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Youth Soccer Players Need High Calorie Diet

At least 3,000 calories per day for peak performance


Youth soccer players need to a high calorie diet for peak performance.  In fact, you might say they are on a "see food" diet: they eat whenever they see food.Female soccer player

Soccer burns calories

Youth soccer players are calorie-burning machines. Consider that an average youth player runs anywhere from 2 to 4 miles per game, while older players and pros can cover up to 10K (6.2 miles).  Over the course of a typical two-day soccer tournament, that adds up to an astounding total of 10 to 15 miles per day for the youth player.

Running alone burns 100 calories per mile (about as many calories as in a medium banana).  Add in the other demands of the sport, and the calories that a child needs to consume to fuel her growing body, and it is easy to understand the enormous expenditure of energy playing soccer requires.  Yet few soccer players take in the number of calories they need for optimum performance.

One British study of top 14-year-old swimmers, soccer players, and track athletes found that all three groups failed to meet the recommendations for caloric intake (at least 3,000 calories per day for active young athletes). The diets of soccer players were also deficient in vitamin D, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron.  Not surprising, given the fact that they scored an average of 15.5 points out of a possible 56 points on a test of their nutritional IQ.

Soccer players need to think of themselves as endurance athletes, such as cyclists and long-distance runners, and eat the same kind of high-calorie diet.  Like those athletes, soccer players need to have "a banana in one hand and a sandwich in the other." Basically, this means youth soccer players need to be eating all the time.

The simple fact is that most youth players just don't eat enough. For whatever reason, whether it is because they become distracted, nervous or excited, their focus is not on eating and they end up eating a diet that, while it might be okay for a sedentary person, doesn't work for a soccer player.

Kristine Lilly's Recovery Foods

Want to know what a professional soccer player eats to refuel after a hard game on the pitch?  Let's look inside the soccer bag of the legendary Kristine Lilly  of the Boston Breakers of Women's Professional Soccer,  the world's most capped (international appearances) player of all time, male or female, and a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and World Cup Champion team member:

  • Chocolate Protein Recovery Shake

  • Chocolate Chip Fiber-One Bar

  • Water

  • Sandwich (like her favorite P B  &J, made with soft bread, raspberry jelly and peanut butter)
The bottom line for soccer parents: take a tip from the pros and make sure your young soccer player gets the high calorie diet she needs for peak performance.

Created May 20, 2010

© Nancy Clark

Nancy Clark, MS RD CSSD, is a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics and best-selling author.  She counsels active people in her practice at Healthworks, a fitness center in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Her new book, Food Guide for Soccer: Tips & Recipes from the Pros and other books, including her Sports Nutrition Guidebook and food guides for new runners, marathoners, and cyclists are available at www.nancyclarkrd.com and www.sportsnutritionworkshop.com

Adapted from Food Guide for Soccer-Tips & Recipes From the Pros, with Women's Professional Soccer, by Gloria Averbuch and Nancy Clark, RD. Available on www.amazon.com or www.nancyclarkrd.com.

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