What Soccer Players Need to Know About Protein and Supplements

What Soccer Players Need to Know About Protein and Supplements

While protein is probably the least debated macronutrient out of all of them, there’s still some worries about the best sources to get protein for soccer players. Should we be eating lean protein? Can soccer players have whey protein shakes?

In this article, I cover not only where you should be getting your protein from, but also what it does for your body and why it is so important.

What is protein?

Protein is a macronutrient that breaks down into amino acids. Amino acids are used for tons of things in the human body, and getting the right kind and amounts are extremely important for athletes. The most important amino acids for us to consider are the essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are the amino acids that cannot be synthesized by our bodies, which means that we need to get them from food. It is possible to mix and match foods to get all of our essential amino acids, or we can look for a complete protein, which is a source of protein that contains an adequate proportion of all 9 essential amino acids in the correct proportions.

The best complete proteins are:

  • Red Meat – grass-fed and organic
  • Fish – wild caught and organic
  • Poultry  – free range and organic
  • Eggs – organic and from free rang poultry
  • Full-Fat Dairy – However, this depends on certain factors, such as lactose tolerance, and it needs an entire article to be covered.

Now although animal foods are not the only way to get protein in your diet, they are the best. Plant proteins tend to have less of one or more amino acids. Foods such as beans and quinoa are complete proteins, they are mostly carbohydrates, and shouldn’t be sought for their protein content when there are much more potent sources.

What do Amino Acids do?

Amino acids are necessary for the basic functions of our bodies. Everything from producing neurotransmitters to building and maintaining muscle need amino acids. These two subjects, specifically the neurotransmitter dopamine, and building and maintaining muscle are particularly interesting for soccer players, and we’ll look at why protein intake is important for both of them.

Protein and Dopamine

Dopamine, as most people have heard it called, is the happiness chemical, but dopamine doesn’t simply make you blissful. Dopamine is in charge of the basic, primal emotions that make us successful, happy people. When are dopamine levels are high, we are energetic, driven and have a feeling of purpose. It’s also not surprising that dopamine plays a big role in our sex drives. When you wake up in the morning with a feeling of making the most out of your day, that is dopamine surging through your brain.

Just through describing dopamine, we can see it’s importance when it comes to soccer players. Waking up everyday motivated to practice your hardest, run extra sprints, spend time after practice shooting is essential for reaching your potential, and dopamine plays a major role in this. When our bodies run out of dopamine, yet we continue to push ourselves, our body begins to burn cortisol in it’s place. Cortisol is a hormone that is stressful on your system, and chronic stress leads to lower energy, slower muscle recovery and just a poor performance overall.

Things to avoid that decrease dopamine are:

  • Low nutrient food, such as sugar and simple, processed carbohydrates.
    • Eating foods that trigger a sense of satisfaction, but don’t have the amino acids, phenylalanine and tyrosine (the amino acids most important for dopamine production), your body surges with dopamine, BUT does not get the amino acids needed to replace the storages.
  • Chronic use of illicit drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.
    • Obviously drugs wreak tons of havoc on our bodies, but they are not alone. Illicit drugs, alcohol and cigarettes flood our body with dopamine, and using these substance often causes our body to become dependent on them for dopamine supply, and thus makes less dopamine itself.

The simplest way to avoid a dopamine shortage in your body is to simply eat complete proteins with every meal. This will provide your body with the necessary amounts of phenylalanine and tyrosine so it can produce dopamine on its own.

Protein and Muscles

Protein and its necessity for muscle growth is well known within the sports world, so I won’t need to go into too much depth with it. Basically, when you workout hard, you create micro tears in your muscles, and your body needs a necessary supply of up to 21 different amino acids for creating the proteins that your muscles are made out of so that it can repair the muscle stronger than it was before. So, your body is able to produce some of those amino acids, but not the essential amino acids, which is where your diet comes in. A lack of any of the necessary amino acids for protein synthesis (muscle building) creates a limitation to how much your body can repair your muscle. This means that if you are working out, you need amino acids from food not only to recover, but to grow bigger muscles.

