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Fuelling for game day

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Guest blog by Life+Performance Nutrition

Field sports include a combination of aerobic and anaerobic activity, so fuelling a game of soccer or AFL or rugby league (or any field sport) requires planning to ensure adequate energy levels throughout the game without gut upset. 

When preparing for a game carbo loading is not necessary – the focus is on high GI carbohydrate rich foods for quick energy availability and reduced protein and fat intake for faster digestion.

Fibre can provide satiety and take longer to digest, if you are finding that a high fibre diet around game day leaves you feeling full and uncomfortable, you may want to consider a low fibre diet in the two days leading up to game day. Similarly, if you experience gut symptoms on game day, you may find that a low FODMAP diet in the days leading up to game day may help reduce gut upset. A dietitian who specialises in gut health can help you fine tune your strategies to minimise discomfort. 

Depending on game start time, your strategies are going to differ, so let’s have a look at what your meals and snacks could look like if you had an evening game:

Breakfast: Focus on easy to digest foods that you are familiar with like porridge, muesli, bircher muesli, eggs or avo on toast, fruit and yoghurt. A coffee or juice could also be added. 

Morning tea: While optional, it really depends on your hunger levels. If you are hungry include a good source of carbohydrates and protein, for example a banana and Greek yoghurt or rice cakes with cottage cheese and strawberries. If you are not hungry, you can go straight to lunch. 

Lunch: Focus on high GI carbohydrates such as white rice, pasta and bread. You will need 1/3 to ½ a plate, depending on your position. If you are full back or full forward a 1/3 of the plate will be just fine, however, midfielders and wings are going to need a little extra due to more running – so aim for ½ a plate. Keep the protein to ¼ of the plate and choose easy to digest options such as fish, chicken or tofu then add a ¼ plate of low fibre veggies like cucumber, tomato, well-cooked carrot, zucchini and broccoli florets. I would recommend to keep the sauces and condiments light, and choose a tomato based rather than heavy/creamy sauces. 

Snack: 60-90 minutes prior to the game you want a carbohydrate-based snack like a fruit smoothie, toast with jam or honey, fruit toast, cereal bars, oat bars or fruit such as banana or watermelon. 

Primer: if your position involves a lot of running, you might like to add a small snack 30 minutes prior to bounce, something quick to absorb like fruit juice, banana, watermelon, pretzels or dried fruit. 

During the game: depending on your position, you may benefit from a sport drink, fruit juice, lollies or icy poles on a hot day. 

Hydration: Hydration should be your priority, sipping regularly throughout the day will get you to your game adequately hydrated. Water during the game is a must.

Post Match: After the game, a carbohydrate and protein rich snack or meal within 1 hour of finishing will support your recovery. A normal dinner that includes a good serve of protein (1/3 of plate) and some quality carbohydrates (1/3 of plate) plus colourful veggies (1/3 of plate) is just the ticket. If dinner is more than 1 hour away or you just can’t stomach a full meal before bed, you can include a snack like a chicken and avocado sandwich, a chocolate milk or a protein shake and a banana.  (YES – Chocolate milk!)

Fuelling for field based sports can be tricky, especially if you are also at school, uni, working full time or have family commitments. If you are finding that you run out of energy before the end of the game, you are experiencing gut upset or just can’t seem to get your fuelling right then working with a Sports Dietitian can make fuelling easy as 1,2,3.

Check out our Life+Performance page to find out more about how a Sports Dietitian can help you!

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