Soccer legend Julie Foudy is an Olympic gold medalist, two-time World Cup champion, was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007, and she’s currently a sports broadcaster at ESPN. As one of the greatest female athletes of all time, she knows how important it is to eat healthy, stay fueled and fit to perform well during intense training and competition.
Over the years we’ve been told to stay away from carbohydrates for various reasons, but according to soccer superstar Julie Foudy and sports dietitian Scott Sehnert, carbohydrates are very important to stay fueled during competition, intense training, and they also help with decision making as carbs fuel the brain. Julie and Scott were kind enough to join me for an interview this morning to discuss how athletes can stay fueled, why carbs are so important and Ms. Julie Foudy even predicted who is going to win the 2015 Women’s World Cup. I must say, I have to agree with her prediction!
Candace Rose: Julie, you’re an Olympic gold medalist, two-time World Cup champion and you were inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007. How did you train to become one of the greatest athletes ever?
Julie Foudy: “You put in a lot of hours and you are conscious about how you’re fueling yourself, which is why Scott (Sehnert) and I are here today. As parents, now we have kids, there’s a lot of debate right now about sugar and how much sugar you consume. One of the things you learn as active athletes is the important role that carbohydrates in the form of sugar play in sports drinks like Gatorade. We’re here to talk about that and clear up some confusion about that and how it can actually enhance performance.”
Candace Rose: Julie, as you mentioned carbs have gotten such a bad rap in recent years. How important are carbohydrates for athletes?
Scott Sehnert: “They’re so important. Athletes want to run at a high intensity. I often use the analogy that athletes are very much like a stock car running those Nascar races at eight and nine thousand rpm for 500 miles. That’s a high intensity for a long period of time. Athletes are going to try and do the same thing, as Julie was just talking about. It’s a lot of time, it’s a lot of practice time, it’s a lot of training that gets involved. So much of training is at a high intensity for a long period of time, and carbs in the form of sugar are the fuel source for that. They can go at lower intensities just like a stock car can, but they’re not going to win a race at a lower intensity and neither is an athlete burning fat for fuel at a lower intensity. Again, that’s why carbs are so important in that situation.”
Candace Rose: What can happen to athletes if they don’t consume enough carbs during intense training or competition?
Julie Foudy: “Well, I can tell you from a soccer player running around all the time, you definitely feel it. Obviously when you’re exerting 90 minutes of a game or even 60 minutes of a practice, you need that source of energy and fuel, it’s so important. You literally feel tired, you can feel your body start to slow down, your ability to control a ball, your ability to finish out a game. It is important fuel in there for a reason.”
Scott Sehnert: “Outside of even the fuel source for that training are a couple other things that carbohydrates do, and even the last half of the word ‘carbohydrate’ – water goes with carbs into the body basically. It’ll flow into those muscles and it’ll help you stay hydrated. There’s almost as much research on hydration and performance as there is on carbohydrates and sugar on performance. We’ve got to stay hydrated, that’s very important.
The other part of it is that it helps with decision making. Carbs are the main fuel source for the brain, so you’re quicker to make decisions and almost all of sports require a lot of concentration.”
Candace Rose: Are there any other important nutrients that athletes should add to their diet?
Scott Sehnert: “I think it’s important that athletes not eliminate any one food group unless they’re completely intolerant to it. They should get a broad spectrum of all things. It’s very cliche, but it’s very true. Those whole grains, those fruits and vegetables, those beans and meats and dairy, they all have nutrients that do very good things for your body, so I couldn’t tell you four or five different things that they need to make sure they have because it’s really important that they try and eat everything that they can across the board.”
Candace Rose: Julie, the Women’s World Cup is due to start in a little over 20 days. Can you tell us about it? Do you have any predictions for us?
Julie Foudy: “The Women’s World Cup happens of course every four years like the men’s. My predictions – there’s 24 teams coming, the United States has won it twice. The last time they won it was 16 years ago, which is crazy because the U.S. has won quite a few Olympics. But 16 years since the U.S. has won a World Cup – my prediction actually is that the U.S. (if healthy!) is going to take it. You heard it here, Candace! Scott is my witness! I think that they could do very well, especially with our neighbors just to the north, so it’s almost like we’re playing at home.”
Candace Rose: Well, thank you so much Julie and Scott! Where can we go for more information?
Scott Sehnert: “Well, Candace, two websites that I think are really great for athletes – one would be the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, and the other would be the Australian Institute of Sport. Both provide a lot of really great information across all boards for nutrition and certainly not just carbohydrate.”