Sprinting up and down a soccer pitch takes a lot of energy, let alone doing it for 90-plus minutes as you kick, pass, play, and defend for your team. Being physically fit is a top concern, but so is diet. To give aspiring players the nutritional edge, FIFA has a few general guidelines. Cautioning that only the highest-level competitors need a carbohydrate-laden diet in order to keep up on the pitch, soccer’s worldwide organizing body says a player ought to begin prepping with food about six hours before a match. For every kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of body weight, a player should aim to eat 1 to 4 grams of carbs.
Nice in theory, but what is it really like inside the dietary life of an international soccer player? In 2013, Neymar gave a bit of insight on this matter to Red Bull’s magazine, Red Bulletin. “I also wish I could eat what I like,” the Brazilian said. “But as we have matches almost every weekend, we must eat a balanced diet, with protein, carbs, and salads every single day.” That is a far cry from the soda and burgers that The Daily Mail reports Neymar once had weakness for.
As a member of the Brazilian national team, nutrition has become even more nuanced than just a balanced diet for Neymar. Sports met science when the team partnered with the Gatorade Sports Science Institute to optimize performance. As this video (featuring David Luiz and his exquisite hair) explains, each player was tested, and nutritional measurements were taken to determine what a player was losing after a training session. From those results, an individualized formula was created for every player on the team. Neymar isn’t the only athlete who allegedly has been forced to alter his eating habits, or who has been on the receiving end of the intersection of sports and science.