Essentials For Better Recovery And Regeneration

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Demands of modern football are high. You already know you have to train regularly to meet its demands and consequently be competent in a game played by more than 265 million people worldwide. However, training is just one part of a story.

A footballer can’t be in a top condition without having sufficient recovery and regeneration. Recovering from the stress of the work is the second and the same important part of football conditioning. And it`s a double-edged sword – it certainly has its perks but it has to be done proper way. Here is how.


1. Nutrition can boost your performance

To reach full playing potential your body needs energy. Energy is supplied in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and there are three systems that provide energy for your football performance:

  1. ATP-CP
  2. Anaerobic glycolytic
  3. Aerobic


Around 70 % of energy in football is produced by aerobic energy system where ATP is produced from glucose, glycogen, fat and protein in the presence of oxygen. Approximately 15 % of energy comes from ATP-CP and anaerobic glycolytic energy system separately. ATP-CP energy system uses creatine phosphate stored in muscle to enable you to repeat bouts of up to 10-second burst in the absence of oxygen and anaerobic glycolytic energy system uses glycogen stored in the muscle and glucose in the blood.


For the optimal functional performance of all three energy systems obviously the most important part is proper training. However, making quality training is highly dependent on food you intake. Inadequate diet for the type of training won`t bring you desired outcome. Playing football uses about 8 kilocalories (kcal) per kilogram per hour. Therefore, nutrition demands for football players can be twice as big as for people who do not exercise (4000-5000 kcal).


2. How many macronutrients do you need to intake?

The major nutrients are protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. Macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) are the main source of energy. There are 4 calories in one gram of protein and carbohydrates and 9 calories in one gram of fat. Daily ranges of macronutrients for athletes differs among athletes because of their body weight, competition cycles, the position played etc.


Table 1: Daily ranges of macronutrients

Macronutrient g/kg of body weight
Protein 1.2-2.4
Fat 1-3
Carbohydrate 3-19


The first hour after playing football is the most efficient in absorbing the needed carbohydrates. The ratio between carbohydrates and proteins should be 4:1. The human body needs 24-36 hours to restore its glycogen reserve. And don’t forget that your body also needs a higher rate of vitamins and minerals when you are training hard. Make food available in the dressing room.


3. Should you drink water or sports drinks?

Hydration is just as important. A fluid loss of 2 % of body weight can significantly reduce exercise performance. The process of fluid substitution begins before an activity and it continues between and after it. If your training lasts less than an hour drinking pure water is enough, for longer exertions and extreme weather conditions you should use sports drink to restore minerals, vitamins and energy.


Hydration timeline:

  • 4 hours before training or football match 2.7 to 6.6 ml of sports drink/water per kg
  • 2 hours before training or football match 2.7 to 4.7 ml of sports drink/water per kg
  • 15-30 minutes before training or football match 200 ml of sports drink/water
  • if training lasts less than half an hour it is not necessarily intaking any fluid
  • 30 to 60 minutes after training or football match 1.5 L for every kg of body weight loss


Although water is the major constituent of the human body, drinking too much water is not recommended. A common inconvenience in a sports field is hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is a low sodium concentration in the blood and it can be caused by drinking too much water. Remember tips written above to avoid it and use your own thirst mechanism for fluid intake.


You can also use a urine color chart to determine your hydration status. Darker colors represent you are dehydrated and lighter colors represent good hydration (note that some food can affect the color of your urine).


4. Get enough sleep

Passive rest is probably the most known type of recovery after a training. Lack of sleep is not only associated with injury risk, it is also associated with the reduction in time to exhaustion. Two states you need to avoid in a big circle. One of the mechanisms for these two consequences may be growth hormone (GH). How does it work? GH is critical for the health. It provides energy for the muscles because it creates an environment for easier transport of amino acids through a cell membrane. It is important to remember that GH has its own daily cycle of secretion. Its secretion is the highest in the night time. Therefore, on a long term dysfunctional sleeping pattern is the very negative thing for your football performance mainly because your muscles won`t be able to regenerate. Sadly, they will regress. It is recommended to go to bed at 10pm and sleep for 8 hours otherwise a “sleep debt” can occur. A short daily nap can help you get over “sleep debts” but it won`t boost secretion of GH.


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5. Regeneration types of training

An active rest where you use low impact exercises and low intensities is another option for faster recovery. The volume of this type of training should be low, so 20-40 minutes of easy exercise is more than enough. Walking, jogging, stretching, light body weight and relaxation exercises are the best options. Avoid all kinds of plyometric drills – jumps, hops, bounds. Use this regeneration type of training the same day up to six hours after last training or on the following day.


6. Sauna and exercise?

A hot setting in a sauna usually provides us good feelings. But it is really good for our bodies after a training? If you want to reduce oxidative stress induced by an exercise you can use a single Finnish sauna bath. Infrared sauna is also good for improving circulation and oxygenation of the cells and organs. But taking sauna bath with insufficient nutritional balance, especially insufficient fluid intake is destructive. Use tips for fluid intake written above in avoidance of consequences.


There are tons of other interesting methods for faster regeneration. You can also use massage, self-massage, foam rollers, hydrotherapy etc. And because the use of ice baths, cold pool, and cold showers is currently very popular topic in a field of recovery after an exercise we are going to share some pros and cons of it.


Remember: The rest and recovery period is the time when you progress. This is the time when adaptation occurs. Take time for proper rest.


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