Any trawl through the legions of great soccer managers will soon lead a researcher to the legendary Brian Clough. Cloughie, as he was known, was a hard drinking, tough talking ex-player from the 1950s and 60s whose promising career – he won a couple of international caps – was cut short due to injury.
Rather than abandon the game altogether, Cloughie took to soccer management, carving out an astonishingly successful career as a man who could take a relatively small club and carry them to pinnacles beyond the dreams of their fans. Who else, for example, might take an obscure team from the East Midlands of England to dominance? Brian Clough did this with not only Derby County, but even more successfully with Nottingham Forest, who won the European Cup. Twice.
Cloughie was a character, with all the connotations that word brings, as was never popular among the stuffy corridors of soccer’s administrative elite. But he was a great man. His first management role was at Hartlepool, a now non-league team from the North East, who were struggling in the lowest echelons of professional soccer when the legend took over. With little money available, Cloughie decided that the players at least deserved their own transport and managed to persuade the hierarchy to purchase a rattling old bus. But Hartlepool could not afford a driver. So, the resourceful former international took the driving test himself, and would ferry the team to and from distant parts of the country.
On the way back from games, he would stop at a fish and chip shop to buy his players deep fried cod and thick, greasy fries. The perfect post-match diet. Or not.
Let us consider, then, what does constitute a healthy, but practical, diet for the amateur soccer player?
Soccer players run an average of seven miles per match. Added to that are one or two intense training sessions, and personal fitness sessions each week. To fuel this exercise, an average sized player should be consuming around 3500 calories a day for a man, 3000 for a woman. Or, a thousand above the maximum recommended for a sedentary person.
To maintain muscle mass, players should consume one gram of protein for every pound of body weight. But to build up lean muscle, for a short period up to fifty per cent more protein should be eaten. The best sources are animal meats, particularly chicken, fish and eggs.
Carbs help to provide energy for the bursts of intense action to which soccer players subject their bodies. Fruit and vegetables, especially root vegetables such as potatoes, are an excellent source of healthy carbs. White rice, contrary to common belief, is a good source too.
Good fats help our brains to stay alert, assisting concentration and our body to function at peak performance. Good fats come from high fat fruit such as nuts and avocados. Olive oil is also a good source. Omega-3 fats from oily fish such as mackerel and salmon are excellent for the body, and especially the brain. A lot of research challenges the perceived wisdom that red meat fats are bad. While we aren’t advising the consumption of steak every day, a couple of pieces of red meat per week probably does more good than harm for most.
On Top of This
The diet above will also provide a range of vitamins needed to keep healthy and ward off many illnesses. We should not forget drink either, and while a cold beer occasionally does no harm, plenty of water, drunk in regular small sips, helps keep the body properly hydrated. As a guide, a player should weigh themselves and then drink an ounce of water for every two pounds of body weight.
Now, that is probably more appetising than most soccer players feared, so let’s get eating. Healthily.
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