How can you adapt your diet for playing football?


Football is a sport that requires a lot of energy all year round and your diet plays a crucial role in achieving good athletic performance. The quality of trainings and competitions not only depends on the time invested practising but also on the types of foods chosen.

Energy needs

To find out what your energy needs are, add the energy expended during training sessions and matches and the energy expended for daily activities.

Energy needs for training

During training sessions, the workload varies from player to player; however, the majority of players in a team play one or more matches per week, in addition to training sessions almost every day. It is therefore important to have the right amount of energy in order to perform well. Excessive calorie intake makes you gain weight, which can have a negative effect on training and an insufficient intake leads to a drop in performance and an increased risk of injury.

Energy needs vary depending on the intensity, frequency and duration of the sessions. They change gradually as the season progresses. For those who do not train regularly or whose training sessions are short or low-intensity, energy needs are low. Conversely, they are high for those who train regularly or whose training sessions are long and/or high-intensity. Similarly, in periods of inactivity or when injured, players must adapt their energy intake based on their energy expenditure.

On average, energy expenditure is approximately 500 kcal/hour for a player weighing 80 kg.

Energy intake for a good match

Regarding matches, energy requirements depend on the performance required. Physical effort can vary considerably for a player, depending on his/her physical abilities and tactical role within the team. On average, players' energy needs are high, which is partly due to the repetition of high-intensity physical exertion. In fact, during a match, players can run between 10 and 13 km. However, it is considered that about 600 m of this is sprinting and 2.4 km are at high speeds. Furthermore, for the entire game, the heart rate is at 85% of the maximum rate.

On average, energy expenditure during a match is 1,600 kcal, but remember that this value varies considerably depending on the individual.

A balanced diet and performance

A balanced diet has a direct impact on training. It helps support the intensive training load while limiting the risk of illness and injury. A balanced diet offers numerous advantages for footballers; it helps to:

  • Optimise training,
  • Improve recovery from training and competitions,
  • Maintain a steady weight,
  • Reduce the risks of injury and illness,
  • Ensure good match preparation,
  • Achieve good performance.

In order to guarantee a balanced diet, you must eat:

  • Starchy foods with each meal to replenish your energy,
  • Meat or fish or eggs, once or twice a day,
  • At least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day to provide vitamins, fibre and water,
  • Three dairy products a day to provide protein and calcium,
  • A limited amount of fatty food to provide lipids and vitamins,
  • A limited amount of sugary food to please your taste buds,
  • As much water as you want.

Hydration and performance

Hydration plays an important role in performance; you need to drink before, during and after training sessions and competitions - and even more so in hot weather.

Drinking water and isotonic sports drinks helps prevent dehydration during training and matches. Don't forget that dehydration is a
footballer's worst enemy. During warm-ups and at half-time is the ideal moment to hydrate yourself. During training sessions, you need to schedule drink breaks.

Drinking isotonic sports drinks satisfies hydration and carbohydrate needs for most competitions and training sessions. During half-time, counterbalancing energy loss enables the player to maintain the same level of performance during the second half of the game, which is when the player could start becoming less vigilant due to fatigue.


Recovery after a training session is already part of preparing for the next session. Replenishing your water, sugar and electrolyte reserves, which are considerably reduced during training, is essential for a successful performance. This phase begins as soon as the training session is over. The objective is to take in water, carbohydrates, electrolytes and proteins as quickly as possible.

There are several ways to do this: The recovery drink is practical because it provides everything in the correct proportions. It can be replaced by an isotonic sports drink and a protein bar.

Marie Fauchille
Dietician | Nutritionist
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4.34 / 5 126 ratings

    Good nutrition: your best ally for performing at the gym? A question I will try to answer... A balanced diet is a positive influence on your fitness and your health; it's a fact. Do you still need to know what foods to eat?


    Eating properly before and during exercise is all very well, but correctly managing your recovery is even better!
    Often ignored, the recovery stage in fact plays an essential role in rehydrating, restocking your energy reserves and muscle recovery. It also aims to get rid of lactic acid.