In this position statement, published in the BJSM, a panel of experts from UEFA review the evidence relating to nutrition and elite football players. In addition to this review, they also provide expert opinion about how to practically apply this data in the field. The authors note that the last such statement was prepared more than a decade ago by FIFA and that much has changed since that document was published.
To prepare this document, UEFA has consulted with many experts from the game to provide insights on the current role and future direction of nutrition in football. In addition to including a large number of medical and scientific experts, the panel has also involved other stakeholders from within the game including high profile coach and current FIFA Chief of Global Football Development Arsène Wenger. A total of nine discrete topics have been identified and reviewed. These range from game day preparation to issues relating to different cultures and to players of different ages and sexes.
The UEFA group advocates an evidence-based approach to nutrition, and emphasises a ‘food first’ philosophy. This means that where possible players should be encouraged to prioritise food over supplements to meet their nutrient requirements. The statement also highlights the need to use the services of qualified professionals with nutrition-related undergraduate degrees, postgraduate qualifications in sport and exercise nutrition and other similar professional registrations.
One area that is frequent contentious, relates to the use of supplements. As part of the review the authors do identify a range of supplements that may provide some benefit to elite players and as a result may have some role in elite football. Alongside this potential benefit though, they they also emphasise the potential risks associated with supplement use, including the possibility of an adverse analytical finding. They highlight that there is potentially a significant downside with supplement use and tenuous performance gains. They conclude that where so much is at stake, often for little tangible return, the risks associated with supplements should be considered carefully before use.
This article is well worth a read. It is open source and readily available to download via the BJSM. To learn more about nutrition in football complete the nutrition module in the FIFA Diploma in Football Medicine.
1. Collins J, Maughan RJ, Gleeson M, et al UEFA expert group statement on nutrition in elite football. Current evidence to inform practical recommendations and guide future research British Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 23 October 2020. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2019-101961