Christmas food

Football at Christmas is just as much part of the English game as half-time pies and jumpers for goalposts are. But in order to stay match fit during the festive period, you will need to make the right lifestyle choices.

Christmastime is filled with temptations, many of which can be very hard to resist. However, if you can remain vigilant about your dietary choices and exercise regime, you should be able to enjoy a few Christmas treats without having a detrimental effect on your game.

These tips should help you have a very merry Christmas, and a highly productive New Year on the pitch.

Eat healthily

While this may sound obvious, it can be tricky at a time of the year when temptation lies almost everywhere. But eating healthily doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding all your favourite Christmas indulgences. Keep a lid the saturated fat you consume - which could mean limiting yourself to the just the one mince pie, instead of your usual half dozen. Carbohydrates should constitute no more than 20 percent of your daily calorie intake allowance.

Instead of mashed potatoes with butter, why not try mashed sweet potatoes with olive oil? Be sparing with your turkey gravy, and always opt for fruit and nuts over chocolate and pastries.

Never skip breakfast

Too many footballers skip breakfast in order to ‘bank’ some calories for a festive splurge later in the day. However, doing this can lower your blood sugar - and leave you hungrier than ever. Not only are you likely to eat more later in the day, you could end up craving the worst types of food.

Aim to eat around a third of your daily calorie allowance at breakfast, and stick to foods that are high in protein and fibre.

Control your portions

Controlling your portions might be easy for you throughout the year, but portions may be out of your control at parties and Christmas gatherings. Be conscious about what you’re eating at all times. Eat slowly in order to allow your brain to catch up with your stomach, and don’t finish meals just for the sake of it.

Don’t deprive yourself

‘A little bit of what you fancy does you good’, as they say. If you have a sweet tooth or a penchant for pork stuffing, don’t feel you have to completely deprive yourself. Treat yourself to some Christmas treats in moderation - otherwise you are more likely to become miserable and stressed… leading you to eat more unhealthy foods in the long run.

Get your exercise out of the way early

It can be very tempting to wake up in the morning and then promise yourself that you’ll hit the gym later in the day. However, a lot of things can happen to distract you at Christmas, and exercise could go by the wayside very quickly.

Try to get up at the same time every day - 30 minutes or so before your usual time. Hit the road, the gym or the pool, and get a vigorous workout in before breakfast. This will give you a little leeway when it comes to eating a few more calories than you’re used to, and it should keep your energy and fitness levels high for your next match.

Maintain a regular sleeping pattern

Research has shown that a lack of sleep and irregular sleeping patterns can raise stress levels. Stress can make you susceptible to hunger pangs and irrational cravings - increasing the risk of you overeating during the Christmas period.

Christmas can play havoc with a footballer’s sleeping patterns, however. Just a couple of late Christmas parties can interrupt your sleeping patterns for days. Always try to get to bed within an hour or two of your usual bedtime. More importantly, avoid the temptation to lie in. Although this may seem counter-intuitive when you’ve missed some sleep, rising at your normal time of the morning will ensure you can get to sleep at a reasonable time that night.

Limit your alcohol intake

Excessive alcohol consumption is bad for footballers in a number of ways. However, many players forget just how many calories are in certain forms of alcohol.

For instance, just one pint of lager can contain as many calories as a sugared donut. So, your ‘harmless’ five pints at the Christmas party could end up costing you up to half of your recommended daily calorie allowance.

By all means, enjoy a few drinks, but try to think of your alcohol in terms of food. The calories all add up in the same way, which can leave you carrying unwanted pounds by the time New Year arrives.

There is absolutely no need to deprive yourself of a few festive indulgences at Christmas just because you play football regularly. A little will power, some healthy eating choices and regular exercise should allow you to eat, drink and be merry this festive season.