How much Protein Should I be Eating?

The most simple and actually accurate way to determine how much protein your should be eating is by multiplying your ideal body weight (in pounds) by 1.5, which will give you the amount of grams you should be eating. This works for gaining, losing and maintaining weight, since you are basing it off of your ideal weight, which is most likely your playing weight. So for example, for a 175 lb person, they would multiply 175 by 1.5 to get 262.2 grams of protein per day.

Best Protein for Soccer Players

Real, Whole Foods

Whenever possible, try to get your quota for protein through real, natural, complete protein foods. These are the best sources of protein, since they are easily digestible and they are packed with other nutrients that are extremely important for your body. Also, they tend to be delicious. Here is the list from above again, because it’s that important for your diet.

  • Red Meat – grass-fed and organic
  • Fish – wild caught and organic
  • Poultry  – free range and organic
  • Eggs – organic and from free rang poultry
  • Full-Fat Dairy – However, this depends on certain factors, such as lactose tolerance, and it needs an entire article to be covered.

When it comes to getting organic, naturally raised animal meat, I know it is difficult and expensive. However, U.S. Wellness Meats is a great option if you would like to make the effort to go organic. I recommend it for players who live with other soccer players and have a big freezer. They deliver your meat to you in refrigerator trucks and are great for buying in bulk.

Best Protein powder for soccer players

Protein shakes should be used when needed, but should not replace the protein from real food in your diet. This is because the real foods are packed full of nutrients beyond protein, unlike protein shakes. Protein shakes are great in a pinch when you need to get your daily protein in, but are running around all day and don’t have time to sit down and eat a real meal (as is the case with a lot of soccer players). I recommend using whey protein isolate when it comes to your protein shakes simply because it is the most easily digested protein shake there is, since it is from milk protein. However, and luckily, to make whey protein isolate, about 99% of the lactose is removed, unlike regular whey protein. The difference, beyond lactose, between whey protein isolate and whey protein, is that whey protein isolate has less carbohydrates than whey protein. 

If whey in general is not an option for you, rice protein has been shown to be just as effective when taken at doses of 48 grams. The 48 grams is important, because below 48 grams of rice protein, it doesn’t supply enough of the amino acid leucine, as does whey protein isolate.

Recovering Faster with BCAA’s

BCAAs stands for Branched Chain Amino Acids, and are amino acids with a branched side chain. While they are protein, they are amino acids and I thought should be touched on in this article. BCAAs simple are a great add to someones diet. They don’t provide calories for your body, but the side chain on the amino acids makes converting them into energy much easier for your body. The more BCAAs in your muscles during a workout, practice or game, the slower your muscle cells break down your muscle fibre. This means your muscles do not get micro tears as easily. However, the stimulation from the workout is the same, and causes the same muscle repairing response from your body.

In short, BCAAs are a way to prevent muscle breakdown during a game, but since they don’t provide any calories, you don’t feel full after taking them in pill form or in a powder. So you can take BCAAs before a game, and feel less sore afterwards. Also, BCAAs have been shown to increase muscle mass when taken in combination with protein powders after lifting. I recommend taking 10 grams before practice, workouts or games. 

For collegiate soccer players, it is illegal for your school to provide you with protein shakes and BCAAs. However, it is not illegal for you to get them on your own and take them.


So to quickly summarize what I’ve covered here, you need protein in your diet. It plays a necessary role in daily body functions, dopamine production and muscle building. To determine how many grams protein you should be eating, multiply your weight in pounds by 1.5.The best places to get protein are from whole foods, such as animal meat and eggs. If necessary, protein shakes could be used, and I recommend this one. And lastly BCAAs are an awesome add for muscle recovery and muscle building.

Thanks for reading through this. If you have any questions, don’t forget to leave a comment. I’ll be happy to respond and participate in any conversations you would like to get going.

Until next time,

Casey Ames


Source: https://optimalsoccer.com

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