pro footballer fearing glycogen depletion

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 13, 2012 at 10:16 PM

Hi all!

I'm a pro footballer (soccer) in Australia and have been Paleo for approximately 3 months now. Am as lean as ever, fit as ever and enjoying the lifestyle in combination with my training. I have one problem though. I still have a fear of being glycogen depleted going into matches as obviously football is an extremely glycogen depleting activity, especially at a pro level and I'm afraid of crashing late in games and my repeated sprint ability decreasing. Thus, in the lead up to games I turn to my old ways and consume grains/pasta/rice etc.

Can anyone put my mind at ease or tell me if their are any other ways to fuel glycolitic activity?

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6 Answers



on January 14, 2012
at 12:52 AM

Hey fellow soccer player. I played soccer the last 4 months of last year on a VLC, extremely high fat diet, and although I felt great at first I soon crashed and ran into various hormonal, sleep, and libido problems. I suggest you switch to a high carb version of the paleo diet, similar to the Kitavan way of eating. Remember, Paleo doesn't necessarily have to be high fat low carb.

Try to get most of your carbs from sweet potatoes, white potatoes, yucca, taro, green plantains, bananas, tapioca, chestnuts and fruit. The fructose in fruit won't do much because as soccer players we are constantly depleting our liver glycogen. Soccer is a highly glycogen depleting sport and you are going to need carbs whether you like it or not! Just stick with the safer sources of carbohydrates.

If you find you have issues with a high carbohydrate diet, than you should only consume carbohydrates around practice, and eat high fat the rest of the day. Many people find their insulin sensitivity greatly increases the more carbohydrate they consume.



on January 13, 2012
at 10:23 PM

Potatoes and white rice would be your best choices. Strong preference for potatoes of the two. Even though white rice is not paleo it is the better of the other items listed.



on January 13, 2012
at 11:03 PM

The good part is that by training while depleted, you'll increase your endurance and make 'crashing' less likely. However you still want to maximise performance on match day. Obviously daily training and regular professional feats of athleticism aren't exactly paleo, but there's a range of compromises available. So in your situation there's nothing particularly non-paleo about carb-loading before the big event, you just want to try and stick to better carbs.

First off the list should be gluten-containing grains. The only reason to eat these is the convenience of the established wheat industry, but they're really not worth it for your health. Other grains have a lesser negative impact on your nutritional absorption, but you probably don't need to worry too much about the hormonal effect in the condition you're in. So the big hitters that are best value are rice and potatoes. Other veg as well can do the job. Try to build up your stores over the 24 hours before the game rather than binging it all at once. Fully loaded, you should be capable of storing in excess of 2500 calories worth of glycogen - you're unlikely to run out in the space of a game if you start off on full. Have a glucose/dextrose drink on the touchline should ensure that's not your limiting factor.

I can go for days working out and not eating anything at all and still be able to sprint, so it's well worth exploring your limits in the off-season. But there's little reason not to get some carbs in before a game. 3 cups of rice a meal for 3 meals could pretty much max you out. For recovery you probably want to eat some paleo carbs after the game as well, so you're unlikely to ever be fully depleted coming in to the next one - so you'd probably be surprised at how few carbs you need to be in top condition for the match. But concentrate on just eating the better carb sources first, and then see how you do with a one meal with rice, and one with potatoes, along with some glucose drink during the game. I'd be surprised if that wasn't more than enough.



on January 14, 2012
at 02:05 AM

I did recently read about this subject. That Paleo Guy MDA Plus elsewhere that I don't recall atm.The result was that you can achieve great results if you carbo load the day before a match. You need not have a high carb diet at all times and it is actually beneficial to train low some of the time. Also it is important not to wait until the day of the match to ingest your carbs.



on January 13, 2012
at 10:43 PM

Do you have all the Gatoraide type drinks during your games like the pros in the US do? I'm kind of wondering how that works out for Paleo low carb athletes, since I don't know that they have regular water at the sidelines.


on January 13, 2012
at 10:42 PM

Yuri Elkaim .. has a program on footbal and nutrition. actually he promotes a high plant based diet.

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