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We start with a food first philosophy when it comes to fueling athletes – informed choices and a well-designed nutrition plan can meet the nutritional needs of most healthy athletes. However, it is often challenging for athletes to design and put into action a complete fueling plan. Time constraints, access to fresh, whole foods and grocery stores, culinary and nutritional knowledge, underestimating the additional demands of sport, recovery, and growth, are all factors that lead many athletes to fall short of the recommended levels of nutrients. We believe with proper education and safeguards such as NSF Certified for Sport, supplements can be an option when food is not available.

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1.  Ward E. Addressing nutrition gaps with multivitamin and mineral supplements. Nutr J 2014;13:72.
2.   Moore LV, Thompson FE. Adults meeting fruit and vegetable Intake recommendations – United States, 2013. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2015 Jul 10;64(26):709-713.

An individual’s nutritional needs are as unique as his or her fingerprints, so understanding what causes nutritional needs to be different can help a person choose the best combination of foods and supplements to best meet his or her needs.

Factors influencing energy needs include exercise, recovery, illness, and metabolism, all of which can impact an individual’s calorie prescription. Stress levels, hormone fluctuations, and even environmental pollutants can all alter one’s specific nutrition needs.

Paying careful attention to the nutrient density of daily calories can help identify gaps in nutrient intake, and in these cases, nutritional supplements can be used to complement the diet.

Additionally, there are subsets of athletes that may require supplementation to meet needs that are inadequate for reasons such as health conditions and allergies, religious guidelines, or dietary practices.

The timing and pace of certain sports make in-competition fueling with whole foods to be impossible or improbable; supplemental electrolytes and fuel sources may be preferable in these situations. Other nutrients, such as Vitamin D, are not easily obtained through the diet in adequate amounts. Consequently, taste and food behaviors of athletes tend to make probiotics and fish oil a convenient, and thus more highly acquired source of nutrients than eating adequate amounts of yogurt and omega-3 containing foods.

Due to the state of the current food supply and because very few Americans eat the recommended five daily servings of health-giving fruits and vegetables, many nutrition experts agree that a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement taken daily could help fill the nutrition gap.1

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans do not typically eat a diet that will provide them with all the nutrients they need. By their definition, Americans should be eating 1.5-2 cups of fruit daily and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily.

In 2013, a CDC survey conducted on a state-by-state basis showed that only 13.1 percent of the entire U.S. population met sufficient fruit intake. In this same survey, only 8.9 percent of adults met the recommended daily vegetable intake.


A recent report from the CDC revealed some shocking statistics about the nutrient status of Americans. Some of the highlights of the report are:

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Consider the following head-to-toe assessment to help identify and mend gaps in your current fueling routine to ensure your ritual is complete.

5.Check Your Head

The brain requires a lot of energy and nutrients to perform the tasks required of it. Supporting the brain and the nervous system with the necessary nutrients to perform and recover is often overlooked.

6. Check Your Stress Level

Stress comes in many forms – physical (training), environmental (chaotic or loud work environments), metabolic, or emotional. Be aware of sources of stress, the demands it places on your body, how your body responds, and what you can do about it.

7. Check Your Sleep

With a busy schedule, sleep is often suboptimal as a result of poor time management. Travel to and from competition can disrupt normal sleep patterns. While reliance on sleep aids and sedatives is not recommended, science supports strategies to help promote normal sleep and night time recovery. Strategies include protein before bed, limiting electronic screen time, and non-sedative supplements like melatonin when travel or schedule changes disrupt normal sleep schedules.

1.Check Your Foundation

Before anything else, basic human needs must be met. Are you meeting your energy (calories), hydration, and essential vitamin and mineral needs? Take time to assess your total calorie needs and whether your current food choices meet your baseline nutrient needs.

2.Check Your Habits

Are you omitting large food groups from your diet, such  as meat, dairy, vegetables, nuts, or grains? Identify which nutrients the missing group contains and then identify other sources of these nutrients.

3.Check Your Gut

“You are what you eat” can be modified to, “ You are what you eat – and what you can absorb.” Support healthy digestion with “good bacteria” from food or probiotics and enzymes that aid in the break down of food.

