nutritional recovery

A recent study, published in the International Society of Sports Nutrition, discusses guidelines for optimal nutritional recovery for soccer players during their recovery period.

The lifestyle of an athlete is very different than that of the average human being. For example, soccer players are often required to participate in multiple games within the span of a week and are, therefore, exposed to greater chances of injury. Previous research has indicated that an increased injury rate may be partially attributed to the reduced recovery time between soccer games. The heavy time constraints have created a demand for a nutritional recovery strategy aimed at shorter recovery periods.  Presumably, such strategies would allow players to maintain a consistent athletic performance, with fewer injuries.

Several recovery strategies including compression garments, massages, electrical stimulation, cold water, and nutritional tactics have been utilized by soccer players. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition attempts to develop the optimal nutritional intake for elite soccer players, based on prior dietary evidence. The study compiled statistics from multiple databases including MEDLINE, PubMed, Google Scholar, and SPORTDiscus.

Following a game, the soccer player is required to replenish the glycogen stores in their muscles and liver. This is resolved through carbohydrates. Enzymes within the body are responsible for synthesizing glycogen and are most active immediately after rigorous physical activity. As such, it is beneficial to consume carbohydrates within the optimal time period directly after a game. Soccer players should consume foods with a high glycemic index to allow rapid glycogen re-synthesis in the muscles. The study found that a mixture of foods in solid and liquid form is beneficial to avoid gastrointestinal problems.

Research further suggests that a nutritional plan which takes protein synthesis into account is important. Rigorous physical activity is correlated with both protein synthesis and protein breakdown. It is possible, in the case of soccer players, that an imbalance is formed where protein synthesis slows down. In such situations, it is essential to stimulate protein synthesis through the nutritional intake. The study indicates that 40g of protein should be consumed after a match to avoid impaired muscle function. Of the various sources of protein, whey protein has been the preferred choice of sports players due to its rapid digestive and absorption abilities. Whey protein is also a source of the amino acid leucine, which stimulates protein synthesis.

The study compiles previous research to formulate an appropriate nutritional recovery diet for soccer players. It presents valuable information precisely targeted towards a specific sport, allowing dietitians and nutritionists to develop specific diets with respect to the lifestyle and goals of the individual. Implementing this information may improve overall injury rates in competitions such as the FIFA World Cup. Improved injury rates of sports players would yield multiple benefits for their respective personal and professional lives.

Written by Shrishti Ahuja, HBSc

Reference: Ranchordas MK, Dawson JT, Russell M. Practical nutritional recovery strategies for elite soccer players when limited time separates repeated matches. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Sep 12;14:35. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0193-8. eCollection 2017. Review. PubMed PMID: 28919844; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5596842.

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