Fuelling Before and Refuelling During and After Your Matches
Fuelling and Refuelling
Team sports are predominantly aerobic (using oxygen) affairs characterised by short intense bouts of anaerobic (not using oxygen) activity such as quick sprints to intercept a ball. Due to this regular switching between the two types of metabolism, your body likes to utilise sugar (glucose) as the predominant energy source for the production of energy. Subsequently, the availability of this fuel source is going to be one of the defining predictors of performance during competition. However, this will not necessarily be a strong predictor of recovery post performance. In this article, we are going to highlight the necessary nutrients appropriate for team sports performance as well as talk about fuelling before and refuelling during and after your matches to ensure best performance and quick recovery is achieved.
THE VIDEO: Fuelling Before and Refuelling During and After Your Matches
Pre-match, we want to ensure we have a well-rounded and balanced meal. This is your opportunity to lay your foundations of all your nutrient stores as big as you can before competing. If you eat a substantial meal too close to the game, you will not be able to digest the meal in time and will likely get the dreaded “stitch” and therefore, won’t perform to your best ability. We recommend you eat your pre-game meal at least two hours before competition and balance it in the following way.
A cupped handful of uncooked wholegrain carbs. Obviously, we are not advocating eating raw whole grains here, but using your hand is a great way to gauge how much you actually need to cook for your portions as your hand size is specific to you. Use this method to measure and then, cook this portion of carbs to add to your meal. Whether this is brown rice, brown bread, brown pasta or potatoes, the choice is yours, but we recommend whole grains as this is a more complex chain so will take longer to be digested and will not be utilised until your game.
A palm size of lean meat or meat alternative with high protein content. Again specific to you, we recommend a substantial protein source for your pre-game meal as your body is continuously losing the free amino acids that it uses to repair and build the tissues and structures in your body. Ensure that amino acid availability is topped up pre-game so that any potential damage incurred in game will have the best chance of healing. Great choices for protein sources are chicken breast, lean cuts of beef and pork, or fish.
A thumb’s length of visible fat on your plate. Quite often missed by most people, fat is incredibly important to your body’s function. Amongst other things, fat is used for the formation of the myelin sheath which, is the coating on your nerve endings and the formation of steroid hormones such as testosterone. For this reason, adding healthy fats such as avocado to a salad or olive oil as a salad dressing in your pre-game meal is a great way to ensure our fat stores remain topped up during the game to keep the body working as efficiently as possible.
Vitamins and Minerals
Two handfuls of colourful fruit and vegetables. Similar to fat, these are important for brain function and thus, responsible for regulating homeostasis. Eating a broad variety of colourful fruit and vegetables in a pre-game meal is the best way to ensure we get as many of our vitamins and minerals as possible to ensure our body performs its best.
Probably the most important and most overlooked consideration is hydration. Water makes up 75% of our bodies and it is involved in almost every single function of the body so it is vital to support performance. There is no real recommendation for water consumption other than the NHS guidelines of 8 pints of water a day. So, on a game day, we should be looking to consume at least 10-12 pints in order to replace what we may lose through sweat.
At the half time break, we will be firmly into our fight or flight (sympathetic) branch of our nervous system due to the high stress response associated with competing in sport. The trade off of being driven by this nervous system response is that our rest and digest (parasympathetic) nervous system is shut down. Consequently, we are unable to digest any complex nutrients that we consume as the required processes are unavailable. With this in mind and the knowledge that we are using our glucose stores for energy production during competition, we need to ensure we replenish these stores to make sure we continue to perform at the required level. The best way to do this is by consuming short-chain carbohydrates that require little to no breakdown in order to be utilised. Good examples of these are a handful of gelatine sweets such as gummy bears and jelly babies or an isotonic sports drink that possesses electrolytes. Re-hydration is also critical at this stage to ensure this glucose consumed is escorted quickly to the tissues where, it will be used to make energy and keep the brain working at its optimum.
You could also, get away with drinking a small amount of quick digesting protein such as BCAA’s or whey isolate to help kick-start the repair process of any tissues that may have been damaged from the first half of competition.
Once the game has been completed and as we gradually shift our bodily functions back into our rest and digest system, we are now, able to consume complex nutrients again. For our best hope at recovery, it is incredibly important that we eat a well balanced and energy dense meal to replace any substrates that were lost during the game. For this, we should follow the same rules outlined in the “Pre-Match Fuelling” section of this article.