Carbohydrate Nutrition and Skill Performance in Soccer

Rollo, I., Williams, C.

Sports Med53 (Suppl 1), 7–14 (2023).

In soccer, players must perform a variety of sport-specific skills usually during or immediately after running, often at sprint speed.

The quality of the skill performed is likely influenced by the volume of work done in attacking and defending over the duration of the match.

Even the most highly skillful players succumb to the impact of fatigue both physical and mental, which may result in underperforming skills at key moments in a match.

Fitness is the platform on which skill is performed during team sport.

With the onset of fatigue, tired players find it ever more difficult to successfully perform basic skills.

Therefore, it is not surprising that teams spend a large proportion of their training time on fitness.

While acknowledging the central role of fitness in team sport, the importance of team tactics, underpinned by spatial awareness, must not be neglected.

It is well established that a high-carbohydrate diet before a match and, as a supplement during match play, helps delay the onset of fatigue.

There is some evidence that players ingesting carbohydrate can maintain sport-relevant skills for the duration of exercise more successfully compared with when ingesting placebo or water. However, most of the assessments of sport-specific skills have been performed in a controlled, non-contested environment.

Although these methods may be judged as not ecologically valid, they do rule out the confounding influences of competition on skill performance.

The aim of this brief review is to explore whether carbohydrate ingestion, while delaying fatigue during match play, may also help retain sport soccer-specific skill performance.