Sunday, 14 Apr 2024

Nutrition Tactics for Soccer Players: Building Muscles for Power and Strength

does playing soccer build muscle

It’s September, and soccer players are all yearning for more power on the field. Strong muscles not only enhance performance but also prevent injuries. So, what’s the secret to building muscle mass? Let’s explore some powerful nutrition tactics to help you accomplish just that.

Protein Needs: Finding the Sweet Spot

Research from 49 studies suggests that consuming around 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight (or 1.6 grams per kilogram) per day is associated with the greatest gains in muscle mass. Additional protein intake beyond this threshold is unlikely to offer further benefits. So, there’s no need to overload your plate with excessive amounts of chicken breasts.

Extra Calories: A Balancing Act

Building new muscle mass requires extra fuel. However, consuming excessive calories, even from protein, can lead to fat gain rather than muscle growth. Studies have shown that weight-trained subjects who ate extra protein but not extra calories gained only about 2.5 pounds (1.1 kilograms) of new muscle. Genetics also play a significant role in one’s ability to add muscle mass.

To strike the right balance, aim to add approximately 350 to 475 calories per day for a 150-pound athlete. However, keep in mind that individual factors, such as energy expenditure, metabolism, and muscle glycogen storage, can influence calorie needs. Consult with a professional to determine a more precise recommendation tailored to your specific circumstances.

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Source of Additional Calories: The Role of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for weightlifting, making them a crucial part of your nutrition plan. Consuming about 2 to 3 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight (or 4-7 grams per kilogram) each day is recommended for strength-training athletes. This means a 150-pound soccer player who also lifts weights should target at least 450 grams of carbohydrates per day.

Don’t neglect dietary fats either. Aim to meet the health guidelines of 20-35% of total energy intake from fat. Include health-promoting sources like nuts, peanut butter, avocado, salmon, and olive oil in your diet. Avoiding fats altogether can negatively impact testosterone levels, undermining your muscle-building efforts.

Best Sources of Protein: It’s All About Leucine

Protein is the key to muscle synthesis, with the amino acid leucine playing a crucial role in triggering muscle growth. Animal proteins contain higher leucine content compared to plant-based protein sources. For optimal muscle synthesis, aim for about 2.5 to 3 grams of leucine per meal.

While protein shakes, bars, and powders are popular options, natural sources of protein can be more effective at building muscle due to their additional muscle growth factors. So, prioritize whole foods over processed protein products.

Youth Soccer Nutrition

When to Eat: Timing Is Everything

To promote muscle mass and minimize fat gain, it’s recommended to front-load your calories and distribute your protein intake throughout the day. Pair protein with carbohydrates, especially during long workouts. For example, consider options like eggs and toast, a turkey-cheese sandwich, or beans, rice, and cheese. Spread your meals with approximately 0.15 grams of protein per pound of body weight every 3 to 5 hours.

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On rest days, ensure a positive energy balance to aid in glycogen replenishment. Plan your meals strategically to optimize muscle recovery and growth.


Q: Is eating extra protein enough to build muscle?

A: While protein is essential, resistance exercise, such as weightlifting, is far more impactful in building muscle mass.

Q: Can soccer players slightly redesign their bodies with nutrition?

A: Proper nutrition can support muscle growth; however, it’s important to set realistic expectations. Perception of being “under-muscled” doesn’t necessarily mean ineffective. Building muscle should enhance performance without compromising speed.


Building muscle mass is a common goal for soccer players seeking to boost power and strength. By following smart nutrition tactics, such as meeting optimal protein needs, balancing calorie intake, prioritizing carbohydrates, and timing your meals strategically, you can optimize muscle growth while minimizing fat gain. Remember, each player is unique, so consult with professionals for personalized advice. Eat well, train smart, and achieve your goals on the field!


  1. Slater G et al. Is an energy surplus required to maximize skeletal muscle hypertrophy associated with resistance training? Front Nutr (2019), 6:131
  2. Morton R et al. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med. (2018) 52:376-84
  3. Bouchard C et al. The response to long-term overfeeding in identical twins. N Engl J Med. (1990) 322:1477-82

Image Source: Does Playing Soccer Build Muscle?

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