When you think about becoming a better soccer player, you probably want to start lifting more weight and train more effectively, however, there is an alternative way to get better and it doesn’t depend on hours of your precious time putting even more stress on your body and mind that you already do. In fact, by simply changing the way you eat, you can change the levels of certain hormones in your body.
Hormones are particularly important because of their role in your body’s physiology. Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers; they travel through the bloodstream to tissues and organs to signal the creation of chemicals that can affect the body in different ways. Hormones are involved in growth and development, metabolism, sexual functions, reproduction, and mood.
Already, you can tell that hormones and optimizing hormones can lead to some drastic changes in the body. By learning about hormones, and how to promote some and inhibit others, we can optimize our bodies to become designed to play soccer even better than before.
There are many, many hormones in our bodies that are affected by how we eat, but there are only a few that are of particular importance to soccer players and their performance on the field. By learning which hormones will boost your performance, and how exactly you can change your diet to achieve these changes, you can take steps to becoming a better soccer player.
There are five hormones that are important for soccer players to optimize; serotonin, dopamine, testosterone, cortisol, and insulin. These are all common hormones and are well-researched, but they play an important role in how efficiently your body functions and determine your mood. Moreover, these hormones are all connected to each other. By boosting certain ones you can inhibit others. This is all done through diet strategies and certain lifestyle tweaks, so it is much easier to accommodate a busy schedule.
As a soccer player, you want to make sure your body is functioning properly so that you get the most out of every lift, every practice, and can outperform anybody on the field. Also, you want to approach the situation with the mindset that you can accomplish anything. Hormones effectively determine these outcomes, and learning how to optimize them will give you an advantage over the competition.
Serotonin has been dubbed the “creativity hormone” and enjoys a lot of attention due to many studies on its effects on how the brain functions. However, this does not do the hormone justice. Serotonin is responsible for a number of other functions that are of great interest to soccer players.
Not only does serotonin play a role in regulating mood swings, it also affects your appetite and the quality of your sleep. By regulating mood swings, you can maintain a sense of focus where you would otherwise be distracted. By regulating your appetite, you won’t be tempted to break your diet. By changing the quality of your sleep, your recovery will improve, your cognitive function will increase, and other hormones (like dopamine) will be affected as well.
There are a number of ways to maintain and boost serotonin levels, but increasing your intake of fruits and nuts is a well-researched method in which you can start boosting this hormone.
Fruits are an excellent source of nutrients, but there are certain fruits that have been found to trigger serotonin. Specifically, the fruits soccer players should be eating are bananas, kiwis, pineapple, and plums. These fruits contain the amino acid l-tryptophan which is critical in the creation of serotonin.
Personally, I believe having a smoothie as a pregame meal is the best way to get a lot of nutrients into the body effectively. With these fruits in mind, by simply adding them to a smoothie, you can flood your system with the nutrients it needs to boost your serotonin levels. Doing this before a game will certainly boost your performance, and if you do this daily you will see some serious changes in the quality of your sleep and your overall mood.
Along with fruits containing l-tryptophan, the body needs carbohydrates to trigger serotonin production. However, there are certain sources of carbohydrates that soccer players should stay away from. I go into greater detail on this subject in another post here. For now, simply know that carbohydrates that contain gluten are terrible for soccer players. Instead, better sources of carbohydrates can be found in pistachios, almonds, peanuts, and cashews.
Nuts are easy to eat and easy to digest. Plus you can take them anywhere with relatively little hassle. By simply snacking on a handful of nuts throughout the day you can stave off any hunger that may lead you to break your diet. Moreover, the extra carbs will help trigger serotonin so you can be in the right mindset at practice or in a game, and at the end of the day, you get more out of your sleep.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in regulating movement and emotional responses. More specifically, it helps you see rewards and work to achieve those goals. This is huge for soccer players as it creates a mental state in which we can move better, and we are better motivated. Motivation is important going into a game. You want to step out onto the field motivated to win, no matter what. Triggering dopamine will make it easy to get into this mental state.
Not only that but since dopamine is related to mood it is related to serotonin. By boosting both of these hormones, your mood will change a lot and your ability as a soccer player will improve due to this change in cognitive function.
There are a number of ways to maintain healthy dopamine levels, including getting more sleep and taking certain drugs to trigger it. However, taking over-the-counter meds to trigger dopamine is not how we as soccer players want to go about it. Instead, you can safely trigger dopamine by simply changing the way you eat.
Certain foods produce the chemicals that trigger dopamine, and these chemicals are found in foods that are already part of the Optimal Soccer Diet. Specifically, ingesting fish oil, L-theanine, L-tyrosine, and phosphatidylserine.
Fish oil is an important part of the Optimal Soccer Diet because of how it benefits soccer players who put a lot of stress on their bodies. Fish oil can be supplemented, or you can simply include more fish in your diet. Salmon, tilapia, and tuna have good fats, protein, and omega-3s in addition to these fish oils that will improve your performance.
L-theanine is an amino acid that plays a key role in triggering neurotransmitters like dopamine. There have been studies that show L-theanine’s effects on the brain that lead to improved cognitive function and better mood. For soccer players, implementing this amino acid into the diet is simple and an easy way to achieve great results.
L-theanine can either be supplemented, or simply ingested by drinking green tea. I find drinking tea is a great way to relax after a long day, so before bed try having a cup of green tea and see if the quality of your sleep improves.