4. Check Your Activity

As activity increases, the demand for energy and certain nutrients increase. So make sure you account for the extra calories and nutrients to help you maximize your efforts.

The more you know about you, the more personal your nutrition and supplement regimen becomes.

A smart supplementation plan can counteract suboptimal food intake, improve your health, reduce injury duration, and promote your quality of life.* Arming yourself with data and information that is personal to you will allow you to truly make sure your fueling regimen is “one size fits one.”

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The Solution to Nutritional Gaps: Navigating the Supplement World

When food choices or behavior change is not possible, supplements are a solution to fill a nutritional gap, there are several factors to consider. It has become obvious the last few years that the quality control of nutrition supplements is sometimes very poor and a
consumer may therefore not always get everything for which they think they are paying. For those players who compete at a level where drug testing is involved, there is another risk to consider when taking supplements: a positive test due to supplement contamination. We believe non-drug tested athletes should also have access to supplements free of banned substances. Taking all this information into account, a careful, cost-benefit analysis needs to be performed by anyone taking a supplement. If supplementation is a consideration, we recommend speaking to your physician, registered dietitian, or a sports medicine professional.

Factors to look for when choosing a supplement company that is making high-quality, safe, and efficacious products:

Be Aware of Pseudo-Science
Companies often use phrases – such as “clinically proven” – that imply there’s science behind their product. Many of these claims are not always backed by actual research. Be cautious of products claiming ancient formulas, cutting-edge science, miracle cures, or guarantees. A reputable and honest company will have contact information you can use to request further information for the research behind their claims.

Take the Lead from Sports
Be aware of ingredients banned in sports by agencies like the World Anti-Doping Agency and the United States Anti-Doping Agency. While these ingredients are not always prohibited for general consumption, these organizations see a problem with the ingredients, which should be a red flag to you as a regular consumer. Do your research to see if you should ban these ingredients from your nutritional game plan.

Watch Out for Warnings
Be wary of supplements with a long list of warnings or contraindications listed on the product label. Any serious adverse effects reported to a supplement company must be reported to the FDA by the supplement company.

Be an Educated Consumer
Registered dietitians are trained to evaluate the need for, the effectiveness of, and safety of nutritional supplements. Always consult a health-care practitioner before starting a supplement regimen. The National Institutes of Health and the United States Anti-Doping Agency offer resources to help educate you on the supplement before using them. Always be sure to do the necessary homework on your supplement company before taking their products.

Third Party Testing
Nutritional supplement brands can, and should, retain outside, independent companies to audit their manufacturing processes and test their products to ensure the FDA’s cGMP’s are being complied with, thus ensuring that the company’s products contain the ingredients listed on the label in the amounts listed and don’t contain any harmful ingredients. Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMPs) are a set of regulations that are enforced by the US Food and Drug Administration and provide guidelines that assure proper design, monitoring, and control of supplement manufacturing processes and the facilities they are made in.

NSF Certification
NSF International has created an advanced certification program for supplements geared toward elite athletes. NSF International’s Certified for Sport® program tests products for more than 200 substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency and the United States Anti-Doping Agency. A supplement product that bears the Certified for Sport seal ensures that the product contains exactly what the label claims it does, in the amounts listed, and nothing else.

Realize There is No Cure-All
It is illegal for a supplement company to claim that any of its products prevent, cure, or treat any medical condition. Supplements are intended to complement the diet and to support overall health and well-being. Any express or implied claims that a product will prevent, cure, or treat a medical condition is a red flag that the manufacturer is not in compliance with the FDA’s labeling regulations for nutritional supplements.



Establishing a well thought out nutrition routine can lead to better compliance and best support the needs of the athlete. When considering the number of different variables that can influence a soccer player’s needs, an individual approach to both food choices and supplement choices is recommended. An individual’s nutritional needs are as unique as his or her fingerprints, so understanding what causes nutritional needs to be different can help a person choose the best combination of foods and supplements to best meet his or her needs.

