Women’s World Cup (Nutrition) Flashback: Julie Foudy on Nutrition

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Sixteen years ago, I curled up on the couch with my father and grandfather. We cheered and cheered as Julie Foudy captained the US women’s team to the championship. Now, she’s championing smart nutrition! Her latest interview highlighted the importance of carbs, electrolytes, and sugar for intensity and endurance in sports. Here are a few of our faves:


1. Carbs are needed for endurance. Soccer is a 90-minute marathon … Foudy says that carbohydrates are essentialAnd she’s right! Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN, is a sports dietitian for professional teams including the Pittsburgh Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates; the Washington Nationals; and the Toronto Blue Jays. She highlights the carbohydrates and protein combination as ‘fuel.’ Does that mean you need to carbo-load before this kind of endurance? If you eat a diet that is at least 50% carbs at each meal, you really won’t need to carbo-load. But you may want to “top off” glycogen stores by eating or drinking a few extra carbohydrates at each meal/snack in the days leading up to events. Remember, it’s carbo-load, not carbo-OVERLOAD.

2. Our concept of sugar is too narrow. According to Foudy“the misconception is that sugar is bad. We’re here to reassure parents and athletes and that with the appropriate amount in moderation and with activity, actually you need sugar and it can help improve performance.” The role of sugar and carbohydrates is important to think about in your recovery from training. The ultimate goal of recovery nutrition is to help your muscles fully repair and get prepared for the next workout or competition. A recovery plan should include fluids, carbohydrate, and protein. Many athletes use a recovery beverage that includes all three, such as chocolate milk, protein shakes, or smoothies made with milk or soy milk, juice, and fruit. Drinking or eating  at least 50 grams of carbohydrate and 15 grams of protein within 30 minutes after your workout helps your muscles begin repairing (protein) and building back muscle glycogen, the storage form of glucose that is called upon to fuel high intensity workouts (carbohydrate). Practicing good recovery nutrition on a daily basis can be the difference-maker for competitive athletes.

3. Don’t forget the electrolytes. “When you’re exerting as much energy as you do with soccer, it’s 90 minutes and a grind. It’s a lot of miles and you’re losing a lot, in terms of sweat and electrolytes,” Foudy highlighted. When your body is working hard, you may be losing quite a lot in sweat. A rule of thumb for fluids is that for exercise that lasts less than 1 hour water alone is fine. If you exercise for more than 1 hour, the body needs fuel too. Sports drinks provide fluid, fuel, and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) which we lose when we sweat.


Portions excerpted, with permission, from: