A lot of thought – and column inches – goes into advising athletes on their dietary requirements leading up to events, competitions and games. Not so much emphasis is placed on recovery.
While complete rest and a good night’s sleep are key to letting the body recover after the exertions of exercise, consuming the right food is also vital to speeding up the process and ensuring your muscles get the nutrients they need for repair.
You’ve put in a shift, and felt the burn – here’s what you should be eating to get yourself back to peak condition:
- Water – it goes without saying that rehydration is absolutely vital in the lead-up to competing, during your performance and also, afterwards too. Drinking water helps with muscle soreness and replaces lost fluids. Soups are a great way to hydrate while cramming in nutrient-packed vegetables with some lean meat (or fish) to get your protein quota.
- Research suggests that you should be squeezing some sour cherries into your post-workout diet. These superfoods, sometimes called ‘tart cherries’ have anti-inflammatory properties that help with muscle fatigue; even better, sour cherries boost melatonin, the sleep hormone, meaning you’ll sleep better too.
- Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and cod contain OMEGA-3, which is also another food that helps with muscle strain and fatigue, and is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Eggs with everything – an essential source of protein, eggs also have amino acids that help muscle repair and building.
- Almonds are another good fat source, containing OMEGA-6 fats, and eaten as part of your dietary plan not only help to relieve muscle repair but also if regularly eaten help to stave off more chronic muscle soreness. Walnuts and Brazil nuts are also rich in magnesium and zinc, which need to be replaced in your post-performance in-take.
- Ginger and Turmeric – both are considered to be superfoods in that they are excellent for the blood and help counter muscle soreness, with their anti-inflammatory properties.
- Sweet potatoes – containing heaps of beta-carotene, which helps the body make vitamin A, sweet potatoes are versatile, tasty and go a long way to help keep your body’s immune system strong.
- Pineapple has anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing qualities – considered to be an essential food for those suffering from bruising, swelling and soreness.
- Bananas – high in potassium and with all the right kind of sugars to give you an energy boost after your performance, bananas are a must-have on your post-performance menu.
- Sunflower, Pumpkin and Chia seeds are all packed with magnesium, zinc and fibre to keep your blood healthy, fight muscle cramping and help your gut functioning. If you’re not incorporating these into your diet, now is the time to start.
Keeping fit for the beautiful game takes more than just regular practice: it’s also about great nutrition. And that doesn’t just mean the right foods, it means the right foods at the right time; your post-match snack is going to be different to the food that you eat while training, and both of these are different to the food that you eat for stamina just before a big game.
Today, it’s that third category that we’re going to be looking at, with a rundown of the key foods that should make their way into every footballer’s pre-match diet.
It might not get your taste buds tingling, but beetroot juice is a good choice thanks to the impressive burst of energy it provides. This is thanks to the nitrates, which help your muscles in three ways: improving blood flow, helping waste removal, and speeding up fuel delivery.
Bananas, apples and citrus fruits are all powerful stamina boosters – so a fruit salad before the match is never a terrible idea. By combining all three, you get the benefit of apple’s antioxidants, banana’s carbs, fibre and fructose, and the vitamin C that’s found in citrus.
Complex carbohydrates give a slow release of energy, which makes them ideal when you need stamina that will last throughout the full length of a football match. This includes food such as nuts, seeds, oatmeal and sweet potato and brown rice. As your body digests these particularly slowly, you’ll have enough energy for practice and the game itself.
Almonds and Walnuts
Omega-3 fatty acids are a really important nutrient to get into your diet if you take part in any sport, and football is certainly no exception. While fish is one popular (and effective) choice, you can also use walnuts and almonds to get your fill.
With all of the fibre and vitamin C that they contain, any leafy green veggies are a good choice for stamina and improved performance on the pitch. However, thanks to its additional helping of vitamin K (which helps strengthen your bones), kale is definitely the champion.
Remember, building your stamina isn’t just about choosing the right foods, but also about maintaining a suitable diet. Ideally, you want as much as 70% of your diet to come in the form of carbohydrates – with at least 2400 calories coming from carbs before a game.
With a well-balanced regular diet, and a carb-heavy pre-match meal, you should see your energy and stamina levels not just build, but stay at an optimal height.
How do you stay healthy, alert and full of energy when you’re out on your bike? It all comes down to the foods that you eat: getting the right nutrients into your body can help you ensure that you have the stamina to stay out on your bike for longer and enjoy the ride more.
Today, we’ll be running through some top nutrition tips, considering how you should be fuelling your body for different types of ride.
If You’re Out for Under an Hour
When you’re only going for a quick cycling sprint, your main focus should be on water. It’s possible, though, that you’ll need a carb boost towards the end – but be careful not to overdo it. Generally, the body can only process around 60 grammes of carbs for each hour that you’re out, which handily translates to one banana.
1 Hour to 3 Hour Rides
For a medium-length ride, you want to stick with that 60 grammes per hour rule – but rather than just popping a couple of extra bananas in your pockets, looking for foods that you can graze on as you ride. This allows you to keep feeding your body a steady supply of energy, releasing it as you go.
Nuts are a great choice for this, and most professional cyclists prefer them to processed energy bars. Trail mix is an obvious choice, but it’s become popular for a reason!
Longer Trips: Over 3 Hours
General advice is, if you’re out on your bike for a while, you should aim to eat something every 30 minutes or so, without giving your body more carbs than it can handle.
This means grazing on options such as fig rolls (12g of carbs), mini pitta bread with peanut butter (18g) and sports gel (30g). If you’re going to be stopping for lunch, peanut butter and jam sandwiches are a firm favourite that will give you both the quick boost and the slow release energy that you need.
So long as you stick to the principles we’ve outlined here, you can afford to experiment a little. In fact, many cycling experts say that the most important thing is finding the energy booster that you enjoy, since it will encourage you to use a regular feeding pattern.
Whether you’re a cycling commuter, a racer, or just somebody who enjoys taking the bike out on a sunny weekend, we hope that this post helps you get more from your ride.