy stores are depleted. Consuming suitable foods immediately post-exercise is essential for recovery. Soccer players will often have depleted glycogen stores, and tired muscles, so the immediate recovery meal should contain a source of fast-digesting CHO as well as a quality source of protein. Often this is best achieved by consuming a recovery shake. RecoverAce® Endurance is ideal for taking within 30 minutes of a match or pitch-based training session. RecoverAce® Endurance provides all the necessary nutrients required for optimum recovery, and delivers the CHO and protein in the optimal ratio to support the recovery of CHO stores. Soccer players with high loads of resistance training should also consider RecoverAce® Strength for recovery from gym-based training session. This product has a blend of CHO and protein more attuned to the recovery from resistance training and gaining lean muscle mass. For more nutrition, training and sports articles, please visit our Knowledge centre

ROS product
Nutrition strategies for competition
CHO loading
Maximise muscle glycogen stores that are critical for performance

Fuel Load®

CHO and fluid supply during exercise
Offset dehydration and muscle glycogen depletion, key factors contributing to fatigue

CHO CHARGE® Caffeinated

>CHO CHARGE® Decaffeinated

Nutrition strategies for optimum recovery
Recovery product
Restore fuel stores Facilitate training adaptations

RecoverAce® Strength

RecoverAce® Endurance


Amino acid supplementation
Facilitate training adaptations Aid growth and repair


General nutrition strategies
Quality protein intake
Essential for growth and repair

Blue Label Whey®

Pro GSH® Whey

Multivitamin and mineral
Ensure adequate intake of micro nutrients

Accovit® Performance