U.S. Soccer has partnered with Thorne Research as the Presenting Partner of Recognize to Recover, and U.S. Soccer’s Official Nutritional Supplement Partner. Thorne is a personalized health solutions company dedicated to improving individual outcomes through science and technology. For 30 years, Thorne has led the nutritional supplement industry in providing researched-based, high-quality natural products, including foundational vitamins and minerals and therapeutic-focused nutritional supplements, many of which are third party tested to be free of banned substances.*

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Supplement Guide

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Nutrition Guide

Nutrition Guide

When people think about being a good soccer player, they tend to talk about an individual’s abilities. Can he or she dribble well? Is he or she fast? Do they have a knack for scoring goals? What most people forget is that for any individual at any level, being a good soccer player starts with being healthy and eating right.

Soccer is a demanding sport that requires both endurance and sprint ability, and those high-intensity efforts result in a high- energy demand. Especially during periods with many matches or a lot of training, nutrition is important to recover and protect against overuse injuries. A good diet and the right nutrition can support intensive training while limiting the risks of illness or injury and are also important in the preparation for games and speeding up recovery afterwards.

Soccer is also demanding because it is a brain sport, too. It requires agility, concentration, quick processing of information and decision making. Making sure that the brain is functioning well is an important factor when optimizing performance, and there is increasing evidence that the brain responds to certain foods.

So, we can all agree that making the right choices to get the best nutrition is important for soccer players at all levels. But what is the right nutrition? And how do you know what is good and not good? The truth is there is no easy answer to this and the solution will be different for every player, but a good place to start is the basics.


Food, nutrition and healthy eating are constantly spoken about in the media, in homes and by top athletes. However, before trying the latest diet or super food it is extremely important to know the basics. The basics of eating right will provide you with a great starting point to live a healthy and active lifestyle, and will allow you to investigate any specific needs you may require.


Energy Storage - The body is very clever and when it has enough energy it begins to save and store energy across the body for use in times when it might need it in the future, such as playing soccer. If you did not have energy stored, then playing and training for soccer would not be possible and you would get very tired and slow. However, if you continue to consume high amounts of energy without using it, your body will continue to store it every day, week, month and year and this is when individuals can gain excess weight. Simply put, if you eat more than you work off you will put on additional weight.

Why do I need it?  - Energy is required by the body for all sorts of functions such as growth, development and repair. The most important energy function for soccer players is its use in muscle contraction that allows players to kick, jump, run and tackle. Without energy in the body all these functions – and many more – would not be possible, and whether it’s a 90-minute soccer game or a three-second sprint the body uses the same energy source. However, the body does not have unlimited storage space for energy and therefore must continually make and replace energy that is being used up by the person and the activity they are doing.

What is a calorie? - The word calorie is a widely used term and can be found on the front of almost all food packaging. We use the term calorie to help us understand the amount of energy a food source possesses. If you look to the right you can see the calories available from 1g of each of the main three food sources.

As you can see, you get more than 100 percent of calories from fat than you do from carbohydrate and protein. That is why if your diet is made up of mainly fat you would probably have excessive energy intake, which could lead to weight gain and health issues.

The U.S. government recommends that the average male should consume around 2,700 calories per day and the average female around 2,200. However, this is individual and dependent on weight, height and of course physical activity levels. For example, research has shown that soccer players can use around 300 calories for every 30 minutes of training or playing.


What are they and why are the important?  - You may hear the word nutrient used to describe food and its content. The term nutrient is a way of describing a substance that provides nourishment essential for the growth and maintenance of life. There are six categories of nutrients that are essential to keep us alive that we must take in from food because the body does not have the ability to produce them on its own. We will go into more depth about some of these later.



A micro-nutrient is something the body requires in smaller amounts for maintaining health, growth and development of all its functions. While small in quantity, these are essential for living a healthy active life. Micro-nutrients include vitamins and minerals.


A macro-nutrient is something the body requires in large quantity to provide all the energy needed to function. Macro-nutrients include:  carbohydrate, protein and fats.



What does it do? - When you eat carbohydrate rich food, the body goes to work breaking it down into easy to use energy (glucose). This glucose is absorbed by the body in the small intestine and then carried to the liver where it is changed to glycogen, which is the storage form of glucose. The liver can hold around 2,000 calories of glycogen, while the muscles can hold a small amount as well; however, anything above this will be stored as fat to be broken down later when needed. As soon as your body requires energy to perform a function or exercise, the glycogen that the body has stored acts as a quick release and is broken back down into glucose to support the energy needs of the muscles.

