By E-Perform | NUTRITION | June 3, 2022
The BEST Supplements for football: Ultimate Guide
Supplements for football
Have you ever asked yourself the question, do supplements actually work?, which supplements will help me improve my football? what supplements do premier league players take? or are there any specific supplements for football?
I remember when I was younger buying my first tub of whey protein and being so excited that I would finally be able to put on muscle …
But supplements go far beyond protein shakes and getting big arms.
There are a variety of supplements that claim to improve your speed and strength or that help you recover faster, claims which can be very attractive when looking for supplements for football.
To help you find out EXACTLY what does and doesn’t work and what is worth spending your money on we have written this article to give you that exact knowledge.
We will delve into what the science tells us about supplements for football, so you can be confident that you are not wasting time and money on supplements that don’t actually help you improve as a player.
We are here to help you.
We are active coaches working right now in the top of the game & we are not sponsored or endorsed by any company so you know you can rely on our knowledge being accurate, based upon science & impartial.
So, In this article, we will cover;
- What are supplements
- The main supplements for football for performance including;
- Caffeine for football
- Beta Alanine for football
- Nitrates for football
- Gels for football
- Supplements to help injuries from football
- Protein supplements for football
- In game supplements
- The risks of supplementation for football players
- How to minimise the risks of using supplements for football
Introduction to supplements for football
Instagram and Facebook have become the stomping ground for supplement companies trying to push their products by paying top players like Harry Kane to post an image of them with their energy drink or protein bar.
To the untrained eye, you might see your role model drinking that shake or using that energy gel and think that this is what you need to do.
The problem lies when people see these posts and buy the supplement without actually understanding its benefit on their football performance – if any!
There are a lot of misconceptions about supplements. But in this article we will be straight up with you.
There are many supplements being sold that don’t work, and there are only a small number of supplements that could actually benefit football players.
What’s more, the benefits you could gain from these products are marginal.
We firmly believe you will see far superior gains in your speed, shot accuracy, stamina and ultimately your performance just from eating and drinking well rather than adding in a caffeine shot before a workout.
It is our strong belief that a good foundation of food should always form the base of your diet before you even consider using supplements for football.
This is known as the food first philosophy we touched on in our previous blog which was your comprehensive guide to the footballers diet.
So let’s dig into what these supplements for football are and whether they are worth your hard earned cash and find out what are the best supplements for soccer players.
What is a supplement for football?
It is important you understand what exactly a supplement for football is.
Working in professional football, we follow the consensus statement for supplement use set out by the International Olympic Committee, which defines ‘dietary supplements’ as:
“A food, food component, nutrient, or non-food compound that is purposefully ingested in addition to the habitually consumed diet with the aim of achieving a specific health and/or performance benefit.”
In this article, we will cover the main supplements for football to improve performance and recover from injury.
Supplements for football to improve recovery
In this section we will look into specific supplements for football which will aid recovery from training and games.
Protein supplements for recovery
When it comes to recovering from a match or hard training session the supplement you may want to pay attention to above all others is protein.
Protein’s primary function is to repair and rebuild muscle which makes it the first place to look and excellent for helping speed up the recovery process ready for the next game or training session.
It is well researched you have a window of opportunity for approximately 20 minutes after stopping exercise that protein can be absorbed and utilised most effectively . Which means that immediately post exercise it is really important to get that protein onboard as fast as possible.
This is where protein supplements come in.
Due to their simple and easy way of consuming the correct amount of protein, a quick protein shake is the simple way to get the right nutrients into the body at the most important time.
Protein supplements help rehab from injury
We know that protein is an essential part of muscle growth.
During injury, it’s likely that you will be on the pitch less than a usual week, and the intensity of your training will decrease. In the worst case, you might be bedbound.
In these situations, we recommend that players increase their protein intake to 2-2.5g per kg of body mass to reduce the rate of muscle loss during periods of inactivity.
Whilst not necessary, protein supplements for football can be a helpful tool to help you reach this target where protein demands are higher and total calorie intake may be reduced.
If protein is something you are considering, here are a couple of good providers which we believe stock some of the best protein powder for football players.
