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Pre, During & Post Match NutritionBy
Nutrition has come more and more to the fore in the era of professional rugby. These days, most big teams and all the international ones have at least one nutritionist to look after their players. But eating right isn’t just for international stars!
Having the right nutritional program can help to boost your match-day performance and give you that vital edge. Eating properly is just like any other part of training – designed to get the best out of your body when the time comes. Equally, it is important to look after your body’s needs during and after the match, to make sure you do not suffer any permanent damage.
In the run up to the match, it is vital to pre-load your body with carbohydrates, found in foods like pasta, wholegrain bread and porridge (these forms of carbohydrate are best, as they provide slow release energy).
These foods are crucial for that “explosive” power so desired in the modern game. Taper down your exercise routine as you come up to the match in line with loading your body with carbohydrates. On the day itself, try and have a full, decent meal four or five hours before the game, that consists of protein and carbohydrates – this can be as little as a sandwich with some lean meat or tuna in it, for those who do not feel much like eating before a match, or some pasta with tomato sauce. If you like, have a small snack some two hours before the game – after that, liquids only!
More long-term, you should remember to include reasonable amounts of protein in your diet to encourage muscle growth and repair. Try to eat five or six small meals a day, rather than three big ones. This keeps your body permanently supplied with energy, rather than overloading your system a few times a day.
Fatty foods should generally be avoided, although there are certain good fats that your body needs, particularly to grow muscle. You will find these especially in oily fish, as well as nuts, seeds and certain vegetables. Avoid alcohol before and immediately after a match – it can dehydrate you and cause real damage when combined with the exhaustion of a game.
During the match, it is most important to keep hydrated. For these purposes, an isotonic drink such as Lucozade Sport is the best way to go, as they can rehydrate quicker than water and give a quick energy boost.
Drinking one before the match and at half time can keep you at the top of your game. Avoid eating solid food during the match! Combined with the pressure you are putting your body under, it is likely to upset your stomach and cause you discomfort.
After the match, your energy levels will have been massively depleted and in need of quick refilling. Try taking sugary foods and plenty of water – this will help your body to recover quickly. Then it’s time to help your muscles heal. You should eat fruit, vegetables and protein in your post-match meal to recover and prevent any permanent damage.
Possibly the most important thing to remember about nutrition is to eat what your body is comfortable with. Try out any new foods during training time to make sure it won’t affect you for the worse on match day. Good luck, and good eating!
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