Playing a sport can be demanding. Football, rugby, hockey etc. all require consistent short bursts of anaerobic exercise, which can be draining on the body. When playing one of these sports, it is essential to be properly hydrated and fuelled in order to perform at maximum capacity. Each games have their own specific physical requirements i.e. rugby requires more muscle strength and endurance, whereas football combines aerobic and anaerobic exercise for more prolonged periods of time. Ultimately however, they all require high energy levels going into a match and replenishment afterwards..
A pre-game meal should ideally be consumed around three to three and a half hours before the match starts. It should primarily be complex carbohydrates that provide slow releasing energy to the body. Minimal proteins and fat should be present in the dish, as these macro nutrient can slow down the digestion process and therefore compromise how quickly the energy can reach and be stored in player. With more and more individuals displaying a low tolerance to gluten, it is often safer to choose a brown rice or sweet potato based dish to avoid any potential bloating prior to the match commencing.
At half time, or during any break, the consumption of an electrolyte based sports drink can help to provide fast releasing energy to give the body a boost, with glycogen levels depleted. After the game has finished, there is a window of recovery of around thirty to forty five minutes for the body, where nutrients are essential. A mixture of protein and carbohydrates are required at this time. Energy stores in the body have been exhausted and simple carbohydrates are required to replenish them, whilst the exertions result in damaged protein balances. To prevent any muscular problems, by consuming protein in this window, the chance of any issues are reduced. A popular post match meal may be a chicken pasta dish.
Rugby players are required to undertake more strength and conditioning work as their game relies a lot on power, and therefore players will need to consume high levels of protein throughout the course of the week. Although not to the same level, other sportsmen will require a high protein intake when not playing a match, to ensure that muscle mass is maintained and the body can repair itself from the endeavours of game day.
Whey protein is a good source of protein intake for those recovery days. Whey is actually derived from the cheese making process and is a very beneficial source of the nutrient, as it is a complete protein (contains all 9 of the essential amino acids) and the body only uses what it needs, so any excesses are not stored as fat. Protein shakes are becoming increasingly affordable and are a useful low calorie meal replacement that offers vital nutrients.
Field sports effectively involve repetitions of high intensity interval training (HIIT), which produces a sustained hormonal response after being undertaken. Calories are burnt and metabolism is raised for a couple of days after the exercise – great news for those wanting to lose fat, but most sportsmen are already in excellent condition. Therefore calorific intake should be increased in the 48 hours following a match in order to provide the vital nutrients to the body, and to prevent any catabolic behaviour. Catabolism refers to the body breaking down to provide itself with energy, and on law fat sports players this is likely to result in reduced muscle mass, so is most definitely a negative.