Professional soccer players put their bodies through intense physical activity, leading to high levels of sweat loss during the season. Proper hydration is crucial for players’ physiological capacity to compete and recover from training and matches. Even moderate dehydration, defined as a 2% loss in body weight, has been linked to negative impacts on physiological function and performance. This can manifest in an increased exercise heart rate, higher plasma osmolality, lower blood flow to the skin, and a higher core temperature. However, adequate hydration can prevent these negative effects.
Carbohydrate intake has also been shown to improve running performance, sprint performance, agility, and other skill performance measurements. Studies have measured nutrition habits in elite soccer players and reported sweat rates, but data in this area is scarce, particularly in training settings.A recent study sought to explore these issues in the men’s first team of FC Barcelona, a Spanish first division team.
The players’ sweat response and voluntary fluid and carbohydrate intake were recorded during four training sessions, held under different conditions: cool and low intensity, cool and high intensity, warm and low intensity, and warm and high intensity. The training sessions were chosen to represent a range of temperatures and intensities.
On average, the players experienced a reduction in body mass that correlated with intensity and heat stress. However, there were significant individual differences. Intensity appeared to be a slightly more important factor than temperature in these ranges.
One notable finding was that the players were able to adequately adjust their fluid intake to prevent more than a 2% loss in body weight. No player lost more than 2% of their body weight. This suggests that, with sufficient breaks and access to hydration, players will drink enough to prevent dehydration that could impact performance. It is worth noting that the training sessions used in this study were “typical,” and it is possible that longer sessions may produce different results.
Carbohydrate ingestion was low and did not vary between conditions. There was also a wide range in the rate of ingestion among individual players. Studies have suggested that carbohydrate intake of around 60g/h can lead to improvements in running and skill performance. The intakes observed in this study were considerably lower. For lower intensity sessions, or sessions where skill performance is a focus, higher carbohydrate intake may be beneficial.
There was a correlation between sweat loss and fluid intake, with players who sweat more tending to drink more. This suggests that players are able to adjust their hydration habits based on their sweat loss.
Overall, this study highlights the importance of proper hydration and nutrition in professional soccer. While the players in this study were able to prevent significant dehydration, there may be room for improvement in their carbohydrate intake. Further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between hydration, nutrition, and performance in soccer.