What is it? - Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred method of receiving food and turning it into energy. While many diets try to suggest restricting the intake of carbohydrates, it is actually an important source of food for the body and should make up 55 percent of your diet. The reason why people often try to reduce carbohydrate is because if the body does not use the energy it will transform the carbohydrate into fat to store for another day. However, soccer players live active lifestyles and should be eating well-balanced diets; therefore, this should never become an issue.


What foods should I eat to get carbs? - Carbohydrate can be found in a lot of food that you eat, but it is really important to know the form of carbohydrate you are eating as it makes a difference. You may have heard carbohydrates referred to as “simple” or “complex” but it might be easier to consider them as “whole” or “refined” instead. A whole carbohydrate is something that has not gone through processing and is found in the natural environment and contains fiber (important for health and digestion), while refined carbohydrates have often been processed and have all the natural fiber taken out. The best approach is to stick to whole carbohydrate and avoid refined carbohydrates. If it is a single ingredient food it is probably a whole food and a good choice. A multi-ingredient food is often refined and is a bad choice.

Lastly, one myth you may hear is that you need to “carb load,” which is the idea of loading your body full of carbohydrate prior to a game or event. This practice is not required within soccer and could lead to bloating and excessive calorie intake.


You should try to avoid refined carbohydrates. The process of making refined carbohydrate food products often takes away and removes any of the essential nutrients we talked about earlier. Instead, refined foods provide the body with a quick sugar spike that it can not handle or helpfully utilize. Also, long term abuse of these products can lead to health problems including obesity and diabetes.

Bad carbohydrate choices:

  • Sugary Drinks are packed with useless refined sugar
  • White Bread, white pasta and white rice (due to the process of making these foods, they are packed with refined carbohydrate and low in nutrients)
  • Pastries, cookies, cakes and ice cream (these are high in refined sugar and provide little use for body or athletic function)
  • Candies and Chocolate (these are high in refined sugar and provide little use for body or athletic function. Some dark chocolate products that are high in cocoa percentage can be better for you)


Whole carbohydrate products can be best for us even when they get a bad reputation for being related to the refined products. Whole carbohydrates are packed with essential life nutrients and fiber that the body can slowly breakdown and decide how to use, these products do not cause sudden swings in blood sugar levels.

Good carbohydrate choices:

  • Vegetables (a variety of colors and types should be consumed with every meal, including broccoli, potatoes, carrots, spinach,  lettuce and cucumber)
  • Whole Fruits (should have a variety of colors and types. Includes: apples, oranges, bananas and strawberries)
  • Legumes (lentils, kidney beans and peas)
  • Nuts and Seeds (the best are unsalted and in raw form, including almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds)
  • Whole Grains (whole oats, quinoa, and brown rice)


What is it? - Proteins are the building blocks (think Legos) for the human body and are important for every single area. Human hair and nails are mostly made of protein, but more importantly, the body uses protein to produce hormones and chemicals that help support the overall function of the body, such as building bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. All in all, protein is a pretty great thing for ourbodies. Protein is a macro-nutrient, but unlike carbohydrates and fats, the body has no way of storing protein and therefore the body does not have the ability to draw on it when it might need to. About 25 percent of your diet should be made up from a protein source.

What does it do? - When people exercise – whether it is playing soccer or lifting weights in the gym – the muscles on your body get damaged from the activity. This is why, after a heavy workout, your muscles hurt and feel painful to move. The body is clever, and to try and prevent the damage from occurring again, it decides to build the muscle stronger in case it is asked to do the same exercise again. Protein is hugely important and required for the body to repair this muscle, and without it the body would not be able to recover and get stronger. That is why after playing soccer it is a good idea to have a protein rich meal to ensure the body has a source to start the rebuilding process.

