The differences between academy and first team football
Premier League footballers cover 25-35 kilometres per week and 1300-3500 metres of high speed running, depending on the number of games they play in that week. That workload is considerably more than the physical demands placed upon an academy player, meaning additional physical work is required off the pitch to help youngsters to make the step up.
A recent study showed that first team and under-21 players weigh more than under-18 players, (First team, ~81kg; U21s, 80kg; U18s, 75kg), largely because of an increase in muscle mass, in the region of 5kg. As a result, academy players must focus on increasing their lean muscle mass through regular resistance training and optimal nutrition.
More calories = more muscle mass
To add muscle, players need to consume more calories than they’re burning. An additional five hundred additional calories per day is a good rough guide to maximise the impact of weight training. Premier League players will typically burn 3000-4500 calories per day dependant on the intensity of training, games and their body weight.
The importance of protein
The most important nutrient to complement resistance training is protein. Football players aiming to increase body and muscle mass should aim to consume 2-2.5 g per kg of body weight each day. For a 75 kg player this would mean 150-188 grams of protein. For a 75kg player, having 30 grams of protein per meal/snack every three to four hours is optimal for increasing muscle mass.
Research involving Premier League academy footballers have shown many players have low portions of protein at breakfast and more with their evening meal. Footballers should therefore not only focus on their total daily protein requirements but also on meal/snack targets and also the timing of protein feeding throughout the day.
Top tips for youth players
- Football players transitioning from academy to first team football should focus on increasing muscle mass through a well designed strength training program and optimal nutrition.
- A calorie surplus of ~500 kcal should be maintained each day whilst trying to gain body and muscle mass.
- Players should aim to eat 2 – 2.5 grams of protein each day. A minimum of 30 grams of protein should be consumed every 3 – 4 hours.