Getting The Edge: The Best Supplementation and Recovery Tools for Soccer Players

Throughout the history of sport, athletes have searched for ways that they can gain an edge against their opponents.

Sports science grew in prominence amongst the former Eastern Bloc nations back in the 1950s and was quickly latched onto by the United States.

Improvements in technology sparked a real boom in the study of sports towards the end of the 20th century and that growth has continued at a rapid rate ever since.

Understanding psychological development, motivation techniques, stress management, how to pick a good pre-workout supplement and correctly using legal muscle-recovery products are amongst the most important areas within sports science.

Read on to find out more about the ways sports science has impacted soccer.

Legal Supplementation Products

Arsene Wenger famously introduced supplements into Arsenal’s training regime when he took over as manager in the 1990s and many clubs have followed suit since then.

Soccer players can use different kinds of legal supplementation to enhance their training results, playing performance and recovery.

The sport is a high-intensity intermittent activity that can cause severe muscle damage due to its unusual muscle contraction associated with the duration and distance covered.

At the end of a match players are likely to have a considerably reduced concentration of muscle glycogen in all fibers.

Some of them may be completely depleted, making it crucial to understand that they key moments in the game are the ones that demand high-intensity such as sprints, jumps, braking movements and changes of direction.

There are two types of legal supplements – the ones that are taken daily and ones that should be taken exclusively before and during a match.

Daily supplements include Whey Protein, Maltodextrin, Creatine, Tart Cherry and Beta-Alanine, while match-day supplements include Caffeine and Beetroot Juice.

While none of these supplements replace exercise or rest, they are products that can definitely play their part in improving the performance of players.

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Rest and Sleep

Tiredness can greatly impact the performance of soccer players, so it is hugely important to build in sufficient amounts of rest and sleep into any training programme.

Sir Alex Ferguson was believed to be an advocate of afternoon power naps and the former Manchester United boss certainly knew a thing or two about being successful in soccer.

United and Chelsea are amongst the Premier League clubs who have recruited ‘sleep coaches’ to help their players snooze better, introducing another dynamic into how sports science has changed the game.

Sleep is crucial for psychological functioning and daily performance, which is why clubs are investing heavily in products like sleep cubicles for their players to ensure they are fully rested.

Sleep coach Nick Littlehales helped to extend the career of United legend Ryan Giggs, saying his natural ability, a rigid conditioning programme and regular yoga all helped, but it was his willingness to learn about his sleeping activities that was the key factor.

Studies have shown that sleep can impact on everything from mental focus to energy and recovery.

Training provides the body with the necessary stimulus, but it is the period players spend sleeping when the body recovers and adapts, becoming faster and stronger.



Giggs enjoyed a 24-season career at Old Trafford and he achieved that through a willingness to look after his body in ways that put many other professionals to shame.

The sight of the winger still playing Premier League football at the age of 40 was irrefutable proof of the age-defying benefits of yoga.

It strengthens your muscles, improves flexibility, keeps you fit and gets you out on the training pitch so you can train every day.

Some yoga positions look awkward, but if you look at pictures of a soccer player taking a shot, their body will be in a really strange-looking position too, because they are off balance.

When you explode with pace or kick a ball, you need flexibility and strength and yoga really helps to build that.

Giggs’ instructor, Sarah Ramsden, has worked with other players at Old Trafford and also used her expertise to help stars at many other clubs.

David Silva and Rio Ferdinand are other players who have benefited from Ramsden’s work.

What works for Premier League players can also help amateur athletes, whose mix of intermittent exercise and full-time office jobs can cause fitness problems.

Yoga builds flexibility and stability which galvanizes your body for exercise, helping to reduce muscle imbalances which can lead to injury.

A regular yoga practice will lengthen muscles that have become short and tight, keeping shoulders, hips, knees and ankles moving fluidly and freely, and keep efficient transference of power and movement through your core.

Players feel freer and will move more fluidly and more efficiently. Niggles and minor complaints should disappear and you will be able to go on doing the sport you love for longer.



Performing at the top level in soccer is all about staying cool under pressure.

The days of jumping in an ice bath or a wheelie bin full of freezing cold water post-match have gradually become a thing of the past at the top level.

Many clubs have now introduced cryotherapy, with players exposed to temperatures as low as -150C for a few minutes to shock the body and help aid their recovery.

The treatment also allows players to train with greater intensity, reduces muscle soreness, aids sleep and provides an exhilarating post-chamber sensation.

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo is renowned for his fitness levels and he once installed a chamber in his own house to keep him in top shape.

Real Madrid star Gareth Bale is also a fan of cryotherapy, while Leicester City used it during their Premier League title winning season in 2015/16.

Fulham were the world’s first elite sports club to introduce tailored full-body cryotherapy, teaming up with Polar Fit Care, Air Products and ProCare to give their players the best possible chance of success.

The system clearly had a positive effect, with the club winning promotion to the Premier League in 2018.