The Toll of Extra Time
Updated: Apr 1
Just how much does that extra 30 minutes affect you? We discuss two recent trials that attempted to answer that question.
When it comes to tournament football, you have to be prepared to go to extra time. In EURO 2020, more than half of games in the knockout stage went to extra time, and nearly all of the medallists in EUROs and World Cups over the last 30 years have come through extra time en route to the latter stages of the competition (1). Performing well during extra time and bouncing back ASAP is therefore crucial during packed tournament schedules.
We know that extra time causes fatigue, and previous research has reported decreased physical and technical performance after 120-minutes of football (2). But how exactly does extra time affect performance and muscle damage compared to a 90-minute match? Knowing this information may help us to prepare for and recover from extra time. We will discuss two recent studies to help us answer this question (1,3).
This UEFA-funded study attempted to understand the effects of extra time compared to a 90-minute match by assessing a number of physiological and performance markers at baseline, and then after 90 and 120 minutes of play (1). The footballers included were young and fit (about 20 years old) and played at a competitive level. After a 7-day period where players trained together to get familiar with each other, they played a match.
Compared to the first 90 minutes, players covered less metres per minute, performed less high-intensity running, had slower average and maximal speeds, and performed less accelerations and decelerations, in the extra time period. In addition to performance decrements, technical performance also worsened: the percentage of successful passes completed and duels won were decreased by about 5% and 11%, respectively, during the extra time period.
Reductions in blood glucose concentration and muscle glycogen were reported between 90 and 120 minutes of play. As we have written about before, glucose powers exercise performance, so it makes sense that reductions in glucose may cause reductions in performance. The rate that muscle glycogen was broken down (into glucose) also far exceeded normal time (Figure 1), which suggests that this may be particularly responsible for performance decrements.
Figure 1. The glycogen degradation rate is far greater for extra time compared to normal time (1).
In this study, 12 semi-professional footballers completed a treadmill-based football-specific exercise trial for 90 minutes, and then 9 days later, for 120 minutes (3). The purpose of this study was to investigate specific muscle markers of fatigue and compare the muscle damage between both trials.
While there were no significant differences between trials for most markers, the muscle-damage marker creatine kinase was significantly more elevated at 24 hours and 72 hours after the 120-minute simulation compared to the 90-minute simulation. However, differences in functional measures of recovery such as strength and power performance were not much different 48 hours after each trial.
Together, these new studies illustrate the additional negative effects that extra time has on performance and muscle damage. The results suggest that reductions in glycogen are particularly implicated in the reduction of physical and technical performance observed in extra time, and that significantly more muscle damage is accrued in extra versus normal time.
These results underscore the importance of ensuring you start a match fully stocked with glycogen, and that you fuel with carbohydrates at half- and full-time to top these glycogen stores up again. We have discussed how much carbohydrates to eat per day as a footballer, and discussed recommendations for before, during, and after exercise, so check those articles out for the details. In addition, ensuring you’re getting enough protein is important for muscle recovery (we have written about this, too).
With this knowledge under your belt, you’ll be better prepared to perform physically during extra time.
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Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it! Next week, we will discuss whether there is an optimal time of day to exercise for health, so check back in then :)
Patrick Elliott, BSc, MPH
Health and Nutrition Science Communication Officer at Training121
Founder of Just Health — Instagram: @just.health.info
Health Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice. For health advice, speak to a physician or other qualified health-care professional, and for nutrition advice, speak to a qualified nutrition professional (e.g., registered dietitian). The use of information on this site is solely at your own risk.
(1) Mohr M, Ermidis G, Jamurtas AZ, et al. Extended Match Time Exacerbates Fatigue and Impacts Physiological Responses in Male Soccer Players. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2023;55(1):80-92. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9770137/
(2) Field A, Naughton RJ, Haines M, et al. The demands of the extra-time period of soccer: A systematic review. J Sport Health Sci. 2022;11(3):403-14. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9189694/
(3) Field A, Corr LD, Sarmento H, et al. The Impact of 120 Minutes of Soccer-Specific Exercise on Recovery. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2023;94(1):237-45. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02701367.2021.1964697
Glucose: All carbohydrates are broken down into this simple sugar molecule. It is the only sugar molecule that can be used to create energy (ATP) in the human body.
Glycogen: The stored version of glucose. When we eat carbohydrates, most is stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver.
Creatine kinase: This is an enzyme that is responsible for healthy muscle function and is released by muscle tissue in response to damage. Therefore, higher levels indicate more muscle damage.
Statistical significance: This is a term to describe the likelihood of whether a finding in a study is a “real” finding, or if it is the result of chance. Statistical significance is denoted by a p-value, which is usually set at a significance (alpha) level of 0.05. This means that if a result is significant at this level (p < 0.05), we can say that the probability of getting a value as or more extreme than the observed value (under the assumption that the null hypothesis is true) is less than 5%.