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Football Nutrition: Pre / Intra / Post

6th March 2017
The Week leading up to a big game:

Carb-loading correctly for match-day is a far more complex process than gorging on pasta with a bit of tuna thrown in the night before, optimising your body for 90 minutes of football is very much a 24/7 pursuit. Some recommend depleting your carbohydrate stores in the early part of the week and gradually increasing your carbs as match day approaches. Shirking carbs at the start of the week forces your muscles to increase their carb-absorbing GLUT-4 receptors as the body attempts to maximise the limited blood-sugar available. This increased sensitivity is then taken advantage of by piling on the carbs closer to Saturday. This 'super compensation' method can increase your maximal amount of stored glycogen by up to 50%.

A Couple of days before the game

Hit the soups. These will help with your hydration, Soups with chill, turmeric and ginger, are good, all help to thin your blood – and thinner blood goes round your body quicker, delivering more oxygen to your cells. Keeping yourself hydrated with plenty water or sports drinks is also essential for the Carb loading process.

The Day before the game

The evening meal before a game is the most crucial of all. Big match nerves can make the prospect of consuming anything at all on the day nauseating – but provided you eat well the night before and exert very little energy pre-game, turning up primed to perform is still possible.
 Some fish or chicken along with sweet potato or a jacket potato, alongside some green veg, is a good bet. Have nothing heavy (steak is out). Go Popeye and add spinach, which is packed with vitamins and carotenoid antioxidants.

The Morning of the match

Getting a good night's sleep is just as important as eating right. So if you've an early kick off, favour kip over kippers. It's better to have the extra sleep rather than wake up earlier just to eat.
Once out of bed, eat as soon as you can. Avoid wheat and wheat-based products because they can have the tendency to cause bloating, You should also steer away from foods high in fibre as these can sit in the stomach and take a long time to digest. Try stirring some protein into milk porridge, or combine an omelette with some fruit salad for a good balance of carbs, protein and fat.

Pre Match

Your final nutritional hit should be delivered 75-90 minutes before kick off. Tropical fruits – mangos, papaya, pineapples, bananas – are all good at this stage because they've got modest amounts of fibre and don't give as much of a sugar rush as other fruits, Too much of the sweet stuff can lead to lethargy due to blood sugar fluctuations, so avoid sports drinks until immediately before the game, too.
If nerves get the better of you, a liquid meal may be best, try blending 25g of oats with 500ml of skimmed milk, one or two scoops of protein powder, half a banana, a few nuts and a teaspoon of honey. Not as tasty as pint of the black stuff, for sure. But undoubtedly more effective.

Match Warm Up / In Game Hydration

Consume what you have in your sports bottle, It's now important to take your Energy drink in order to fuel yourself for the 45 minutes ahead. Any strenuous exercise lasting 45 minutes of more renders water alone useless, an Isotonic Carbhydrate sports drink is required to fuel you. Use breaks in play to continue hydrating and replacing your Electrolytes which you are losing through sweat. Use half time as a fueling station, Hydrating and topping up, Energy gels and energy bars are great for this, gels will enter your bloodsteam far quicker so may be the preffered option with limited time. Continue to hydrate throughout the second half until the 90 minutes are up and you've emerged the victor.

Post Match Recovery & Nutrition

After a hard match it's important that your body replenishes it's carbohydrate and fluid stores.

Just remember the three "R's"




Carbohydrate stores (glycogen) must be restored quickly to allow optimum performance levels to be maintained, it's important to start replenishing these stores within the first hour of any activity, prolonging this will result in unwanted fatigue.

Carbohydrate rich foods are key to quickly replenishing lost muscle glycogen stores, during this time it is also important to include some form of lean protein to aid muscle and tissue repair and growth. Prime examples are Protein shakes, and chicken salad sandwich, a bowl of breakfast cereal, dried fruit, milk or a quality protein bar.
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