During a game of 70 minutes, a footballer/hurler is estimated to run 10km, so it is essential that you prepare your body correctly if you want to be at your best. Carbohydrates are the key ingredients in a footballers diet. These provide energy for training and competing. Foods high in carbohydrates include potatoes, pasta, rice, bread and cereals.
The night before a game a player should eat a high carbohydrate meal to maximize glycogen stores. Ideally it should contain easily digestible starchy foods such as pasta, bread, rice and fruit. A glass of water should also accompany the evening meal.
Foods high in fat should be avoided as these do not provide a useful energy source and can easily cause weight gain. Plenty of fresh foods and vegetables should be eaten to provide the body with the vitamins and minerals needed to keep healthy. Before a game players should avoid drinks with diuretic properties such as coffee, tea, chocolate drinks and sodas which contain caffeine, and, obviously, alcoholic beverages.
To avoid dehydration, players should drink plenty of water. Fluid replacement is of particular importance when training or competing in hot environments. It is advisable to drink 400-600 mls of cold water prior to a match held in a hot environment (no worries there!!). During training, 100-200 mls of water should be consumed every 10-15 minutes.
A nutritionally balanced diet will help the player stay healthy and energetic. Maintain a diet high in complex carbohydrates that is moderate in protein and relatively low in fat.
Avoid serving a high-fat breakfast (steak and eggs, pancakes with lots of syrup) because fats exit the stomach slowly and can cause cramping. A high-carbohydrates breakfast (unsweetened cereal, pancakes with little or no syrup) is your best bet.
For your pre-match meal concentrate on low-fat, high-carbohydrates foods (bread, cereal, rice, pasta, fruit and vegetables. Stay away from junk food. Limit your soda and crisps consumption.
To avoid indigestion, try to avoid eating directly before the game.
Players are encouraged to drink water before and during the game (1-3 ounces every 10-15 minutes), and after the match players are encouraged to drink lots more to replace the fluid they have lost.
Sports drinks are also recommended. They contain carbohydrates and electrolytes. Electrolytes, the salts that are lost when a player sweats, maintain fluid balance and blood volume.
Water isn’t the only fluid that re-hydrates. Almost any non-alcoholic fluid, such as these, will suffice: Seltzer, sports drinks, juice, soft drinks, soups and milk.
Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables should be eaten to provide the body with the vitamins and minerals needed to keep healthy.
Suggested menu for match day;
For breakfast, try fruit juice, cereal (with semi-skimmed milk), toast and low fat spread, jam or marmalade.
For main meal, try lean meat, ideally chicken, or grilled fish, potatoes (not fried) and fresh vegetables. yoghurt or fresh fruit.
For a light meal, try bread (sandwiches), salad, pasta, fresh fruit (especially bananas), yoghurt, tinned fruit or fruitcake.
Before and after a game, a warm up and warm down is essential. Failure to warm up before a game could result in muscle pulls and tendon strains, so stretching exercises is of the utmost importance.
B.Sc., M.Sc. (Agr.)
Helsinn Birex Pharmaceuticals