Bad protein choices:

•   Processed Meats (turkey, ham, chicken, sausages and burgers)


Good protein choices: 

  • Fresh Meat (chicken, turkey, pork and beef)
  • Fresh Fish (cod or salmon)
  • Animal Products (milk, cheese, eggs and yogurt)
  • Vegetable Product (tofu, soy protein, soy milk, legumes, lentilsand nuts)
  • Whey Protein (Isolate)


What is it? - Fat gets a very bad reputation because it is strongly linked to obesity and chronic health issues. However, fat is one of the three essential nutrients we discussed earlier that the body requires for energy and health. Fat is essential for the proper functioning of the body, and provides fatty acids which are not made by the body and must be obtained from the food we eat. These essential fatty acids help control inflammation, blood clotting and brain development. Fat also helps provide people with healthy skin and hair, as well as supporting and delivering vitamin A, D, E and K through the bloodstream.

When we consume more calories than required, the body stores these as fat, which serves as energy storage, insulation and protection of vital organs. When we use all the quick energy storage of carbohydrate (around 20 minutes of exercise) the body needs an energy source, and this is when the fat storage becomes crucial in maintaining function and exercise. The body breaks down the fat stored and then uses it as an energy source.

While the importance of fat is noted above, there is also serious side effects if over consumption of high fatty foods is regularly consumed. Too much fat in the diet increases the risk of heart disease because of its high calorie content, which also increases the chance of becoming obese (which in turn leads to other health complications).


The fats you should avoid and reduce from your diets are saturated fats and trans fatty acids (trans fat). Simply put, these fats are not good for your body and increase cholesterol levels, clog arteries, increase risk of heart disease and can increase the rates of cancer. The aim for all people, including athletes, should be to remove this from your diet and make better choices when integrating fat within the diet.

Bad Fat Choices:

  • Butter and lard
  • Processed meat
  • Fried chicken
  • Coconut products
  • Palm oil, palm kernel oil
  • Dairy foods (cheese, butter, milk, cream, ice cream)  **skimmed is fine
  • Cookies, cakes, pies, pastries and fast food


The good fats are known as unsaturated fats. These unsaturated fats include polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. Both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats have been shown to have a positive effect on reducing blood cholesterol levels as well as reducing the risk of heart disease. A specific polyunsaturated fat know as omega-3 fatty acids has had positive results on decreasing the risk of coronary artery disease, reducing blood pressure and guarding against irregular heartbeats. The take home message is when introducing fat into your diet make sure it is the good fat and not the bad fat.

Good Fat Choices:

  • Nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans)
  • Vegetable Oils (olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil)
  • Peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter
  • Fish (salmon, herring, sardines, trout) **high in good omega-3 fatty acids
  • Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame)
  • Tofu, roasted soy bean and soy nut butter
  • Avocado
  • Omega 3 and/or Fish Oil


Whether you are a junior athlete, professional athlete, or don’t take part in any sport, it is important to make sure you are getting the proper energy, nutrients, and minerals daily. While a food first mentality is the preferred source of nutrients, when nutrients are lacking, supplementation is an option in your nutrition routine. If choosing supplements make sure to consult a health care practitioner and look for supplements labeled NSF-Certified for Sport.

Each meal will contain different amounts of carbohydrate (55%), protein (25%) and fat (20%). 

 U.S. Soccer Nutrition Guide

Youth Player Nutrition

Youth Player Nutrition

There are many questions about optimal nutrition for young athletes. Nutrition should support their normal growth and development, but also the increased needs as a result of training. It is also important to create good and healthy nutrition habits that will benefit any young athlete later in life. Nutrition is an important part of the athlete’s life, but unfortunately it is not always treated as such.

Young athletes are not just smaller versions of adult athletes. Young athletes have different nutritional needs because they are in a phase of growth, and their physiology and metabolism is different from adults. Here we will discuss the background, as well as some of the practical implications of nutrition for young athletes and their parents.


The growth in height of pre-pubertal children between the ages of 2 and 10 years is linear and occurs at a rate of 2.4 inches per year. The median heights and weights for boys and girls are similar, averaging 2ft10 and 26.5 lbs at the age of 2 years to 4ft6 and 70lbs by the age of 10 years. The age for the onset of puberty varies among individuals. Puberty usually occurs in boys between the ages of 12 and 16, while in girls it generally occurs earlier, between the ages of 11 and 14. In some African-American girls, puberty begins even earlier, at about age 9. During puberty, large inter-individual differences exist in development. Children and adolescents need adequate energy intake to ensure proper growth, development, and maturation.

