Recovery after a match is important for your body as competition stresses your body to extremes and depletes nutrients from your system. Here are some things you can do to optimize your recovery to make sure it is ready not only for the next match, but for training during the week so that you can help avoid injuries.
COOL DOWN: Take a light jog as a cool down run. Your muscles swell during play, and they feel overworked. Light running continues blood flow which helps your body activate various chemical processes leading to more efficient and complete recovery. A light run as immediately as possible after a game makes a greater impact.
STRETCHING: Stretches are a positive way to keep your muscles active after a match. After your muscles are overworked from a game, they naturally want to stay active because they are so pumped up. Ease your muscles out of the intense work by stretching or your body could become stiff and risk of injury could increase. Similar to stretching, yoga can also help loosen your muscles and release the toxins from your body. Additionally, flexibility gained from stretching can be an asset as a soccer player. Remember not to stretch the muscle too hard!
REFUELING: Consuming fluids immediately following the game within a half-hour is important. That is the best time for muscles to recoup energy. A milk chocolate drink gives you protein and carbohydrate all in one is great for this.
EAT RIGHT: Eating lots of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables within 30-60 minutes of the game can also help replenish your depleted energy stores. Eating shortly after is vital. Lean proteins and healthy carbohydrates are essential following a match. Match play burns a lot of glycogen, the energy for your muscles. Eating carbs replenishes lost glycogen. Fatty foods (guacamole, cheese, sour cream, etc) should be avoided for right after but consumed later.
SLEEP / RELAXATION: It is also recommended that you get at least eight hours of sleep and avoid television / electronic devices as well as caffeine an hour before you finally go to bed
FOLLOW-UP EXERCISE: The day after a game, it is recommended to do some light exercise such as riding a bike or using a pool for 30 minutes. Follow that up by stretching all the key muscle groups for 30 seconds. Also using a foam roller to massage tight spots can be helpful.
HOT / COLD: Hot and cold treatments are also helpful in recovery. Use of ice baths or heat packs have benefits for your body. An ice bath helps reduce swelling as well as decreasing inflammation of joints, muscles, tendons and bones. Spending about 10-15 minutes in an ice bath can provide those benefits. Heat and compression have similar benefits by helping your joints and muscles loosen up as stiffness can lead to injury. Fifteen minutes of heat and compression can be helpful. Hot tubs are generally not recommended following exercise. (They might be used before exercise however.)
One alternative method is swapping between hot and cold water in the shower immediately after a game to increase blood flow and promote muscle recovery. The hot water causes blood to move away from your organs and to your skin while the cold water does the opposite, keeping your organs safe and warm. Finishing with cold water can stimulate your nervous system, boost energy and improve focus.