L-tyrosine is another amino acid that plays a large role in both cognitive and physical function. Specifically, there are studies that show it provides a stimulating effect on the body. When purchasing, be sure to look at the dosage, some recommend taking multiple doses throughout the day equaling to a total of 150 mg of L-tyrosine. The best time to take this is 30-60 minutes before your workout or game to ensure it is fully digested and working through your system.
Phosphatidylserine is an amino acid your body produces on its own, however, supplementation has been shown to improve cognitive function by way of triggering dopamine.
Phosphatidylserine can be supplemented with doses of 100 mg taken 3 times a day. As it is taken throughout the day, making sure you have been supplementing it for at least a week will help you to see results and change your cognitive performance.
Testosterone is that well-known hormone that is responsible for sex drive, development of sex organs, as well as growth and development of the body. Why this hormone is important for soccer players rests in its role in building muscle, and driving an aggressive mood that is important in a soccer game.
The Internet is saturated with articles and studies that describe “the best” way to boost testosterone. Many of these methods include the purchase of expensive supplements that have little to no research backing their effectiveness. For this reason, I find it necessary to list only a few ways that testosterone can be boosted through the diet, and specifically for soccer players.
Zinc is an important micronutrient that plays a key role in the growth and repair of muscle tissue, energy production, and immune system function. This is all due to its place in testosterone production. It is easy to supplement zinc as it is found in most grocery stores. However, unnecessary zinc supplementation may lead to low HDL cholesterol and nutrient imbalances by interfering with the absorption of nutrients like iron and copper.
I go into depth into the importance of vitamin D in a separate post which you can look at here. For now, you need to know that vitamin D can naturally boost testosterone levels because of its role in testosterone production here. For now, you need to know that vitamin D can naturally boost testosterone levels because of its role in testosterone production.
This micronutrient is easy to supplement, and I definitely recommend it to any soccer player looking for a simple way to improve their physical health.
The Optimal Soccer Diet relies on a large intake of fat. While many people may be taken aback by this, the truth of the matter is that fats are essential to maintaining a healthy physiology. In fact, having high levels of fats and fatty acids in your system helps your body to produce more testosterone.
By simply increasing your intake of fish such as salmon, tilapia, and tuna, you can boost your testosterone levels, start building more muscle, and become more aggressive on the field.
Branched chain amino acids are important because our bodies do not produce them. Interestingly, studies have shown that supplementing BCAAs actually boosts testosterone. By simply adding these to your diet, or by eating whole-food meals in line with the Optimal Soccer Diet, you can easily get these BCAAs into your system and boost your testosterone naturally.
Cortisol is a hormone many are familiar with due to its relationship to stress. Specifically, it is an adrenal hormone that is really important for your body’s maintenance of homeostasis. Also known as “the stress hormone,” regulates your body’s blood sugar levels, immune responses, anti-inflammatory actions, blood pressure, and central nervous system activation.
As you can tell, cortisol plays a crucial role in maintaining certain balances in the body, however too much of it can be a real hindrance to your performance as a soccer player.
Cortisol is triggered when the body is stressed. While stress is a natural occurrence, in this day and age it seems we put unnecessary amounts of stress on ourselves. While stress can be managed through a number of lifestyle hacks, we can also inhibit cortisol production by eating certain foods.
I’ve already gone over how fish oil is important in serotonin production. While fish oil not only boosts serotonin production, it also inhibits cortisol production.
For soccer players, this is important because you can knock out two birds with one stone. Not only can you boost serotonin, you can also reduce stress on your body by simply eating more fish.
Magnesium is a micronutrient that plays a role in cellular metabolism and hormonal functions. Specifically, magnesium can inhibit cortisol due to its role in regulating your nervous system.  Magnesium can be easily supplemented, and will help to boost your performance as a soccer player.
The last hormone on this list is insulin. Insulin is responsible for your body’s anabolic functions, specifically the intake of glucose. As soccer players, we need to make sure our bodies have plenty of glucose to use as energy, without dipping into excess. The best way to do this is to maintain healthy levels of insulin.
You can maintain healthy levels of insulin by regulating the amount of carbohydrates you ingest. Carbohydrates trigger insulin, but there are concerns regarding which carbohydrates you should be consuming.
The Optimal Soccer Diet addresses this question of carbohydrate intake. As a soccer player, your body needs carbohydrates to function and perform effectively. A regular person ought to consume 125 grams of carbohydrates a day, but due to the stress soccer players put on their bodies they need more. Moreover, the types of carbohydrates are important for soccer players. Nuts are a good source of carbs, but white rice and quinoa are also excellent sources of carbohydrates that should become part of your diet.
Hormone optimization is a way for soccer players to improve their performance without the strain of massive lifestyle changes. The foods involved with regulating these hormones bleed into each other and all of the foods listed in here are part of the Optimal Soccer Diet.
While it may not seem like drastic changes can be made simply by changing the diet, our bodies rely on these nutrients. What I’ve done here is given you examples of foods that contain the necessary nutrients for your body to regulate certain hormones in such a way that your performance as a soccer player will improve.
Like with many things, it will take time before you see results. Stick with the Optimal Soccer Diet, and you will see some impressive changes.
Thanks for taking the time to read through this. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to reach out in the comments section below, I would love to continue the conversation with you there.
Until next time,
Head Trainer at Optimal Soccer