Now that we have discussed your fitness regime, let us take a moment to evaluate your eating habits as well. If you have ever attempted to lose weight you are well aware that getting enough exercise is only half the battle to getting your body in tip top shape; you must take your diet into consideration as well if you hope to achieve maximum results. The same can be said of preparing your body for soccer; the foods you eat are just as important in getting your body prepared as the amount of exercise you participate in. The foods you should avoid are very simple, and they have probably been drilled into you since childhood. Try to steer clear of:
- Foods that are high in fat
- Empty calories
Foods with a high caloric content that do not really provide your body with much nutrition, such as butter and white bread.
- Junk food
Unfortunately, if you are going to attempt to turn your body into a machine on the soccer field there are some things which are going to have to be sacrificed, and your sugar addiction is among them. Chocolate, ice cream, fruity candies, Twinkies, pies, cakes and anything else that falls into this category should be avoided as strenuously as possible. Potato chips and other greasy, salty snacks fall into this category as well. As a general rule, if you’re dying for a snack while you’re in training take the time to reach for some vegetables. They are easily metabolized by the body and provide a much more nutritious “munchies” than their high calorie counterparts.
- Fast food
Any type of fast food, regardless of how nutritious it ispurported to be, is not going to be nearly as good for you as the real thing. It may take you a little longer at night to complete your nightly routine, but in the end it the rewards will be worth the effort.
- Foods which have been processed or fried
Contain a vast number of ingredients other than those at its core. You want to keep your diet as pure as is possible in today’s society.
- Foods which have sugar listed as its primary ingredient
This does not necessarily apply solely to cookies and candies. This includes items such as high fructose corn syrup, lactose, maltose…anything with an –ose on the end is probably some form of sugar. Manufacturers often use these ingredients in their preservatives, artificial flavorings and gels. Read the label if you are unsure if a product has a high sugar content.
- Foods which have been cooked in oil
Many oils are high in transfats, which are extraordinarily bad for you and are going to negatively impact your quest to get into shape.
- Sugary drinks, such as juice and soda
These are essentially empty calories, and the sugar you are consuming will only serve to make you even thirstier.
Although you are probably lamenting the loss of some of your favorite foods after reading through the list above, don’t lose heart; there are still plenty of things on the “approved” list, and once you have gotten yourself in shape and broken the addiction to those unhealthy items which shall not be named you can reintroduce them into your diet in very small quantities (for example, a single chocolate chip cookie probably isn’t going to hurt you, but eating an entire pack isn’t going to do you any good).
Now that you know what you shouldn’t eat, let’s take a look at what you should. A healthy diet is a diet rich in the following ingredients:
- Vegetables, particularly green ones
Salad is excellent for you, as is
broccoli; just remember to go easy on the dressing.
- Whole grains
- Lean meats
such as chicken, fish and low-fat steak
- Fresh fruits
(try to avoid canned fruits and vegetables; the former are high in sugar and the latter high in sodium)
Even though iced tea is low in calories it is high in caffeine, something you should also try to avoid while you’re in training. Drinking water regularly provides a second benefit as well; your body’s levels of hydration are a critical factor in determining how well you perform on the field. Muscles which have been dehydrated, even slightly, are going to cramp faster and tire more easily than muscles whose cells have maintained their high water content.
A general rule in any form of athletics (but particularly one where you are going to be running around out-of-doors for any length of time) is that if you are thirsty you are too late. Your body is already dehydrated enough to begin to cause complications. Try to drink water consistently throughout the day, whether you are thirsty or not. Keep a sports bottle with you at all times; freezing the water inside the bottle overnight will help to keep it cold and refreshing, since youwill have a constant supply of ice. Just be sure to drink a big glass of water when you first get up in the morning to help get you over that “hump” where the ice is just beginning to melt. (Freezing a bottle of water, then taking it out of the freezer about an hour before game time will help to ensure that you have a cold liquid available to you the entire time you are on the field).
Although it probably is not something you focus on with regularity, if you are unsure as to whether or not your body is properly hydrated take the time to examine your urine each time you go to the bathroom. Urine contains certain substances which serve to give it its traditional yellow hue; when these substances are undiluted the urine will appear to be darkly colored. The principle is that you want your body to be as hydrated as possible, thereby expelling excess fluids in greater amounts and strongly diluting other substances in your urine, giving your urine a clear color. Short story: if you go to the bathroom and your urine is yellow, you need to drink more water.
- Fortified cereals
Try to steer clear of those which are high in sugar (sorry, Lucky Charms still aren’t on the list of approved food intake while you are attempting to get your body in shape); however, Raisin Bran, Total, Special K and other related cereals are extremely healthy, keeping your body stocked up on the nutrients it needs to survive.
- Milk and other dairy products
It is essential that you carefully monitor your daily intake of carbohydrates, however; although carbs are the part of your diet that provide your body with the all-important energy that you are going to need to keep up once you set foot on that field, if you do not use up the calories in your carbs they are going to settle in and become fat (you’ve no doubt heard people say that the spaghetti they ate went straight to their hips and dismissed it as foolishness; there actually is a ring of truth to this statement).