How do I Train & Lose Weight for Soccer?

soccer player in a bicycle kick

Throw out the traditional exercise regimens if you want to lose weight for soccer. That lean look that most soccer players sport was gained through techniques like high-intensity interval training which burns abdominal and subcutaneous fat. If you are currently overweight, check with your doctor to see if your joints can stand up to the training. She may suggest losing weight through diet and cardio exercises like brisk walking until you get your weight down.


Tollison notes that traditional weight-loss programs say to lose weight, you need to do continuous cardio for 20 minutes for seven days a week. Continuous exercise, however, negatively affects power by converting fast-twitch muscle fibers to slow, making you a slower athlete. This is not a plus for soccer. He recommends dropping long-distance running and focusing on interval training, which combines intensive bursts of activity with slower interludes.


Playing soccer will help you lose weight, even just scrimmages or pickup games with a few players. Peter Krustrup, a professor with the Department of Exercise and Sports Scientists, published a 2008 report on this in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. He said soccer players, compared to joggers and to a control group, lost the most weight--6 lbs. in 12 weeks. The training consisted of small-sided one-hour drills two to three times a week. These brought better weight-loss results than moderate-intensity running. This is likely because of soccer’s beneficial switches from striding to jogging to high-intensity sprinting that resemble interval training.


Female soccer players need to consume a diet high in carbohydrates, calcium and iron to ensure general health, writes U.K.-based sports scientist Thomas Reilly in “Science and Soccer.” Women on high training loads especially need to avoid disruptions to the normal menstrual cycle, meaning weight loss may not be a correct goal. In a review of the medical literature, Reilly found that the body competition of women soccer players tends to be closer to that of other team sports than to the ultra-lean profile of endurance athletes. Body fat percentages of around 18 to 26 percent for female soccer players, with most around 21 percent, resemble those of the general population.

Expert Insight

Enrico Arcelli, Italian sports nutritionist and professional team consultant, explains in “Nutrition for Soccer Players” that the important goal for a soccer player, as well as any athlete, is to reduce your body fat, not to “lose weight” per se. Weight loss may just mean you have sweated a lot during a match, or lost muscle or glycogen, which is not the goal. The real place to lose weight is fat pounds, not pounds of muscle.

Time Frame

If you need to lose weight, do so in the off-season, so you keep your energy high for competition, recommends the American Dietetic Association. To avoid gaining weight in the off-season, reduce your calorie intake. If you are a typical soccer player, you'll gain weight in the off-season, and lose it during preseason training. Get medical advice on whether you really need to lose weight before starting a diet or training program, advises University of North Carolina exercise physiologist Don Kirkendall.