Maintaining ideal hydration and nutrition levels requires attention before, during and after exercise. This helps reduce fatigue and ensures enough energy to play the game.
Dehydration can cause a drop in performance. Drink small amounts regularly in the lead up to training and games and ideally little and often during games. A rule of thumb is to drink 2-3 gulps at every break in play, remembering to drink at half time.
Water is fine for children, adolescents and low intensity trainings. For adults sports drinks are best suited during high intensity trainings and games that are over 60 minutes.
Equally important to hydration is the need to ensure your players are eating the right foods to maintain sufficient energy levels. If players have any doubts about their food intake, if they are vegetarian or have low energy intakes, recommend that they talk to a dietician to make sure they are meeting all their energy requirements.
Aim to eat 2-4 hours before the game, the exact time and amount depends on how you respond as an individual. Foods that are high in carbohydrates, low in fat and fibre and moderate in protein are the best choices. This is also a good time to top-up on fluid.
- Spaghetti on toast with a glass of juice
- Breakfast cereal, fruit, milk and yoghurt and a glass of water
- Sandwiches, rolls or buns with a glass of milk
- Sushi with a glass of water
- Pasta or rice with low fat sauce, lean meat and a glass of juice.
Some athletes like a small top-up snack one hour before the game but it depends on the time of kick off and when you last ate. Everybody tolerates food differently, so trial your timing and type of food during a practice session and not on game day.
Some suggestions are:
- Cereal bar
- Small fruit bun or sandwich
Flavoured milk is a great way to kick-start recovery as it contains fluid, carbohydrates and protein. The amount you need depends on how long you played, your size and intensity of play. Around 250ml - 500ml is adequate for most players. A carbohydrate sports drink, juice or carbohydrate based food (e.g. cereal covered muesli bar, bananas or sandwiches) as soon as possible after the game may speed the rate of recovery.
You should consume a well-balanced meal containing both protein and carbohydrates within approximately two hours of the final whistle. For example a salad and chicken sandwich with a glass of milk or steak, potatoes and vegetables with a glass of juice. Including a liquid option helps to restore hydration.
- Ensure that over half the food intake comes from carbohydrate-based foods (potatoes, pasta, bread, rice, cereals and bananas).
- Increase the intake of carbohydrate foods a few days before playing.
- Ensure the diet contains at least 15% protein (eggs, fish, meat, and chicken, shakes) to help repair damage to body tissues after contact training and matches.
- Supplements are exactly that: they don't replace a balanced diet.
- Eat six smaller meals spaced through the day rather than three big ones.
- Eat some protein and carbohydrates immediately following training to enhance recovery.
- Foods high in fat before and during exercise.