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Nutritional Requirements of Football Players


Proper nutrition holds equal significance to training for football players, ensuring optimal performance and swift recovery following both training sessions and matches.

The nutritional demands specific to footballers distinguish them from athletes in general. This differentiation arises from the fact that professional footballers can expend a substantial 1,500 to 2,000 calories during a single game. Consequently, female footballers should aim for a daily consumption within the range of 2,400 to 3,240 calories, whereas males should strive to ingest 3,200 to 4,320 calories.

The most effective dietary strategy for footballers revolves around a dual focus on ample calorie intake and nutrient balance. This approach guarantees that the body receives all the necessary elements to function optimally. Footballers must prioritize their nutritional choices before and after matches and training sessions to maintain their bodies at peak conditions.

The Three Main Nutrients for Football Players

Three main nutrients are essential for football players: carbohydrates, protein, and fat.


Carbohydrates serve as the primary energy source for intermittent sports such as football, where the depletion of glycogen occurs due to training sessions or workouts. Within an athlete’s diet, carbohydrates hold the utmost significance due to their role as the primary ‘fuel’ for both training endeavors and competitive matches.

Carbohydrates undergo conversion into glucose, which remains stored until its energy is required. A diet lacking sufficient carbohydrates results in a state of depleted energy—a condition that is unsustainable for athletes. Moreover, these carbohydrates play a pivotal role in post-exertion recovery, as reintroducing them into the body aids in achieving enhanced gains in strength.


Football players must adhere to specific carbohydrate-related nutritional criteria, with the optimal dietary carbohydrate intake falling within the range of 50% to 60% of the total daily caloric intake. Thus, when determining portion sizes, it is advised that carbohydrates constitute between half and two-thirds of the plate’s composition.

Crucially, footballers must adapt their food consumption to align with their training workload. During intensive training periods, such as pre-season, it becomes essential to consume a carbohydrate-rich diet to ensure ample fuel availability, mitigate fatigue, uphold performance levels, and facilitate post-exertion recovery. Conversely, on rest days or during breaks from the football season, a reduced carbohydrate intake is warranted.


Protein stands as a fundamental building block for muscle building and repair, processes frequently engaged during football training and matches. The inclusion of lean, protein-rich meals within your dietary regimen is crucial, holding particular significance both before and after workout sessions. Opting for food sources over protein supplements like shakes, bars, or powders is highly recommended.


For optimal results, the consumption of protein should be distributed across the day in moderate portions, particularly if the objective is to augment muscle mass. Ensuring protein intake during breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack times is pivotal in preventing muscle breakdown and promoting muscle growth. Additionally, protein plays a role in prolonging the sensation of fullness as it diminishes the activity of hunger-inducing hormones.


Fat is often unfairly stigmatized as detrimental, yet in reality, it comprises diverse categories, and when consumed in adequate quantities, it plays a pivotal role in achieving a healthy dietary balance. Overconsumption of saturated fats carries the risk of elevating fat mass, hampering speed, and impeding performance.

healthy fats

Conversely, insufficient fat intake can impede nutrient absorption, leading to a negative impact on overall performance. This underscores the critical importance of moderation. Footballers who are already in good physical condition should aim to incorporate around 20–35% of their dietary intake from fats.

Fats act as a reservoir of sustained energy, stepping in to store calories when carbohydrate and protein reserves are depleted. Moreover, they function as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins—namely A, E, D, and K—which assume essential roles in muscle development, immune system functioning, red blood cell production, and the building of strong bones.

Other Important Nutrients for Football Players

In addition to carbohydrates, protein, and fat, there are other important nutrients that football players need to consume to stay healthy and perform at their best. These include:


Dehydration can exert a detrimental influence on athletic performance across various dimensions, encompassing endurance, velocity, and cognitive decision-making.

To ensure optimal hydration, it’s recommended to include fluids with every meal and snack, keep a conveniently accessible water bottle close at hand throughout the day, and drink 200–600 ml of fluids right before starting a training session.

hydration for football players

In the context of prolonged or rigorous training sessions, the inclusion of sports drinks can prove beneficial. These drinks not only provide carbohydrates to replenish energy stores but also deliver fluid and electrolytes for rehydration.

During extended or intense periods of activity, partaking in a small snack during halftime is a prudent approach to refueling energy stores and replenishing electrolytes or fluids. This approach serves to delay the onset of fatigue and facilitate post-activity recovery.

However, for players experiencing energy depletion, electrolyte drinks can serve as valuable tools to restore fuel levels. Especially during training and the intensified workouts of pre-season, especially in warmer months, players should aim to consume fluids every 15-20 minutes to prevent dehydration.

An effective strategy involves players proactively carrying multiple water bottles, ensuring they are adequately equipped to maintain proper hydration throughout matches and training sessions.


Electrolytes are minerals that help regulate the body’s fluid balance. They are especially important for football players, who sweat a lot during training and matches. Good sources of electrolytes include sports drinks, fruits, and vegetables.

Vitamins and minerals:

Vitamins and minerals boost the immune system, provide energy, and help muscles recover.Soccer players should prioritize a diverse intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to ensure they acquire the necessary vitamins and minerals for these functions.



In terms of his dietary preferences, Ronaldo opts for egg-white omelets, whole wheat pasta, fish, and quinoa. He makes an effort to steer clear of sugar and structures his intake around six small meals each day.


Messi’s diet encompasses indulging in porridge, consuming protein shakes, and relishing high-fiber fruits like mangoes and apples. Additionally, he incorporates a notable amount of healthy fats, such as olive oil.


Neymar‘s nutritional choices gravitate towards high-protein selections like spinach and eggs for his sports-related dietary requirements. Furthermore, he incorporates almonds and seeds as snacks throughout the day to maintain his energy levels.

How to Meet Your Nutritional Needs?

nutritional needs

The best way to meet your nutritional needs as a football player is to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of whole grains, fruits, lean protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. You should also drink plenty of fluids, especially water.

Eat a healthy diet and take sports supplements like energy drinks or protein shakes.However, it is important to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian before taking any supplements.


Football players can improve their performance and recovery by eating well and following sports nutrition guidelines. Football players can stay healthy and perform well by getting enough carbs, protein, fat, water, electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals.

Fariha Batool
Fariha Batoolhttps://sportsmen.pk
Dr. Fariha Batool is a certified dietitian with 3 years of experience. Her mission is to re-shape the nutritional habits and behaviors of our next generation to optimize their long-term health and reduce the likelihood of obesity, cancer and chronic diseases.


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