7 Supplements for football to help improve performance
Supplements used to improve performance are called ‘ergogenic aids’ since these supplements can have ergogenic or ‘performance enhancing’ effects.
Below are the supplements for football which have been researched the most and we believe have the most proven benefits for football.
Caffeine for football performance
Tea, coffee, fizzy drinks.
Caffeine is found in many foods and drinks we consume on a day-to-day basis.
However, caffeine has been shown to be a useful supplement to improve exercise performance for athletes. Below we explore whether caffeine could be a good option to supplement for football.
Is caffeine a good before football?
Caffeine is a stimulant that can enhance endurance capacity, such as exercise time to fatigue, repeated sprint performance, and cognitive function.
Positive effects from caffeine ingestion have been shown to directly improve football-related abilities and skills, such as vertical jump height, repeated sprint ability, running distances during a game and passing accuracy.
The answer is therefore, yes. When correctly taken caffeine can be good before football and therefore is a good supplement for football, specifically it could be one of the best pre game supplements.
Below we look at how to take caffeine to be most effective for your football performance.
How does caffeine work to help football performance?
Caffeine improves exercise performance primarily via antagonism of adenosine receptors in the central nervous system, leading to increased neurotransmitter release, improved motor firing, and pain suppression.
In simple terms this means it can speed up your reactions, speed up your ability for your muscles to fire, reduce symptoms or feelings of fatigue.
How to use caffeine as a supplement for football?
Aim to consume 3-6mg of caffeine per kg of body mass ~60 min prior to exercise from powder or liquid forms, or lower doses (<3mg per kg of body mass) both before and at half-time with a carbohydrate source.
Gum varieties of caffeine are fast releasing, so they should be consumed within 30 minutes before training or games.
Further considerations for using caffeine for football
- Players can respond differently to caffeine (both positive and negative). Trial caffeine use in training to determine whether you experience any adverse side effects, such as nausea, anxiety, insomnia and restlessness.
- Caffeine can have a disruptive effect on your sleep, which could impair recovery and subsequent football performance. Therefore, we recommend you avoid ingesting caffeine 6-8 hours before going to bed.
In conclusion we believe that caffeine could be one of the best pre game supplements and an effective supplements for football with some good positive performance benefits.
As with all supplements for football please read all product recommendations and speak to a nutritionist or dietitian before taking any type of supplements for football.
Creatine for football players
Is creatine good for football players?
Creatine is arguably the most researched supplement available to athletes.
Creatine is a protein made naturally in the body in small amounts.
As one of the most widely researched supplements we are confident to say creatine, when taken properly, can be good for footballers.
The benefits of supplementation with creatine are that it increases our bodies muscle creatine stores, increasing the resynthesis or production of phosphocreatine, used to create energy for exercise.
Supplementation of creatine has been shown consistently to improve high-intensity exercise performance, such as repeated sprints, leading to training adaptations such as increased muscle strength and power and lean body mass.
These effects have been correlated with improved anaerobic performance (Eg. increased sprint speed) in football players.
To learn how to best consume creatine for football, continue reading below…
How to take creatine for football performance?
We have creatine stores in the body which are around 80% full through diet alone.
Supplementation increase creatine stores up to 100% if done correctly.
This does not happen overnight and requires a loading stage, followed by a maintenance stage:
- Loading phase: ~20 g/day (divided into four equal daily doses), for 5–7 days.
- Maintenance phase: 3–5 g/day (single dose) for the duration of the supplementation period.
Further considerations for using creatine as a supplements for football
- Creatine is safe to use but can cause water retention in the muscles, which has been shown to increase body mass by 1-2kg after loading.
- Players looking to avoid water retention may consider a loading phase using a lower dose (2-5g per day) for ~4-6 weeks.
- Ensure you purchase ‘creatine monohydrate’, since other forms of creatine (Eg. creatine HCl or creatine Ethyl Ester) do not have nearly the same scientific backing and are often more expensive!
In conclusion we believe creatine can be an effective supplements for football. Its benefits are widely researched and when used correctly it can have positive performance benefits. Please consult a nutritionist, medical practitioner or dietitian before considering to use creatine. We also do not advice its use for under 18s.
Beta alanine supplement for football
Beta alanine is often found in pre-workout drinks alongside a long list of under researched stimulants.
