Is weight really that important for football? You don’t have to be built like Romelu Lukaku or Cristiano Ronaldo to play professional football, but a healthy balance of low body fat and lean muscle mass will enable you to cover long distances, twist and turn at speed and use your strength and power in physical duels. Reducing your body fat by just 2kg will boost your ability to run faster, jump higher and perform at a higher intensity for 90 minutes. A recent study showed that Premier League footballers have an average body fat percentage of under 10% – considerably lower than the average population. How do I lose weight? Weight loss is a simple equation. If you use more calories than you eat (calorie deficit), you’l lose weight. On the other hand, if you consume more calories than you expend (calorie surplus), you’ll soon start to pile on the pounds. Humans burn calories in a number of different ways. These can be broken down into our resting metabolic rate (RMR, the total energy required to function at our most simple level), thermic effect of food (TEF, the energy required to digest our food) and non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT, the energy expended for everything that isn’t sleeping, eating or sports-like activities). All of these then combine to form our total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), or, more simply, the energy we use on a daily basis. We recommend that you set weight loss targets of no more than 1 kg a week. Any more than that and you risk sacrificing muscle mass. How do I lose weight and maintain muscle mass? This is a challenge for both professional footballers and amateur players. To maintain muscle mass increase your protein intake to 2.5g per kg of body weight per day. Combining this with strength training will help further. Also, ensure that you’re reducing your calorie intake by lowering your carbohydrate intake, rather than protein. But avoid cutting carbs around intense training sessions as you still need enough energy to perform. How do I track my progress? The easiest way is to use a set of weighing scales. However, muscle weighs more than fat, so you may want to try a few other options to get a clearer picture of your body composition, which i’ve listed below. BMI Your body mass index, or BMI, takes the size of your body into account and can be calculated using the equation (with example) below. But, while BMI can be a good general marker, your score can be overestimated if you have a lot of muscle. BMI = Weight in kg (height x height in metres) BMI = 73 / (1.75 x 1.75) BMI = 73 / 3.0625 BMI = 23.8 Underweight: BMI is less than 18.5, normal weight: BMI is 18.5 to 24.9., Overweight: BMI is 25 to 29.9, Obese: BMI is 30 or more. Should I measure my waist? Another good general indicator can be to use a measuring tape to look at changes in your waist measurements. Try to make sure you always measure at the same point, though, for more consistent results. You may also have seen weighing scales with special foot pads or handles that claim to estimate your body fat percentage. These work by using equations considering the amount of water in the body (which relates to fat and fat-free mass) to estimate how much fat there is. These vary in their accuracy but to get the most consistent measure you should use them at the same time of day when you’ve eaten or drank the same things. The easiest way is first thing in the morning before you eat breakfast and after you’ve used the toilet. Weight loss basics 1.Reducing your fat mass will improve your speed, power and make it easier to last 90 minutes. 2.Consider monitoring your body weight and also your waist circumference. 3.Add in sources of protein when you are looking to improve your diet and consider eating them in the golden window after exercising. 4.Aim for sustainable weight loss goals rather than trying to lose too much, too quickly! Written By Professor James Morton A professor of Exercise Metabolism at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and a Registered Sports and Exercise Nutrition Practitioner with the British Dietetic Association’s UK Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register (SENr), James is responsible for research and innovation at Science in Sport, overseeing the Performance Solutions Team.