Polish footballers short on carbs, critical nutrients, study finds

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The study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health​. The researchers were associated with the University School of Physical Education, Wrocław, Poland.

Players followed during heavy training week

The researchers looked at the dietary intake of 26 professional soccer players from one club competing in Poland’s top league. The players were followed through a week of heavy training in preparation for the start of regular league competition. Some athletes with injuries and others who submitted incomplete dietary questionnaires.

The week’s training sessions including a couple of high demand days and some days of lesser intensity as well as a day off.  Some of the players were consuming supplements, while others apparently weren’t.  The researchers characterized supplementation as “food supplements and foodstuffs intended for particular nutritional uses.”

The athletes’ food and nutrient intakes were measured via detailed food questionnaires.  The amounts of food consumed was measured via standard household measures, and information from product labels was included where available.

Players short on calories with too few carbs

The study found the players on the Polish team consumed on average 2,655 kcal of food energy per day.  This is less than what similar studies had found for professional footballers in the Netherlands and Greece.  In both of those cases pro soccer players were consuming in excess of about 3,300 kcal a day.

As well as appearing to be short on calories in general, the researchers said the soccer players appeared to be short on carbohydrates in particular. Carbohydrates have been demonized to some degree by recent diet fads, and professional footballers are often concerned about their weight, as power-to-weight ratio figures directly into their endurance and their ability to accelerate. But the researchers noted that sufficient carbohydrate is crucial to quickly replenish glycogen stores in muscles. 

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