Eating Before and After Games

Eating before training and games

Usually people have a regular times of when they have meals. However on the days you have a game or training, you might want to alter those times a little bit according to the times of the games and trainings. It is important to start a match well fuelled. The kind of food you eat will also play a huge role in your performance during the game and training.

What should you eat?

Glycaemic index of the food is a scale on which the carbohydrates in the food are rated based on the amount of time it takes for them to affect the blood sugar levels. Simple carbohydrates like cakes and other sugary foods and drinks have a high GI. They could give your body instant energy but a better option would be to eat low GI foods which are the more complex carbohydrates that are broken down a bit slowly by the body and provide a longer release of energy and are more filling.  
It is recommended that you have a big meal that is:

  1. Carbohydrate heavy (Low GI)
  2. Fluid for hydration

Many players would also have a small snack about 1 hour before the game. That snack should:

  1. Be easy to digest
  2. Be rich in carbohydrates for fuel
  3. Be low in fat so that it is easy to digest
  4. Be enjoyable for mental performance
  5. Provide adequate fluid

A favourite pre-event meal can be a great confidence booster and could help you get in the zone. But don’t try anything new before an important event.

Some people have problems like pre-match nerves causing stomach upset. If that’s you, you could try low fibre foods which can help prevent bloating, diarrhoea and stomach discomfort. You could also try consuming your calories in liquid form.

During the competition

You don’t have to eat anything during a game. It is better if you just concentrate on replenishing the fluid loss.

In a tournament setting where you are playing more than one game in a day you could try eating something light easy to digest between games. Something carbohydrate heavy to top keep fuel levels topped up.

Eating after training and games

The goals of post exercise nutrition recovery are:

  1. Replenish fuel (glycogen) stores

The importance of eating carbohydrates after a workout is well established. Failing to replenish the glycogen stores may result in fatigue and compromise your athlete’s ability to train at a high intensity in subsequent session.

Consuming carbohydrates immediately post exercise may also have a positive effect on the immune system. Exercising in a carbohydrate-depleted state results in larger increases in circulating stress hormones. It has been thought that consuming carbohydrate during and immediately after exercise reduces this rise in stress hormones and may reduce the degree of exercise induced immunosuppression.

  1. Deliver protein to assist with muscle repair

Whether completing resistance training or a conditioning session, the delivery of high quality protein can provide the building blocks to repair muscle and promote muscle protein synthesis.

So what does this look like? Outlined below are the immediate food and fluid choices for a 70kg athlete to replenish glycogen stores: -

  • One serve whey-derived protein shake + 300ml low fat milk and 600ml sports drink
  • 2 tubs of yoghurt and 2 cups of fruit salad
  • A salad roll with 60g lean sandwich meat and a banana
  1. Restore water and electrolytes lost in sweat

The general recommendation for fluid intake is to consume 120-150% of the lost fluids over the 4-6 hours after the workout (measured by monitoring the weight loss during the workout). However, if you training sessions are late in the evening, consuming so much fluids could result in disrupted sleep due to multiple pee stops which is not conducive to recovery. Therefore it would be a good idea to consume a little less fluid in that case. Just make sure you are well hydrated before the next training session.

Cow’s milk (and soy milk to some extent has been shown to be an effective rehydrating post exercise beverage. Milk has a similar electrolyte composition to sports drinks with the added benefit of carbohydrate and protein to assist with meeting other recovery goals.

It is also a good idea to plan your post exercise meal beforehand and consume some food within 20 to 30 minutes after exercise. Sometimes people travel a long distance after training to get back home and then have to cook their food once they get home or have to wait a while for food for some other reason. Therefore it is a good idea to pack and bring a little snack with you if you know it’s going to be a while until you get food. 

"An Accreditation Sports Dietitian was consulted for the content in this article but should be considered general advice only and may not suit your circumstances. Before modifying your diet, consult an Accredited Sports Dietitian"


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