Footy players spend hours in the gym or out on the field training and simulating match situations in order to perform at their best. Little do they know that sometimes, the difference between approaching the last 10 minutes of the game full of energy, or barely hanging on, can be as simple as feeding your body the right energy before the game.
Why is nutrition important in sport
Food doesn’t just help the body perform, it also feeds the brain with energy. By setting up and implementing a healthy eating plan, athletes not only optimise the hours they are spending grinding it out in the gym, but also, help their bodies towards strengthening their immune systems, preventing injuries, improving energy levels and decreasing tiredness and soreness in their muscles.
Something as simple as ensuring that you make the correct food choices can help the body towards having enough energy for the duration of a chosen activity. The body needs either a well-balanced meal or high calorie snack 3-4 hours prior to any activity to allow for proper digestion. Following exercise, the body needs to be refuelled to replace the nutrients lost during the physical activity, therefore it is ideal to have a snack or a meal within 15-60 minutes of completing the activity.
Protein is a powerful nutrient that plays a major role in every living cell in the body. It is especially important for athletes who will expend more energy than the average person, leading them to need additional nutrients to recover from the activity. Protein may be critical in building muscle mass however, more protein isn’t necessarily good. In order to understand the benefits of protein, it is important to first know how protein works.
Used by the body for building, repairing and maintaining tissues, protein is part of every cell, tissue and organ in our bodies. Proteins are made up of amino acids, of which there are 20 different amino acids needed by the body, which join together to make different types of protein. Nine amino acids are considered essential because they can only be obtained by food. As the body doesn’t store amino acids, it needs a daily supply to make new proteins.
For athletes it is crucial to make new proteins for nutrients to be able to do its job of building, maintaining and repairing body tissues.
An insight into carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are essential for athletes as it is the body’s main source of energy. Carbohydrates are a type of macronutrient found in various foods and drinks. They can occur naturally or be added into processed foods in the form of sugar.
Whether from a food or drink source, carbohydrates are digested into the small intestine, where they are broken down into simple sugars like glucose and fructose. These sugars are then absorbed into the bloodstream where they can then be used for energy.
As carbohydrates provide the body with its first option for energy and are a key fuel for the brain and central nervous system- it is important to modify the timing, amount and type of carbohydrates that an athlete will eat or drink before a game or practice session.
A carbohydrate rich meal or snack 1-2 hours prior to exercise can provide a good fuel source in order to meet the demands of general exercise. However, before a training session, athletes will need to have more rigorous fuelling to provide high carbohydrate availability to prevent fatigue from shortening a session.
Eating fibre-rich fruits and vegetables and opting for whole grains provides the body with good carbohydrates that can fuel a gruelling workout.
Choosing the right fats
Fats are an essential part of any diet and including healthier fats in an eating plan can help reduce the risks of things like heart disease. As fat is higher in energy than any other nutrient, it is important to consume fats in small amounts. There are different types of fats, with some being healthier than others.
Saturated and trans fat should be consumed in small amounts as these types of fats increase the levels of bad cholesterol while also decreasing the levels of good cholesterol in the blood. However, unsaturated fats are an important part of a healthy diet, and when used as a replacement for saturated fats, can lower cholesterol levels.
While fat is important in an athlete’s diet for providing energy, fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids, it should always be eaten in moderation. A low-fat diet is a healthy approach as eliminating fats all together robs the body of essential fatty acids and energy.
To ensure that you are on top of your game on match-day, compliment your nutritional eating with quality footy gear from Canterbury to maximise your potential each and every training session and match.