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Dietary Reference Values (DRVs) have been established for various ages, but for the athletic or highly physically active child or adolescent, these recommendations will need to be adjusted for the level of physical activity. In adolescents in particular, the onset of the growth spurt, which is a major reason for increased energy requirements, is unpredictable and it is very difficult to estimate energy requirements. It is well known, though, that prolonged inadequate energy intake will result in short stature, delayed puberty, poor bone health, increased risk of injuries, and menstrual irregularities or absence in girls.


It is important to educate children to eat a “healthy and balanced” diet and to encourage good eating habits. For the aspiring young athlete this should also include specific sports nutrition guidance with performance goals in addition to health goals. This can reinforce lifelong eating habits that contribute to the overall well being of children and may enhance sport performance. On the other hand, any bad habits developed in childhood and adolescence may be difficult to eradicate later in an athlete’s sporting career and should therefore be avoided. There is an important role for parents, coach and support staff to encourage appropriate eating behaviors, but also to avoid bad habits, such as too much attention to body shape and body weight.

For Parents:

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•  Practice responsive parenting by discriminating hunger from other distress cues and avoid using food to comfort your child
•  Provide positive, repeated exposure to novel foods (especially typically rejected foods, such as vegetables) to promote acceptance of and preference for those foods
•  Offer developmentally appropriate and healthy foods to your child during the transition to solids
•  Serve portion sizes that are developmentally appropriate for your child’s age and nutrient needs
•  Choose when and what your child should eat, but let your child decide how much to eat
•  Trust a child of normal weight to self-regulate their intake
•  Make a wide variety of nutrient-dense rather than energy-dense, nutrient poor foods available and accessible to your child
•  Use your behavior and attitude to model healthy dietary patterns
•  Create a positive feeding environment by initiating regular family meals

Adapted from: Birch L, Savage JS, and Ventura A. Influences on the Development of Children’s Eating Behaviours: From Infancy to Adolescence. Can J Diet Pract Res. 2007; 68(1): s1–s56


There appear to be some differences in fuel use between adults and children. Children’s muscles are a bit more like the muscles  of endurance athletes (aerobic) and not yet developed for very high intensity (anaerobic) exercise. Children’s capacity to produce lactate is lower than adults and this means it is more difficult to sustain high intensity exercise. Children therefore rely very much on fat as a fuel than adults. These differences, however, seem to diminish throughout adolescence, especially in boys, suggesting that the hormones associated with puberty play a role in regulating energy metabolism in children.


In order to support their growth and development, children and adolescents have protein requirements that are relatively high compared to adults. The Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) for protein in the United States are between 1.05 and 0.80 g/ kg depending on age with the highest recommendations for 1-3 year olds and lowest for 18 year olds.


However, as for adults, the protein requirements for young elite athletes are likely to be even higher. These requirements may be as high as 1.4 g/kg/day when young athletes play 10-12 h/wk. This would be around 75 g/d in this group, well above the RDA (52 g/d) for children of this age in the general population. However, when athletes are following a complete, well-balanced diet with adequate protein sources, this requirement is easily met with higher daily energy intakes of highly active individuals. In the United States protein intakes by children and adolescents are generally 2-3 times the RDA. On the whole, protein requirements seem to be of no particular concern for most young athletes. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware that there may be some individuals, who, perhaps due to intentional energy restriction for weight loss or a vegetarian diet, have protein intakes well below the recommended amounts.

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It is well known that carbohydrate ingestion in adults both before and during exercise can delay fatigue and improve endurance performance. Unlike protein, which has a quite general recommendation, recommendations for carbohydrate intake rate highly dependent on the intensity, duration and type of exercise that is performed by young athletes.

