Maintaining good nutrition is essential for everyone, but for serious sportspeople, it can be the difference between winning and losing. When you consider that all teams contain talented players and conditioning levels are high, nutrition can be the most important factor in improving performance.
Pre training or game nutrition does not start in the hours before the game or session, but in the days and weeks before hand. Adequate nutrition over a prolonged period of time will lead to an improved performance.
Vitamins and minerals are important to ensure that the body can make the best use of the carbohydrate and proteins ingested, so a good range of fruits and vegetables should be consumed at meal times and throughout the day as snacks. In the week leading up to an important match, there should be a gradual increase in the amount of carbohydrate consumed to ensure that stores are topped up. If the increase is sudden the benefits will be lost, and this, in fact, can prove detrimental.
Any meal taken on match day should be taken 2—4 hours prior to throw in to allow for digestion. If you suffer from nerves or anxiousness before a game, it is possible to replace a meal with a liquid meal. The match day meal should again consist of a good source of carbohydrate, such as pasta, as well as a source of protein, such as lean meat or chicken. You can also have some fruit available to maintain the carbohydrate intake and your fluid intake is important at this time.
During training or a game, replacing fluids and fuel lost is the most important element of nutrition. You should have access to a sports drink and water during training and games.
After training and games it is important to start refueling the body as soon as possible. Fluids lost through sweating must be replaced. Monitoring of hydration is important to refueling. For each kg of weight lost due to sweating, replace with 1.5 litres of fluids. Sports drinks containing 6 — 8% carbohydrate, some electrolytes and a source of protein are important in the initial stages of refueling. Keep some fruit, such as a banana or some dried fruits along with water or a sports drink in your gear bag to ensure that you can begin refueling as soon as possible. Your post training/game meal should mostly contain a source of carbohydrate, such as pasta or rice, to replace lost carbohydrate stores, and some protein such as chicken or lean meat as a source of protein. Maintain a high carbohydrate intake in the days after a high intensity training session or game to ensure that carbohydrate stores are maintained in preparation for the next session/game.
Players are often told to ensure that they consume a sports drink with carbohydrate, some electrolytes and protein to refuel after training and matches, and to ensure that they have a diet high in carbohydrate with plenty of protein and limited fat. In some cases these are not provided with much information on how to chose which foods are a good source of carbohydrate or protein. Often players look at food labels and not know what some of the ingredients are or how beneficial they are to their overall well being.
The drink label printed on the right with information on what each heading means will help you to make sound nutritional choices to suit your own tastes.