How a Footballers Diet can Increase Physical Presence During the Season, Without Adding Fat
Recently, lot's of players have been asking me what a footballers diet should look like in order to increase muscle mass and weight during the season...
When you have a heavy training schedule it can be really hard to make any gains in muscle size because of the natural slimming affect playing football has on the body, and making any steps towards that can seem like an impossible task (even though you're doing your strength work in the gym). You may even find that as the season goes on, you're feeling faster and fitter but you're physical presence in duels is diminishing, or not at the level it once was.
You may be nodding your head thinking "that's me! I could do with increasing my physical presence on the pitch...", and if that's the case then before or straight after you read this I really recommend that you download an app like myfitnesspal and track what your energy intake currently looks like compared to your activity level. You also need to paying attention to what that energy is made up of (% of fats, proteins, carbs).
In this article I'm going outline what a one day meal plan for a player of around 83kg, who's already training hard and wants to gain some muscle mass to aid performance should look like.
The first thing to note here is that you always want to be shifting weight (either up or down) healthily and making sure that it is not detrimental to performance, which means any changes in mass are going to be pretty gradual rather than implementing any drastic diets.
With this being said I'm going to outline AN EXAMPLE below of a meal plan for a weight gain of 2-3kg over a 6 week period.
Please note*: This is an example of a meal plan that I have used on myself in the past (83kg player) and the theory behind it is backed by science. This simply acts as a guideline for you to read and tweak to yourself.
The key points:
- The plan consists of 3 main meals and 4 snacks per day - ensuring a drip feed of nutrients throughout the day
- No longer than 3 hours between meals/snacks
- Roughly 3,900 calories per day (93kg player): 7.6 grams of carbs per kg of body-weight, 1.9 grams of protein per kg of body-weight and 1 gram of fat per kg of body-weight
- You MUST be training intensely for this to be of relevance to you and lead to the required outcome - at least 3 gym sessions and 3 field sessions per week + a match
- You must tweak this to make it work for you as best you can...the foods you like, the times you are able to eat etc. One size does not fit all.
Preparing your foods
First off, wherever possible you need to be consistent in making healthy choices. This means selecting foods from natural sources that haven't been processed and contain plenty of nutrients.
Choose foods with one ingredient, for example an apple has one ingredient and lots of nutrients, compared to a sausage roll - more than one ingredient, man-made, processed and not many nutrients. There are some exceptions to the rule which can be OK choices such as yogurt and milk but use that as a general guide. Add to that most things found in a tin!
Now I know this isn't always possible, preparing all of your meals in the morning for the entire day is unrealistic, sometimes you're going to be out with mates or not able to make your own food, but 90% of the time I want you to aim to do this.
Secondly avoid frying or barbecuing (if you must fry then use a polyunsaturated oil such as olive oil). Instead go for baking, boiling or my personal favorite steaming. Why is it my favorite?
- Because using the steamer restricts me to only eat healthy foods
- It retains most of the foods vitamin and mineral content
- It's fast and it enables me to crack on with other things whilst it cooks away
The timings below are a guideline only. This is with an evening training session. The important thing to take on-board is the timing of intake throughout the day and around training, you must adjust these timings as best you can to suit you.
8 - 8:30am
16:30/ 2 hours before training
18:30 - 20:00
Within 20 minutes of training session
Now let's get into the finer details of what each meal/ snack should be consisting of ideally.
1. Protein intake with every meal/snack! This will ensure you are taking in enough protein for muscle repair, to maintain your current level of muscle and to add more muscle as well as helping you feel full and satisfied so that you aren't tempted by fast foods. Remember we don't want to be adding fat weight here, we want to be adding muscle weight whilst burning fat and conditioning that new muscle in the gym and on the pitch to be explosive.
Therefore developing you into a stronger more powerful player.
2. After training you will need to combine your protein intake with high GI carbohydrates, this is the same whether you've been training in the gym or on the pitch. This combination will ensure amino acids and glycogen are absorbed quickly post exercise for optimal recovery and to avoid any muscle breakdown.
3. In your 3 main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) aim to only include moderate to low GI foods. Combining these with some healthy fats and proteins will ensure a steadier uptake of nutrients in the hours leading up to your next meal/snack. This will also help you avoid a crash where you may feel sleepy and also feel hungry again for a quick sugar hit.
4. For the meal plan as a whole you'll be bumping up your intake of carbohydrates from the normal 60% to 66%, you'll also be aiming for 1.9 grams of protein per kg of body-weight per day - ideally all from natural sources. This will be an increase from your normal range which may be between 1.4 - 1.6 grams per kg.
5. You'll need to be consuming at least 3-4 litres of water every day to accompany your increase in energy intake.
6. With this example of a 83kg player such as myself, the total calorific intake per day will be around 3,900 calories. This can be a big shift in what you may normally be used to consuming.
A good way to get the nutrients on board if you're struggling with normal eating is with a smoothie, which is quicker and enables you to pack in lots of nutrients in one go and 'on-the-go'. I don't recommend doing this more than once a day though (especially if you have a sensitive stomach).
When you're snacking aim for low GI foods. Consistently snacking on high GI foods (including sports drinks) will affect your ability to focus throughout the day, give you waves of hunger and also negatively affect your ability to burn fat throughout the day.
So limit high GI foods for: just before training, during training and immediately after ONLY!
- Low Gi Carbs with protein and 500 ml of fluids
Example: Cereal, milk, yogurt, eggs, fruit, milk.
Carbohydrate options: Porridge, oats, weetabix, toast, banana, fruit salad, pancakes.
Protein options: Scrambled egg, omelette, tuna or salmon.
- Must consume vegetables / salad / soup with lunch and 500 ml of fluids
- Again Low Gi Carbs with protein
Example: Mixed green salad with tomatoes, nuts and olive oil dressing. With Chicken/ fish, potatoes and other vegetables.
- Resembles lunch but go for a different source of protein, so if you had chicken this time have fish.
- Finish with a fruit salad as desert
If you're not quite sure what I mean by the term GI, it's basically a term used to rank carbohydrate foods by how they affect your blood glucose levels. Give this a quick google and you'll find loads of tables of high and low GI foods to give you more ideas of what you can have for snacking and alternatives in your main meals.
- 7.6 grams of carbs per kg of body-weight
- 1.9 grams of protein per kg of body-weight
- 1 gram of fat per kg of body-weight
The easiest way to track this I think is with myfitnesspal, by using that you'll be able to make sure you're hitting the right numbers every day both in calories and in your macros. You could easily hit 3,900 calories as a 83kg player per day but be consuming far too much fat and not enough protein, resulting in a completely different outcome! Tracking your macros (proteins, carbs, fats) is a massive part of this.
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