However, studied in isolation, beta-alanine is safe and effective for athletes.
Is beta alanine good for football?
Beta-alanine supplementation has been shown to improve high-intensity exercise and repeated sprint performance and enhance training capacity – all key factors during matches!
During high-intensity exercise, lactic acid is built up in our muscles, increasing fatigue. You will have experienced this if you have cramped up during a match.
Supplementation with beta-alanine produces carnosine, which can delay the onset of lactic acid build-up and fatigue.
Therefore beta alanine when used properly can be good for football performance.
How to use beta alanine as a supplement for football?
To make the supplement most effective, aim to consume ~65 mg per kg of body mass, ingested via a split-dose regimen (Ie. 0.8–1.6 g every 3–4 hours) to give up to 6.4g per day over an extended supplement time frame of 10–12 weeks.
- Use of beta-alanine in large doses can cause paraesthesia (itching of the skin), which is why we recommend ingesting beta-alanine in equal smaller doses throughout the day.
- More research is required to assess the effects of beta-alanine supplementation >12 weeks. Therefore, we recommend periodising beta-alanine during competitive parts of your season or in the lead up to tournament play for durations of no longer than 12 weeks.
In conclusion we believe Beta Alanine can be an effective supplements for football.
Its benefits are widely researched and when used correctly it can have positive performance benefits. Please consult a nutritionist, medical practitioner or dietitian before considering to use creatine. We also do not advice its use for under 18s.
Nitrates supplement for football
Nitrates are found naturally in leafy green and root vegetables, such as spinach, rocket salad, celery, and beetroot.
How can nitrates help football performance?
Nitrates have been shown to improve the performance of high-intensity, intermittent, short-duration exercise, such as sprints and high speed changes of direction. These results have emerged primarily from studies on beetroot juice as a source of nitrates.
The proposed mechanisms explaining these benefits include the dilation of blood vessels to increase blood flow in the delivery of oxygen to the working muscle, increased efficiency of mitochondrial respiration and an enhanced function of type II muscle fibres.
How to use beetroot juice or nitrates for football performance?
Aim to consume 5-9 nmol (310-560 mg) of nitrates 2-3 hours before exercise.
- Some individuals may experience gastrointestinal upset from nitrate supplementation (Ie. nausea, anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness) and should therefore be thoroughly trialled in training.
- Performance gains from nitrate supplementation have been shown to be harder to obtain in highly trained athletes. For these individuals, we recommend supplementing with nitrates for >3 days before exercise.
In conclusion as a supplements for football nitrates can have positive performance benefits for football players. Please consult a nutritionist, medical practitioner or dietitian before considering to use creatine. We also do not advice its use for under 18s.
Supplements for football (Energy Gels, Bars & Sports Drinks)
Gels, bars, and sports drinks are often ingested in addition to your pre-match meal or before training sessions as an additional source of carbohydrates.
The main ingredient of these products is carbohydrates with the intention of giving you energy.
However, these products can contain caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine, or nitrates, so it is important that you read the ingredients to ensure you are not over consuming one of these ingredients before a game (Ie. having caffeine from a gel and from caffeine gum).
When using carbohydrate supplements for football, aim to consume 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour of exercise (including warm-up):
Conclusion for performance supplements for football
We have broken down the 7 most common performance supplements for football.
Any ergogenic supplements not mentioned above in our opinion and looking at all the scientific research will likely NOT improve your performance, or there is NOT ENOUGH SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH supporting its performance enhancing effects for it to be implemented in a players’ nutrition plan.
Therefore we only recommend supplements from the 7 supplements above.
Now let’s delve into supplements that could speed up recovery from injury to get you back on the pitch ASAP!
Supplements for football injuries
Collagen as a supplement for football
Collagen is an emerging supplement that has established itself as a useful supplement for athletes recovering from joint injuries and surgery or to support ligament and tendon repair.
How does collagen in football work?
Collagen is a protein that contains the amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline, which form the structure of our tendons, ligaments, bone, and cartilage.
Supplementation of collagen can provide extra sources of these amino acids, which has recently been proposed to contribute to the repair and regeneration of these tissues.
