Molecular Physiology In Football



Sports Science, or Football Science as I feel it should be known as, as we are dealing with the matter of football here has an unlimited potential to unlock new boundaries of knowledge.

We know that footballers require acceleration to perform explosive actions, endurance to last ninety minutes and a strong sense of motivation and determination from a psychological perspective.

That’s one layer. What we understand from the outside. The second layer of knowledge is why these things happen and how they happen. For example, we know that when we accelerate, we have an increased firing frequency of our motor neurons from our brain to our working muscles.

Biomechanically speaking, we know that we optimise our force potential with a suitable posture to maximise power output. We also know that we are able to play for longer because our muscles have the ability to delay the accumulation of lactic acid due to a more sufficient oxygen uptake, thereby bypassing the need for the lactic acid energy system.

We also know this can be maximised with a sufficient intake of carbohydrates to increase the amount of glycogen storage in our body.

But is there a layer below that? Is there a third layer we can recognise to unlock more knowledge? The answer is yes. Interestingly though, it is a newer source of knowledge the aims to challenge the hypothesis of many claims made in the realm of football science.

The third layer is Molecular Football Physiology, a newer source of knowledge which I myself have a huge investment in with regards to my continuous professional knowledge.

Molecular Exercise Physiology is a fairly new term in Sports Science. Therefore, Molecular Football Physiology has almost zero recognition as it’s own subject.

This is what we aim to investigate. With input from Henning Wackerhage’s (2014) editing on Molecular Exercise Physiology: An Introduction, there is certainly a window to create new assumptions.


One claim from the book is that our ability as a performer is influenced by our nutrition and our training competency is certainly a contributing factor to overall performance.

Of course, footballers need a suitable warm up and a suitable training regime. Periodisation has been seen as the solution to this. Like a car, nutrition provides the fuel, most notably carbohydrates as at the molecular level, their make up is easy to break down, meaning that energy is produced more quickly and efficiently.

Fats meanwhile are made up of carbon chains. This can get longer and longer to the point where it accumulates and becomes very difficult to break down at the molecular level as a source of energy.

However, one thing I did gauge from my studies and CPD, is that our being, our human self is regulated by genetics. Is there an argument that our genes regulate our football performance? Maybe.

We may have genes that allow us to break glycogen storage down more quickly. We also may have genes that allow us to have a greater immunology or a greater ability to heal soft tissue injuries such as DOMS, cramp or sprains and strains. These are all possibilities that have yet to be discovered in literature, but there is certainly a warrant for it.

This brings us back to the question of how do our genetics influence our performance? Our genetics are influenced by our DNA, the most microscopic we can arguably go in human body examination.

Our DNA is made up inside our individual cells. Therefore, our DNA regulates our genes, which regulates our cellular function. The ideology is, is that the top players may have had strands of DNA that gave them an advantage above the competition to make it to the top.

For example, Ronaldo, the legendary Brazilian striker may have had naturally more explosive ability in his muscles which gave him such a powerful shot on goal, a genetic ability that others may not have had. Again this speculation, but within the realms of possibility.

The overall argument is that part of our ability is training and nutrition, but the other half could be from our genetic makeup from our DNA. It’s certainly a point of interest, but the question remains, can we influence our genes? It’s a hard question and one that I don’t have an answer to.

But our genes are inherited from our parents. We know that by just looking at people. So this raises an argument. Does this mean that the offspring of professional footballers have a greater chance of making it than others, because they have inherited the genes and therefore the ability from their parents?

Kasper Schmeichel may have automatically inherited the ability to react to moving stimuli more quickly due to a greater number of neural pathways in his neuromuscular system from his father, Peter.


I have already touched base on the molecular make up of carbs and fats, and why one is easier to break down than the other. Carbs have a much more simple chemical structure compared to fats. It’s logically a more easier ingredient to use for our energy or ATP production.

But there are arguments, including from Wackerhage’s book alongside Hamilton, Galloway and Witard (2014), that our body has an ability to sense what nutrients we have in our bodies and produce information within our neuromuscular system to achieve a normal sense of cellular function and subsequently overall body function.

So does this mean that our blood sugar levels is maintained by nutrient sensing from our brain? Probably.

My intuitive response is that our basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of calories we need to consume to maintain that normal body functioning is influenced by sensors in our body. These sensors are proteins, because that is the natural function of proteins at the molecular level, to sense changes in our body.

So the argument is this. Do we indeed supercompensate under the theory of general adaptation syndrome which is the chief driver of the periodisation models that we see? Or is it proteins sensing changes in our body and therefore providing that adaptation?

The more we expose ourselves to these changes, we will produce newer cells, or remodelling cells as we can see in rehabilitation programmes we prescribe players coming back from injury. The information in these cells is new DNA, now sensed by proteins that understand the changes our body has gone through.

Now we produce a more natural response and we adapt much better, not because of supercompensation, but our ability to produce new cells that understand that change.

This is a debate. One that I champion.

It is a new layer of knowledge that I hoped to bring awareness to. I would love to have the knowledge on how the molecular level of physiology can improve my practice as a physical development specialist. I know I can maximise training and nutrition, but can I influence player genes? Maybe not.

Basketball players who make it in the NBA normally make it because of these environmental investments but also because they have genes that have made them taller than others. Footballers can be seen as the same, having a genetic ability to process external information efficiently and having quicker reactions in the footballing actions that make up the construct of the game.

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