Although it is important to eat enough carbohydrate to fuel the activity, carbohydrate loading, such as is common practice in endurance sports to increase muscle glycogen levels, is not needed and not advised for children. Since generally their activities are shorter or require less glycogen and their ability to break down carbohydrate is limited, it must be questioned whether such    a strategy would be beneficial at all. A relatively high carbohydrate diet is advised but there is no need to follow a dedicated glycogen-loading regimen.

Children can benefit from carbohydrate intake during exercise, as adults do. But this is only useful when the exercise is high enough intensity and long enough duration. Many children will be physically active or engage in regular training but may not reach the level of physical activity that would warrant the use of carbohydrate beverages. However, those young athletes training hard and long enough will probably benefit.

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Very few studies have investigated fat intake or fat requirements in physically active children. The usual general recommendation is that 25-30% of energy should come from dietary fat, but absolute fat intakes in g/d are highly dependent on the energy expenditure. As in adults, the main priorities are adequate protein and carbohydrate intake and fat can make up the remaining energy needs. Restricting fat intake in non-obese children has been suggested to impair growth and development, although it is not clear whether this is a direct effect of low fat intake or low energy intake. The quality of the fats also matters. Choose healthy fats and avoid trans fats.


One of the main ways that humans lose heat is through the evaporation of sweat from the surface of the skin. As children have a higher ratio of body surface area to body mass (at the age of 8-years-old it is approximately 50% higher than that of an adult), it has been suggested that exercising children should be able to dissipate heat quicker than adults. This should give children an advantage in terms of their thermal homeostasis over that of exercising adults, at least up to the point at which ambient temperature exceeds skin temperature, after which this advantage is supposedly reversed. In practice, however, this has not been found to be the case and adults and active children seem to experience similar body core temperatures, even when exercising at high ambient temperatures. Whether the same finding would occur in young athletes, as compared to these active, but not competitive children, is yet to be determined.

High sweat rates in hot conditions can result in large fluid and electrolyte losses. In adults, the dehydration caused by this fluid loss has been shown to impair both motor control and physical performance, so adults are advised to balance any fluids lost from sweating, with fluid intake or to at least to limit losses to no more than 2% of body mass. However, there are large differences in sweat rates between children and adults. In fact, 9 year-old boys exposed to hot and humid conditions (45°C and 97% relative humidity) had an average sweat rate that was only half of that of men. This muted response, also observed in both young girls and adult females, is probably due to the underdevelopment of the peripheral sweating mechanism in younger boys. In fact, once male sex hormone production starts to increase during puberty, the sweat rate is seen to increase rapidly.

It seems tempting to speculate that if the young athlete’s ability to sweat is lower than that of adults, then their risk of becoming dehydrated during exercise in the heat will also be reduced. However, as sweating is the main way of dissipating heat during exercise, it is possible that children’s thermoregulation is less effective and their core body temperature could increase at a more rapid rate than an adults.

Studies show that the extent of dehydration, and more importantly, the risk of developing a heat-related illness seems to be similar between adults and younger athletes.

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Thus the recommendations regarding fluid replacement are likely to be similar too. The policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics, regarding the fluid replacement guidelines for children during exercise in the heat state that a child who weighs 88 lbs should drink 5 oz. of cold water or flavored salted beverage every 20 min and an adolescent who weighs 132 lbs should drink 8 oz. every 20 min, even if the child does not feel thirsty. Such guidelines are very general and do not take into account important factors such as environmental conditions, exercise intensity, acclimatization and individual differences, but it gives perhaps a rough indication. At an elite level, it seems sensible to develop an individualized strategy that aims to reduce fluid losses in excess of 2-3% body mass. In general, involuntary hypohydration can reach up to 1-2% of body mass loss in boys and this in the vast majority of cases dehydration is not a major issue.

However, in hot conditions it is useful to occasionally measure body weight loss during practice (corrected for fluid intake) to identify individuals who lose more than 3% of body mass and may be under drinking. The reader is referred to the R2R document “Importance of Hydration” for guidance.

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There may be a small proportion of children that will benefit from sports drinks. These are the children that perform intense activity for longer periods of time and generally perform at a higher level. When performance on that day is the key focus, then a sports drink may be appropriate. For the vast majority of cases, water will do fine for hydration. The same is true for other sports nutrition products such as gels, chews, energy bars, and so on. These can sometimes be convenient solutions, but are not strictly necessary.


