Top Football Supplements to Enhance Performance - Get the Winning Edge

Proper nutrition is key for football players. Supplements like creatine, caffeine, β-alanine, and nitrate can enhance performance

Football players need proper nutrition to optimize their performance and support their health. Nutritional supplements can play a crucial role in achieving this. In this article, we will explore the benefits of some of the most commonly used ergogenic supplements in elite football.

What are Nutritional Supplements?

Nutritional supplements are products that can enhance the body's performance. In football, there are different types of supplements available, but we will focus on the most commonly used ones.

Which Supplements Work in Football?

While only a few dietary supplements may be effective in enhancing footballers' performance, it is important to test them during training to avoid any adverse side effects. The recommended supplements for football players are creatine, caffeine, β-alanine, and nitrate.


Creatine is a supplement that provides extra energy to the muscles during high-intensity exercise, such as sprinting. Vegetarians may benefit more from creatine since their diet contains less creatine. Taking too much creatine at once can lead to weight gain, but taking a smaller amount daily for a few weeks can help avoid this problem.


Caffeine is a substance that can enhance performance in a variety of exercise tasks. It helps players stay alert and concentrate better. Even small amounts of caffeine can improve performance without any negative effects. Caffeine in chewing gum is absorbed more quickly, making it an ideal choice for halftime.


Nitrate is found in beetroot, a vegetable that can help players exercise for longer. Drinking concentrated beetroot juice a few hours before a match can provide players with more energy. Drinking it daily for a longer period before a match can lead to better performance.


Buffers such as β-alanine can help muscles work for longer without getting tired. Taking buffers like β-alanine before a match can improve players' performance.

Match Day Nutrition

Eating the right amount of food before a match is critical, and players should take their supplements at the right time. Some supplements work better when taken at specific times, so it is essential to speak to a coach or nutritionist to determine what works best.

Risks of Contamination

Supplements are not regulated like medicine, so there is a chance they could be contaminated with banned substances. To avoid this, it is important to only use supplements from reputable companies that use third-party testing programs.


Supplements should only be used to meet specific performance, recovery, or health objectives. They are not a substitute for a healthy, well-balanced diet. Football players should only take supplements after consulting with a coach or nutritionist.


Nutritional supplements can help football players achieve their health and performance goals. By following the recommended guidelines and only using supplements from reputable sources, football players can gain the winning edge they need to succeed on the field.

Football players can benefit from good nutrition choices to support their health and performance, and nutritional supplements can play an important role in optimizing players' performance and recovery between matches. However, with hundreds of supplements available, it can be difficult to determine which ones are effective for football. In this article, we will explore the benefits of some of the most common ergogenic supplements used in elite football.

Benefits of Supplements for Football

Nutritional supplements have multiple potential benefits, including sports foods, ergogenic aids, and others to assist with immune support and health maintenance. This article will focus on the more common ergogenic supplements used to boost match-day performance in football.

Which Supplements Work in Football?

While only a small number of dietary supplements may be effective in improving footballers' performance, there is no guarantee that they will work for everyone. It is essential to test these supplements in training first before applying them in a match situation, to avoid any adverse side effects like gastrointestinal discomfort. The supplements recommended for use in the UEFA 2020 expert group position statement on nutrition in elite football were limited to creatine, caffeine, β-alanine, and nitrate.

Creatine and Football

Increasing dietary creatine can provide a greater energy store for rapid use during very high-intensity exercise, such as sprinting. Vegetarians may experience greater benefits as their diet contains very little creatine. The potential disadvantage of short-term creatine loading with 20 g/day for 5-7 days is a 1-2 kg body weight gain, but this can usually be avoided by ingesting 3-5 g/day for four weeks instead.

Caffeine and Football

Caffeine can improve performance in a variety of exercise tasks, probably via direct effects on muscle and the brain. There may be improvements in performance of tasks that require sustained alertness and concentration, and there is some evidence that caffeine use may improve skill and fine motor control. The effective dose is probably much smaller than previously thought, and benefits have been reported with doses as small as 100-200 mg, allowing players to gain benefits without some of the potential adverse effects of higher caffeine doses. Caffeine in chewing gum is absorbed more quickly than other forms and is a good choice for half-time.

