It’s not just the match that should fire you up!


Nutrition - Food.


We start with food as it provides the energy for our muscles, the brain and other organs. The correct types of food, the amount you eat and when you eat will determine what energy levels are available when needed.


Over eating will add weight which means our muscles have to work harder, this can reduce stamina or our ability to accelerate. Similarly if we under eat we will become weak as the body does not receive enough nutrients which provides us with the energy to perform to our up most ability both mentally and physically.


Many of us have been brought-up on ‘three meals a day’ or a hearty breakfast to take us through to an evening meal. Various researches have shown that it is more beneficial and healthier to eat smaller amounts of food but more regularly. That of course makes sense as when the body is hungry it will start to use up reserves.



What to eat and when to eat it:


The timing of meals you consume is important especially if it is a match or training day, which is where I will concentrate as we want to build up the energy store we will need to use.


Firstly any intake that contains fats or proteins should to be restricted, as these nutrients require a relatively long time for the body to digest. A meal approximately 3-4 hours before is advised. This should be high in carbohydrates (this is the fuel that your body needs to perform at the highest level), low in fat, low in protein, low in fibre and not too bulky.



Recommended foods include: breakfast cereal with low fat milk, toast or bread with jam/honey, or sandwiches with banana/honey/jam, pasta/rice with low fat sauce, muffins, baked potato, fruit, energy bars, and orange juice. This can be followed by a snack high in carbohydrates about 2 hours before the match or training. You may need to experiment with these timings as people differ in their ability to digest food. Again foods such as toast, bread or crumpets with jam or honey, sweetened cereal with low fat milk, muffins, orange juice and jelly sweets can be eaten. During any interval in the match or training where you might need to increase energy quickly look for food that offers an immediate boost; my favourite is Jaffa cakes (one or two) as apart from being a tasty cake they give that quick energy boost from their sugar content (but unless you hide them you need to be prepared to share with your team).


Carbohydrate rich foods should be the main source of your diet. The table below shows various foods that contains these nutrients. Aim to consume the main bulk of your diet from complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates should not be consumed in large quantities and are more useful as snacks between workouts, or to top up your energy intake. The carbohydrates you consume should be balanced with a healthy intake of protein, low fat and plenty of fruit and vegetables.



      Complex Carbohydrates                

          Simple Carbohydrates               


        Mixture of Complex and Simple 


 Whole Grain Bread/Bagels  Sugar Cakes 
 Pasta / Macaoni  Jam  Biscuits
 Rice  Honey  Puddings
 Noodles  Yoghurt  Sweet Pastries


 Fromage Frais  Cheesecakes

Breakfast Cereals


 Ice Cream

 Breakfast Cereals


Pulses (Beans, lentils, peas)   Jelly  Bananas
 Baked Beans  Rasins  Grapes
Apricots / Peaches  Full sugar cordials  Oranges
 Potatoes  Jelly sweets  Plums
 Parsnips, sweet corn  Energy branded soft drinks  Pears



For those who need to monitor calories, most complex carbohydrates are low in calories, low in fat and high in fiber. As much as possible, avoid processed carbohydrates. These types of carbohydrates can cause your blood sugar to elevate quickly and plunge soon after, causing you to feel tired and hungry. Basically if you do not consume enough carbohydrates then your energy levels will deteriorate and subsequently your performance will suffer. More importantly you will be more susceptible to injury.


Once the game or training is over, fluids should be replaced (see next article - liquids) and carbohydrates should be consumed as soon as possible to assist with the recovery of your glycogen store. As soon as possible you should aim to consume a meal which is high in carbohydrates. Foods such as pasta, spaghetti, rice, noodles, low fat pasta sauce, bread, potatoes, and baked beans are ideal during this period.


I mentioned protein as they are also used to fuel the body. The difference is that protein helps repair muscles and boosts your immune system but unlike carbohydrates they do not give you much immediate energy.


Good sources of Protein:


Fish - Chicken - Turkey - Beef     Milk (low fat) - Cheese - Yogurts
Eggs - Nuts Whole Soy foods



In the next part of this article on Nutrition I discuss liquid intake. Click Liquid or select from main menu.