While a number of young athletes may use nutrition supplements, you should promote a food first mentality. While a food first mentality is the preferred source of nutrients, when nutrients are lacking, supplementation may be an option in their nutrition. However, especially in young individuals, there must be reservations about most supplements regarding long-term use, combinations and appropriate dosages in an elite young athlete. U.S. Soccer has identified NSF- certified amino acids, multivitamins, electrolytes, probiotics, fish oil, and whey protein as supplements that may be considered in young athletes – only after consultation with a doctor, dietitian, or sports medicine professional.

We start with a food first philosophy. However, it may be challenging for athletes to design and put into action a complete fueling plan. Time constraints, access to fresh, whole foods and grocery stores, culinary and nutritional knowledge, underestimating the additional demands of sport, recovery, and growth, are all factors that may lead many athletes to fall short of the recommended levels of nutrients. We believe with proper education and safeguards such as NSF-Certified for Sport, supplements can be an option when food is not available.


Perhaps one of the greatest potential threats to child health is inappropriate weight control in young athletes that could lead to the development of unhealthy eating behaviors, an eating disorder, or impaired growth and development. If a reduction in body mass is desired, this should be done gradually and limited to no more than 1.5% of body mass per week. A more rapid rate of weight loss than this will likely result in muscle protein breakdown, and this may interfere with growth and development. When possible, the athlete should be counseled by a registered dietitian who has experience of working with athletes and their families.

Contributors: Professor Asker Jeukendrup and Dr. George Chiampas

Youth Player Nutrition Guide


The 3 R's of Recovery from Play

The 3 R's of Recovery from Play

When the clock stops or practice ends, players must focus on helping their bodies recover from physical activity and nutrition plays a central role. U.S. Soccer's Recognize to Recover program offers these tips to nutritional recovery: Rehydrate, Refuel and Rebuild.


Rehydration begins as soon as play ends. Players should not stop drinking water when practice or a game ends. In fact, this is a very important time to drink because the body is no longer sweating and losing fluids as rapidly as during play. When a player is dehydrated, it affects his or her performance and the ability to regulate body temperature.

Players should consider these tips for recovering proper hydration levels:

  • Water is the best drink to rehydrate. Avoid carbonated beverages, caffeine and alcohol.
  • Urine should resemble lemonade. Darker urine means you need to drink more.
  • Drink 16-ounces of water for each pound lost during play. That’s a pint per pound.


The body refuels with carbohydrates. Muscles burn through fuel quickly during the strenuous activity of a game or practice. In order to replenish the body’s high-performance fuel — carbohydrates — it is important to eat foods that are good sources of carbs. To do this quickly, eat these foods within an hour after the game or practice, because muscles refill carbs fastest immediately after exercise.

Carb Calculator:
To calculate how many grams of carbohydrates a player needs for speeding recovery in the hour after a game, divide their weight by two. The number equals how many grams of carbs they should eat, i.e.: 160 pound player = 80 grams of carbs

Good carbohydrate food sources:
Banana = 20-30g
Energy/Cereal Bar = 20-40g
Bowl of Oatmeal = 25-30g
Bowl of Cereal = 20-30g
Tuna Sandwich = 20-30g
Chicken Sandwich = 20-30g


The body rebuilds with protein. Muscles are mostly made of protein. During exercise, muscles get fatigued and damaged. Replacing proteins is imperative to allow muscles to rebuild themselves. Eating more protein also gives undamaged muscles more building material, helping them become stronger over time. Healthy foods contain all the protein anyone needs without adding specialty protein shakes to their diet.

High protein food sources:
Milk (one cup, low fat) = 13g
Soy Milk (one cup) = 13g
Greek Yogurt (non-fat) = 6-8g
Eggs = 6g
Nuts (handful) = 6-8g
Tuna Sandwich = 25-30g
Chicken Sandwich = 25-30g

Protein Predictor:
Here are two tips to make sure there is enough protein on a player’s dinner plate:

  • Eat 20-25 grams of high-quality protein each meal
  • Meals should be at 3-4 hour intervals