Beetroot and Football

Beetroot is a good source of nitrate, which has been shown to reduce the oxygen cost of exercise and improve endurance performance. Drinking one or two 70 mL shots of concentrated beetroot juice 2-3 hours before kick-off can provide about 400-800 mg of nitrate. Drinking a daily dose for a longer period before a game may increase the chances of a positive performance effect.

Buffers and Football

β-alanine combines with histidine to form carnosine, which acts as a buffer to mop up acidity in the muscles during high-intensity efforts, delaying fatigue and improving performance. High doses of sodium bicarbonate taken in capsules with fluid 1-2 hours before matches could potentially enhance repeated sprint performance, but this is often ignored due to the high risk of gastrointestinal discomfort.

An Example of Match Day Nutrition for Football

The amounts and timing of supplements alongside normal meal and sport food-based macronutrient intakes need careful planning on match days. Nutrition supplements can be effective provided the dosage and timing of intake are appropriate, and the risks are understood. Combinations of supplements such as caffeine and nitrate could be more effective than a single ergogenic supplement.

Risks of Contamination

Supplements are not regulated in the same way as pharmaceuticals, which means that there is a risk of contamination with banned substances. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has a list of prohibited substances, and if a player tests positive for any of these substances, they can receive a lengthy ban from competition. Furthermore, if three or more players from the same team commit an anti-doping rule violation in the same competition period, the entire team may be disqualified from competition.

To minimize the risk of contamination, professional players are advised to use supplements from reputable companies that use third-party testing programs such as ‘Informed Sport.’ Although these programs cannot entirely eliminate the risk of contamination, they reduce the risk of a positive doping test.

Recommendations for Using Supplements in Football

Any nutritional program for a football player should be based on a ‘food first’ approach, with supplements used only to meet specific performance, recovery, or health objectives. Ergogenic supplements that work typically provide performance benefits in the range of 1-3%. However, it is important to note that ensuring glycogen stores are adequate and diets meet minimal needs for energy and essential nutrients can lead to substantially larger gains in performance (maybe up to 30%). Supplements should not be viewed as a substitute for a healthy, well-balanced diet.


Football players should be aware of the risks associated with supplement use and should take steps to minimize the likelihood of contamination. Professional players are advised to use supplements from reputable companies that use third-party testing programs, such as ‘Informed Sport.’ Supplements should be used only to meet specific performance, recovery, or health objectives and should be viewed as a complementary addition to a healthy, well-balanced diet. By following these recommendations, football players can safely and effectively use supplements to support their overall health and athletic performance.

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Scientific Reference
  1. Collins J, Maughan RJ, Gleeson M et al. 2021. UEFA expert group 2020 statement on nutrition in elite football. Current evidence to inform practical recommendations and guide future research. Br J Sports Med 55(8):453-455.
  2. Gleeson M. 2022. Nutrition for Top Performance in Football. Meyer & Meyer Sport. Maughan RJ, Burke LM, Dvorak J et al. 2018. IOC consensus statement: Dietary supplements and the high-performance athlete. Br J Sports Med 52(7):439-455.
  3. Peeling P, Binnie MJ, Goods PSR et al. 2018. Evidence-based supplements for the enhancement of athletic performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 28(2):178-187.
  4. Christensen PM, Shirai Y, Ritz C, and Nordsborg NB. 2017. Caffeine and bicarbonate for speed. A meta-analysis of legal supplements potential for improving intense endurance exercise performance. Front Physiol 8:240.
  5. Nyakayiru J, Jonvik KL, Trommelen J et al. 2017. Beetroot juice supplementation improves high-intensity intermittent type exercise performance in trained soccer players. Nutrients 9(3):314.6
  6. Hulton AT, Malone JJ, Clarke ND, and MacLaren DPM. 2022. Energy requirements and nutritional strategies for male soccer players: a review and suggestions for practice. Nutrients 14(3):657.
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