While most people focus on the breakdown of macronutrients in a diet, they often neglect the important role micronutrients play in fine tuning the body and its functions. Micronutrients are dietary components often referred to as vitamins and minerals.
Not only are micronutrients important to energy production and the maintenance of bone health, they are also only required in small amounts. The problem is, the body does not produce them, so they must be ingested through whole food meals, or supplemented. For soccer players, the intense exercise we go through stresses many of the metabolic pathways where micronutrients are needed which means that more micronutrients must be implemented into the diet.
There are a TON of micronutrients, so rather than going through a long and tedious list of them, I have picked out the ones soccer players could be deficient in, and have given you ways to incorporate them into your diet or to supplement them.
The B Vitamins
Thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, biotin, folate, and vitamin B12, are important for energy production and the building and repairing of tissue. For this reason, soccer players need to address their intake of B vitamins. Not only will they improve endurance, but these vitamins will also improve your body’s recovery process. Recovery is essential to the elite soccer player since we want to be ready to give it all we have whether we are training in the gym, are at practice, or about to step onto the pitch for a game.
These vitamins should be supplemented and can be found either at your local supermarket or here on Amazon.com.
Vitamin D is another micronutrient soccer athletes could be deficient in. It is required for calcium absorption, regulation of serum calcium and phosphorous levels, promotion of bone health, and it regulates the development of the nervous system and skeletal muscles. Considering the amount of stress soccer players put on their bodies, having a nervous system and skeletal muscles that can handle that sort of stress is necessary. I go into significant detail of why vitamin D is especially important to soccer players in this post: https://optimalsoccer.com/vitamin-d/
Moreover, most people are deficient in vitamin D, especially if you live in a climate that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight. Vitamin D can either be found at your local supermarket or here at Amazon.com:
Vitamin C, vitamin E, β-carotene, and selenium are antioxidants soccer players could be deficient in. These guys play a role in protecting cell membranes from oxidative damage. Oxidative stress occurs when you exercise and it leads to lipid peroxidation of the membranes. More simply, this means that your joints and muscles become inflamed when they are put under stress. Vitamin E is helpful in reducing this inflammation and muscle soreness so it should be supplemented. Vitamin C should be supplemented too because deficiencies in this micronutrient can occur during intense exercise.
Inflammation is a problem that many athletes overlook. It hinders recovery and prevents you from pushing yourself on the field. Supplementing antioxidants can help reduce inflammation and enhance your recovery when you aren’t killing it on the field.
Here is where you can find the antioxidants:
When we talk about minerals, most people think about rocks, but minerals in relation to the diet are completely different. Calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium are important minerals because without them our bodies would have a hard time producing energy.
Calcium is important for growth, maintenance, and repair of bone tissue, regulation of muscle contraction, and normal blood clotting. Deficiencies in this can lead to stress fractures.
Iron is required for forming oxygen-carrying proteins, hemoglobin, myoglobin, and for enzymes involved in energy production. Oxygen-carrying capacity is important for soccer players because they are working so hard for so long. Supplementing this mineral is great because it increases work capacity by improving oxygen uptake, makes your blood better, and it reduces muscle fatigue.
Zinc is another important micronutrient because of its role in growth, building, and repair of muscle tissue, energy production, and immune system function. However, unnecessary zinc supplementation may lead to low HDL cholesterol and nutrient imbalances by interfering with the absorption of nutrients like iron and copper.
Finally, magnesium is an important mineral in that it helps cellular metabolism, it helps your cardiovascular, immune, and hormonal functions. Supplementation of these minerals will definitely help build a better body and soccer player.
Here is where you can find these minerals:
The Last Few Micronutrients
Sodium and potassium are important for soccer players for a number of reasons. Sodium is a critical electrolyte and necessary for maintaining endurance. Potassium is also important because of its role in fluid and electrolyte balance, and nerve transmission. A diet rich in veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds, dairy foods, lean meats and whole grains should have no problem with deficiencies in either of these minerals.
While many athletes focus on the importance of macronutrients (which is super important), many neglect the important role that micronutrients play in balancing a diet. Our bodies can’t produce some nutrients, so it is necessary to supplement these if we are not somehow ingesting them from our diet, or taking them from our surroundings. My hope with this post is to give you a list of the micronutrients soccer players can be deficient in, list what the supplementation of these micronutrients will do for your performance, and provide easy access to these micronutrients so you don’t have to worry about searching for them on your own.
As I’ve said before, supplementation is the icing on the cake and the major components of the Optimal Soccer diet should be taken care of first. However, micronutrients need to get more attention, and this information is the sort of thing I wished I had when I was playing.
Thanks for taking the time,
Head Trainer at Optimal Soccer
Remember, I’m not a doctor and do not play one on the Internet. Be sure to contact your physician before you take any of these supplements, and to use them as directed.
If you liked this post and want to reach out, or if you feel that this post is somehow lacking, please leave a comment below and we can continue the conversation there. Take it easy!