Research shows that injuries to the knee or ankle are some of the most common in football players. These injuries often involve damage to the tendons, bones, ligaments, or cartilage (Eg. to the ACL). Thus, collagen supplementation could be beneficial to football players sustaining these types of injuries.
How to use collagen as a supplements for football?
Aim to consume 15g of collagen from gelatine or hydrolysed collagen one hour before exercise or rehab enriched with 50mg of Vitamin C.
Here are some example recipes and supplements which we recommend:
- Ensure you supplement collagen alongside vitamin C for optimal recovery.
- Take a read of this great article by Dr James Morehen’s on recovery from an ACL injury which delves into his own experience using supplementing collagen to improve recovery.
Using Supplements during a football match
We have covered the different supplements that could benefit the football player. Let’s turn our heads to how you could implement these during game day.
For matches it is all about fueling. Check out our article on carbohydrate loading for football and match day pre football meal when we go into more detail on how to specifically fuel for match days.
As a quick reference point check out the infographic below to see how we recommend to fuel during a game with the use of supplements such as football energy gels.
Below is an example of how a football player may use supplements before and during a game:
Test in training!
Please save the above image and use it as a guide!, However, before you do, we strongly advice that you test and trial the use of supplements and figure out your own supplement plan in training first to make sure they sit well on your stomach whilst exercising.
The use of supplements like carbohydrate gels and caffeine can cause stomach discomfort for some players, preventing you from playing at your best.
Put it this way, you don’t want to do a Gary Lineker and get caught short in the middle of a match! If in doubt, seek guidance from a qualified performance nutritionist or dietitian.
Risk of using supplements for football
You often see reports on the news of players being banned for anti-doping violations. But what is doping, and how can you avoid it?
Think of doping as players cheating by using banned supplements or substances to make them faster, stronger or fitter.
Doping occurs when a player takes a prohibited substance or uses prohibited methods to improve performance.
Unfortunately, there is a risk whenever you use a supplement that it could contain trace amounts of a prohibited substance, such that could stitch you up with a heavy fine, or at worst, a ban from playing football altogether, even if you did not know you were consuming that prohibited substance.
Minimising the risk of a ban when using supplements for football
In order to minimise this risk of a ban in the UK, we strongly recommend that you only buy supplements that are Informed Sport tested.
The Informed Sport logo highlights that a product has been tested for banned substances, minimising your chances of an anti-doping violation.
Use the search bar on the Informed Sport website to find the supplements you are after:
Whilst these products might cost a couple of extra couple of pounds, if you are currently playing or planning to compete at a high level, using Informed Sport tested supplements could be the difference between getting a ban from football or avoiding one – better to be safe than sorry!
On top of this, we recommend that you keep a record of the batch number on the packaging of each supplement you consume.
In the unfortunate case that you provide a drug test sample that inadvertently contains a banned substance(s), batch numbers can be used to locate the banned substance from the manufacturer’s product, which can be used as proof that you were not intentionally doping – again, better safe than sorry!
If you are reading this and you live outside of the UK, check that your supplements have been tested for contaminants from a similar quality assurance program in your country. If in doubt, seek advice from a qualified performance nutritionist or dietitian.
Summary on supplements for football
- A Food first philosophy – food should always form the base of your diet before you even consider using supplements. Then, supplements can be considered, but only then!
- If looking to purchase a supplement, ensure you understand what you are buying and the performance benefit you want to gain from using it.
- Take caution on social media – just because a player gets paid to promote a supplement does not mean that you should be using that supplement.
- Ensure you test supplements in training to ensure you are gaining benefit from them and experiencing no adverse gut issues (Eg. bloating, nausea) at a given dose.
- If you are looking to purchase a supplement, ensure the product is Informed Sport tested using the Informed Sport search bar on their website, or look for products with the Informed Sport logo.
- Keep a note of the batch number of each supplement you use as backup if you inadvertently test positive on a drugs test.
- If you are not confident with any of the above steps, ensure you seek supplement advice from a qualified performance nutritionist or dietitian.
Download your FREE 7-day meal plan to maximise your football performance RIGHT NOW! We have put together an example of the type of meals professional players we work with might consume in a typical match week – Download it here.
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