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Nutrition

Staying healthy by shopping smart

7 May 2020
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Eating well can appear easier said than done, but by buying simple ingredients you can make delicious, healthy meals on a wide range of budgets. 

Sticking to a list, buying frozen food and making the most of leftovers are just some of the ways you can make your funds go further.

Craig Umenyi, a performance nutritionist at Tottenham Hotspur, selects foods that footballers eat to stay fit.

You can also get them when you shop, so you can follow our three-step guide to good nutrition: Repair; Energise; Protect.

REPAIR

Tinned mackerel
The physical demands of Premier League football can cause increased levels of muscle soreness and inflammation for several days after a game. Omega-3 fatty acids – as found in oily fish such as mackerel, sardines and salmon - have anti-inflammatory properties that, when consumed regularly and consistently in the diet, can help aid this recovery.

Semi-skimmed milk
Milk is an ideal recovery drink as not only is it high in protein (for muscle repair), it contains carbohydrate for refuelling and fluid for rehydration.

Tinned tuna
A low-fat, high-protein option that is an excellent and affordable cupboard staple. Add to salads for a light lunch on days where you carry out very little physical activity, or have it as a topping on a jacket potato with vegetables for a post-workout recovery meal. 

Greek yogurt
Calcium can be lost through high rates of sweating, such as during demanding physical activity as well as in high temperatures.

Those with a very low dietary calcium intake may not effectively replace these frequent losses in calcium, negatively affecting bone health and muscle contraction.

Eggs
Many people do not eat enough protein at breakfast. The addition of eggs is a tasty way to increase protein intake in the morning. Vegetable omelettes and poached eggs are popular breakfast option with footballers. 

Chicken breasts
A lean protein option ideal for kick-starting muscle repair in the post-training meal.

Lean mince beef
Iron is essential for healthy blood cells and the transport of oxygen from the lungs to various cells in the body. Footballers will experience an increase in the damage of existing red blood cells as well the creation of new ones due to their high levels of physical activity, increasing the need for iron through the diet.

Aim for two to three portions of lean red meat per week. The addition of vegetables high in vitamin C, such as bell pepper and broccoli, to the meal can help to further aid iron absorption in the body.

PROTECT 

Frozen berries
Berries are high in compounds called antioxidants. When eaten regularly, they can act as defence systems against cell damage. This can have longer-term benefits to your overall health but, for footballers, it can also help improve muscle recovery and repair processes.

Frozen options are more affordable and research suggests they keep many of their antioxidant properties even for several months. 

Satsumas/clementines/mandarins
Satsumas are an affordable fresh fruit option that are simple, taste good and easy to snack on. 

Bananas
A popular half-time option from youth football to the Premier League, bananas are rich in potassium, which helps to regulate heart function as well as fluid balance. If you find you have some bananas left over that are close to being overripe, add them into smoothies or use them to make banana pancakes.

Onions
Onions can be chopped, sliced and blended into many different dishes and sauces, making it ideal for those who do not eat enough veggies!

Broccoli
We encourage players to eat folate-rich foods such as broccoli daily due its requirement in the formation of healthy new blood cells.

Apples
An excellent source of fibre, which is important for a healthy gut and immune system.

Chopped tomatoes
Tomatoes are high in antioxidants and can be used in a variety of dishes such as Indian curries, Mexican chilli and Nigerian jollof rice. Tinned chopped tomatoes are a great store-cupboard staple - a versatile, affordable alternative to fresh options.

Mixed seeds
A source of good-quality fats to help maintain the health and structure of cells in the body. Add one or two tablespoons of these to cereals, porridge or yogurts.

ENERGISE

Potatoes
Versatile and filling. During this period you may not always feel up to cooking. In these instances, a jacket potato cooked in the microwave can be an easy option to fall back on. Top with a mix of tuna, tinned sweetcorn, spring onion and some mayonnaise for a more well-rounded meal.

Rice
Popular with players to help load the muscles with carbohydrates (energy) in the meals leading up to matches. We advise players to greatly increase their portion sizes of carbohydrates the day before, the day of and the day after a game while reducing these sizes on lighter-training days. Buy in the raw form and boil yourself for better bang-for-buck value.

Oats
There is a growing body of research suggesting poor gut health may negatively affect mood. Consuming more fibre through foods such as oats helps the growth of good bacteria in our gut. High-fibre options allow nutrition to have a positive impact on both the long-term physical and mental health of players.

Baked beans
An excellent source of high-fibre carbohydrates which also provides a good source of plant-based protein – great for vegan footballers. The combination of the fibre and protein mean you are likely to stay fuller for longer. A good consideration if you find yourself snacking on biscuits more than you would like!

Rice/Oat cakes
Rice cakes are a popular snack option on the day of a game as they provide carbohydrates that can easily be digested without being too filling or causing bloating. For a similar snack option that is higher in fibre, choose oat cakes. These can be topped with low-fat cream cheese, hummus or peanut butter.

Managing your nutrition
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