Nutrition For Weekly Team Sports
Why is pre-game nutrition important?
It is important to understand what and when you need to eat in order to optimise pre-match nutrition. Getting your nutrition right leading up to games will result in better energy levels throughout the game, improve how you feel on the field and can improve both physical and cognitive performance.
Carbohydrates are trumps
Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred fuel source for high-intensity exercise and are key to optimising performance during games. High carb intake on game day will help maximise glycogen stores in your muscles and liver. This will give you the fuel you need to help maintain energy levels until the final minutes.
In your everyday diet it’s best to stick to mainly wholegrain sources of carbs, as they are higher in fibre and micronutrients. However, when it comes to game day we need to be mindful that fibre slows digestion and has the potential to cause GI distress when coupled with nerves and exercise stress.
Protein and fat on game day?
Fat, though energy dense, is slow to digest. If consumed to close to play, fat will sit in the stomach and make you feel heavy, lethargic and nauseous when you are on the pitch. Energy from fat is not available as quickly as energy from carbohydrates. In fact, consuming high fat foods can slow the energy release from entire meals. Therefore, fat intake should be kept to a pre-game to maximise energy availability.
Even though protein is important in your daily diet for muscle building and recovery when it comes to pre-match nutrition protein isn’t a priority. Pre-game our primary focus is performance – so we want to optimise carbohydrate intake. High protein intake before a game can cause GI upset so intake should be adapted based on what you can handle. Remember protein post game is vital for recovery.
Hydration and Cramp
This is variable for everyone, there is no ‘volume’ that you should be drinking before a game, it is just about what do you need to make sure you are euhydrated. If you struggle to consume food, liquid carbohydrates from sources such as sports drinks and juices can be beneficial. Ensure that you are peeing clear at least 2h prior to game
Cramp is often linked to dehydration but can be a range of different factors. The nutritional things to reduce cramp are: Ensuring you are completely hydrated the day before game day, the use of electrolytes (preferably a sugar free option) the night before and morning of, plus making sure you have adequate carbohydrates. Ticking those 3 boxes will reduce the severity or eliminate the onset of cramp. If you get cramp during a game, gargling with pickle juice for 10 seconds is hugely beneficial for reducing the severity and reoccurring cramps.
Making sure you eat enough carbs in the 2-3hr window prior to warming up for play to provide you with sustained energy throughout the whole game. Aim for somewhere between 200-300g of carbs in this window, if this is too much, look to spread this across the morning, if not the night before. If you are needing a snack 2h prior, have something light, but ensure in the future that you look to consume more in that window or morning of.
Afternoon game timings
Evening game timings
Think to eat 2 good quality meals post game: meal one to contain a source of protein, carbohydrates, and fruit straight after, then meal two which contains protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables. Hydrate with water, and if needed a sports drink. Make sure this is completed before you dig into the chips and beers to start the recovery process. Importance of self-assessment
Everyone is different, and it is important to find the pre-game nutrition strategy that works best for you. Reflect and adapt to ensure optimisation. Timings given above are a guide only. If you struggle to eat at pre-game, then start to load your carbohydrates in meals earlier in the day and make sure that you are getting a good breakfast in. If you feel like you perform better when you sleep in on game day then focus on nailing your nutrition at lunch and in the pre-game meal. Talk to Conrad if you’re struggling with game-day recommendations.
What 50g Carbs Looks Like