Should soccer players carb-load like marathoners?

Even though a soccer player only completes about a ½ marathon each game, it is at such an intensity that carb loading has been successful for many players. Players should also eat a small meal containing at least 600 calories of carbohydrates (about 150 grams), about two hours before competition. This is about the amount of carbohydrates in three bananas and four slices of bread. If possible, players should also try to ‘taper’ for a few days before matches, reducing their intensity and volume of training in order to avoid carbohydrate depletion (you want to be able to store some, not use it as fast as you eat it). During the taper and during all periods of heavy training, soccer players should attempt to ingest 9-10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight (16-18 calories per pound of body weight) each day.

Carbohydrate loading is a controversial method of trying to maximize the energy stores in your body. According to the Mayo Clinic, carb loading does have the possibility of increasing the levels of glycogen stored in your muscles from 25 to 100 percent of your normal amount if you're a male. However, female studies have observed mixed results for reasons not fully understood. Additionally, carbohydrate loading is not guaranteed due to limiting factors such as fitness and/or intensity levels of the activity being performed. Carb loading is typically recommended for endurance events lasting longer than 90 minutes of continuous activity (runners, swimmers, cyclists, etc).

I would not recommend traditional carb loading for soccer players simply because soccer matches are 90 minutes in length and rarely does a player move continuously for the whole 90 minutes. In fact, some of the most active professional soccer players only run about 7-9 miles during the course of a match. I would however consider recommending carb loading for a soccer player who is participating in something like a tournament weekend where energy stores need to be maximized to be able to perform over the course of the weekend tournament.

Hope that helps! Go team!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.