We’re thrilled to partner with soccer champion Carli Lloyd to talk all things food, fitness and fun. We recently quizzed the athlete on her nutrition before and after her workouts, be they practice sessions (which soccer players typically call “training”) or 90-minute soccer games. Check out the Q and A below for Carli’s top tips for eating well, training hard and staying hydrated.
Do you approach games like practices with respect to your pre- and post-workout nutrition?
It’s a little bit different for a game, I would say, but not completely different. For a game, let’s say it’s a 7 pm game. We’re probably going to have three meals – a breakfast, a lunch, and a pre-game meal. Believe it or not, I don’t eat a whole lot on game day. I’ll have a fairly normal breakfast, with some eggs and fruit and yogurt. For lunch, I’ll have a salad with some more fruit. Then, the pre-game meal, which is actually four hours before we play, I just keep it light. Some fruit, maybe another yogurt, and some nuts. I tend to go in a little hungry, but then I’ll eat a banana about 90 minutes before the game, and I’m good to go. It gives your stomach something to tide you over, and give you some extra energy without making you full.
With training, it’s more geared toward making sure you’re eating enough. If you’re training twice a day, you’re obviously losing a lot of calories. It’s important to fuel up, so that’s how it’s a bit different. Sometimes we train once a day, sometimes it’s twice a day, and those practices range from one to two and a half hours. You tend to do more in a training session, but you’re not running around the whole time.
So, before a workout, what do you need most nutrition-wise?
I think it’s a little different for each person, but for me, I actually do less carbs and focus more on superfoods. Salads, fruits, veggies, proteins like chicken, fish, and steak, the mixed nuts. I focus more on that than carbs. People think you need to overload on all these carbs, but carbs actually make you pretty tired.
What about for after a workout?
Protein’s important – you want to make sure that you’re replenishing your muscles so your muscles can heal. After a game, it’s important to get some protein. And it’s also important to drink a lot of water as well, because you’ve lost water while playing or training. Those are the two things I really focus on. Typically, I drink 10 to 12 16-ounce bottles. I don’t count though. I just know my body, I know when I’m dehydrated, I know when I haven’t consumed enough. And you obviously don’t want to go overboard and overhydrate. It’s best to consistently sip water all day long and stay hydrated.
What about hydrating during games? How do you manage that?
Sometimes, during a game, there are stoppages and there are water bottles lined up around the field. Depending on the game, I’ll need a swig or two but generally I don’t. At halftime, I do typically have something. But I’m not guzzling water, because my stomach would feel too full when I went back out onto the field. You should be hydrating all throughout the week so when you do get to the game and you’re hydrated, you don’t have to worry about it. If you do that, you won’t be super-thirsty when you get to the game.
Does that change at all in hotter temperatures?
Yes. When it’s hotter, I will eat a lot of fruit. Watermelon offers hydration, and I’ll usually have a lot of that during the day. I may grab a bottle of water off the side of the field during a game and drink more than I usually do.
Did you discover what worked for you through trial and error, or did you have some guidance as you learned about playing the game?
I actually didn’t take nutrition seriously until about 2009. When I got serious thinking about food and my body, it helped me become more lean and I felt so much better, and started getting into the whole organic thing. I started working with my trainer James Galanis of Universal Soccer Academy in 2003 and designed a plan specific for me that helped me become the player I am today. He guided me and eventually I realized a lot on my own and became very serious about my diet.
Do you have the same routine now, or do you find yourself still tinkering a bit with your diet?
You can always change your lifestyle and routine. I am always reading and looking for healthy ways of living. I’m really just open to learn and continue to learn about food, what’s healthy and what’s not. I think I’m still evolving and realizing what I should put into my body.