Football is a popular sport played by people of all ages and abilities around the world, partaking in any sport is great for health, it burns calories and reduces body fat, as well as increasing aerobic fitness.  When playing sport and exercising it is important to eat correctly to ensure your performance levels and the health benefits gained reach their optimum level.  For professional footballers this balance of good nutrition and training is vital if they are to play at the highest levels of their ability, top clubs such as those in the Premier League employ highly qualified sports scientists, dieticians and nutritionists to ensure the players get the best possible guidance.

To help give people guidance on how much to eat for optimum health and well being the Department of Heath has issued guidelines regarding our calorie and nutritional intake, it is recommended that male adults eat around 2500 calories per day, and adult females should eat around 2000.  This guidance is based upon an average adult doing a moderate amount of daily activity, and needs adjusting dependant upon actual weight and activity levels. Professional footballers who train for many hours daily, and have low body fat, and high muscle ratios need more calories and a high quality diet to fulfil their bodies requirements.  Simply eating more food will not help these professional players build muscle and maintain the high energy levels required to complete the demanding training and match day schedules where the team in their football jerseys need to excel physically and mentally.

To eat a healthy well balanced diet we should all eat a variety of foods from the five food groups; carbohydrates, protein, dairy, fruit and vegetables and small amounts of treats and sugary food.  Carbohydrates provide the fuel needed by the body to work the muscles during exercise, traditionally athletes have bulked up before big games and events eating lots of rice, pasta and potatoes to increase energy levels.  High quality carbohydrates such as brown bread, brown rice and wholemeal pasta release energy slowly to keep blood sugar levels constant and enable the body to maintain an intense level of exercise for a prolonged period.  The other important food group for professional players is protein, this includes meat, fish and pulses, these provide the amino acids essential for building muscle. Many sports stars supplement their dietary intake with protein supplements to ensure they are getting enough.  To ensure a good all round vitamin and mineral intake it is essential to eat a good balance from the other groups including a sufficient fruit and vegetable consumption.  The treats and sugary food group should be limited as they contain empty calories with no nutritional value.

Diego Forlan is a top Uruguayan footballer whose daily diet follows the following pattern:

Breakfast: Pineapple, brown toast and butter, yogurt

Lunch: Grilled chicken, pasta or rice, vegetables

Snack: Fruit smoothies, cereal

Dinner: Fish, salad or steamed vegetable, occasional sweet treat

Drinks: Lots of water, no alcohol

In summary if you want to play better and increase your physical stamina, before you next step out onto the pitch in your football jerseys you may like to give the diet of a professional footballer a try and see if you can spot any improvements.  Your favourite stars including Forlan, Messi, Rooney and Ronaldo eat like this everyday to ensure they maintain their peak of physical fitness and excel in their football career.

What do you think of the diet a professional footballer follows?

Do you think you could follow a similar diet?