Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Post Game Recovery for Football Players

Written By Lisa Grimes

Football is a uniquely demanding sport which requires agility, power and endurance. Most players will often find it relatively easy to keep the pace up in the first half of a match, only to find that depleted glycogen levels in their muscles seriously wrest from their stamina in the second half. Football players consume a significant amount of calories during every 90-minute game (up to 250 grams, approximately). Replenishing lost glycogen levels is crucial, especially for athletes involved in competitions lasting several days. To keep your muscle mass and energy levels at optimal levels, it is vital to give priority to three main areas: rehydration, muscle repair and the replacement of lost energy.

  • Rehydration: Football players aim to replenish lost fluids throughout the game, yet despite their best efforts, most still have a significant fluid deficit when the referee blows the final whistle. To avoid becoming excessively dehydrated, aim to consume around one and a half times the water you have lost during a game, and keep drinking for several hours after the game is over. Replace lost fluid while you enjoy a snack or main meal, though if you do not feel like consuming solids after an intense game, complement your water intake with an energising drink containing nutrients such as nitric oxide (which improves the blood supply to muscles and helps flush toxins out of your system), Vitamin B and powerful antioxidants like ginseng and gingko biloba. It is important to keep drinking even when you no longer feel thirsty. A good way to discover how much fluid you have lost is to weight yourself before and immediately after a game… soccer players usually lose between two and 2.5 litres during a typical match.
  • Muscle Repair: The consumption of a snack containing both proteins and carbohydrates is vital when it comes to muscle recovery. Try to begin snacking within 30 minutes of the end of the game. Combine an energy drink with foods such as trail mix, bananas, dried fruits and chicken or beef sandwiches or fish and rice. Try to limit your fat intake to around 20 to 25 per cent of the calories you consume, since fat can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates and proteins if consumed in abundance.
  • Replacement of Lost Energy: Since glycogen is a carbohydrate, the best way to raise depleted levels is to consume carbohydrates. Athletes often express concern regarding the type of carbohydrates which should be consumed. There are basically two types of carbohydrate: those with a high glycaemic index (these foods produce a large release of insulin and include mangos, potatoes, bread and energy drinks) and those with a lower glycaemic index (these foods bring about a smaller release of insulin and include apples and pears). While the body is able to use both types of carbohydrate efficiently, health-conscious athletes may opt for high-nutrient foods rather than white bread, sugary foods and processed snacks. Whole wheat bread, for instance, contains finer and phytochemicals, while white bread is usually ‘nutritionally empty’. Additionally, it is important to bear in mind that processed foods can take much longer to digest, thereby failing to provide the energy you may need for the second half or next game.

Research indicates that soccer players should aim to consume carbohydrates and proteins at a ratio of 4:1. A practical guide is to ingest two grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight. For instance, if you weigh around 80 kilograms, try to consume around 160 grams of carbohydrate and 40 grams of protein. If you are trying to lose weight, do not worry about your carbohydrate intake. Excess calories which hail from carbohydrate-rich foods are actually much less fattening than those found in fatty foods – the body consumes many more calories converting carbohydrate into body fat, than it does converting fatty foods into body fat.

Timing is also important when it comes to recovery. The period immediately following the game is particularly important because right after intense exercise, your muscles are particularly sensitive to insulin, which helps improve the rate of recovery. During the first two hours after the game, consume high- glycaemic index foods. In two hours after that (i.e. between two and four hours after the game), switch to moderate - to - high glycaemic index foods and during the following 24 hours, get your energy boost from low- to moderate- glycaemic index foods like pasta and citric foods.

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