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.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Pre-match Nutrition for the Modern Footballer

By Lisa Grimes
The game of football has changed. Some would say for better, while others would say for worse, but one aspect that has changed possibly more than any other is the importance placed on player nutrition ahead of match days. Long-gone are the days when top-flight players would celebrate mid-week victories with a massive drinking session. Go back even further to the 50s and it was not uncommon for players to enjoy a few pre-match pints with fans in pubs close to the ground, and then run out on the pitch half an hour later. The pace of football does not allow for any complacency, and players need to condition themselves through exercise and nutrition. In recent years, for the first time, the Premier League has had players of 40 years-plus, and this has to relate to current understandings of the importance of nutrition. So what exactly does the modern footballer’s nutrition regime involve to ensure they are in tip-top condition when Saturday comes and what tips can you learn to improve your own match fitness?

One week prior to the game
Hours of time spent practicing set-pieces, and working on stamina on the training field are worthless if players turn up on match day with low energy levels due to a diet that is poor. As much attention needs to be given to nutrition as all other aspects of the game. Loading up on carbs is not just as simple as scoffing a big plate of pasta and tuna the night before the big game. Making sure the body is in optimal condition is a lifestyle, with strict rules that need to be adhered to. Carbohydrate stores should be depleted at the beginning of the week, and then gradually increased as match day becomes nearer. Not consuming so many carbs at the start of the week encourages muscles to increase their receptors that absorb carbs, as the body tries to maximise blood-sugar, which is limited in supply. Footballers can then use this situation to their advantage by consuming more and more carbs at the end of the week, and increasing levels of stored glycogen by up to 50%.

A few days before
Thai-style soups are excellent for hydration, as they contain ingredients such as ginger, turmeric, and chilli which can all make the blood thinner. This thinner blood circulates at a faster rate, guiding a greater amount of oxygen to blood cells. Also, turmeric contains curcumin as a main component, which can alleviate liver scarring and cell damage, meaning if a player does fancy a couple of celebratory drinks, they don’t have to feel so guilty about it. It is worth considering, for players to be at their very best, everything that is consumed has to be monitored, and this can include over the counter and prescription medications. Some medications can have an adverse effect on peoples’ health, and there have been cases over the years of sports people failing doping tests when they have simply taken medication for the common cold. Nutrition experts are able to advise which medications are unacceptable for footballers to take.

One day to go
The most vital meal of the week is the evening one before match day. For some players pre-match nerves mean that eating anything can be difficult, but it is crucial that they try to consume a reasonable amount of cabs, but they don’t have to go overboard. One of the footballer’s favorite pre-match meals is chicken or fish, with jacket or sweet potato, and some green veg on the side. Beef steak is deemed too heavy by nutritionists. Spinach is seen as a super food with its high levels of vitamins and carotenoid antioxidants.

Four hours till show time
Players will be on the way to the game at this point, so something that is convenient and can be eaten on the go is required. Chicken and veg can be prepared the night before, put in a covered container, and then chilled in the fridge. Starchy carbs are the best, with fat intake kept to a minimal level.

90 minutes left
A final dose of nutrition is needed around an hour and a half before match time. Tropical fruits such as pineapples, bananas and mangos are a good bet as they have lower levels of fibre, but don’t induce a strong sugar rush. Blood sugar fluctuations can lead to tiredness, which is the last thing a player needs.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

How Nutritional Diets Prolong Footballer's Careers

Written by Lisa Grimes

With the huge stresses and strains facing the modern-day footballer, it is more important now than ever before to maintain physical fitness. TV schedules and soaring business involved in football has meant more and more games are being played each season. The effect of which is that elite players are becoming more susceptible to injuries, both short-term and long-term. In turn training and preparing the body for the exertions of a 90-minute match have improved, with many clubs employing fitness specialists to track players’ conditions. However, this is not enough. In order for elite players to extend their playing careers into their mid-30s, a whole change of lifestyle is needed, beginning with nutrition.

The early years
The football culture in the 1980s and early 1990s was considerably different to that of today. Whether it was the lack of knowledge on the subject of nutrition, the less media attention given to the sport, the less money involved or a combination of several factors, footballers were simply not as health conscious as they are today. Back then it was considered the norm for players to drink regularly, eat badly and generally neglect their bodies. The issue of nutrition was not considered in those days with footballers such as Tony Adams, Paul McGrath, Paul Merson et al, all known for their late night antics and weekend binges. It wasn’t really until the mid-1990s when football really stood up and took notice of the fact that bodies need to be nurtured not destroyed, in order to perform at a high level. One of the main instigators for this change was Arsène Wenger, who famously and successfully brought about change in the Arsenal team when he joined as manager in 1996. “It's silly to work hard the whole week and then spoil it by not preparing properly before the game….Food is like kerosene. If you put the wrong one in your car, it’s not as quick as it should be.” Wenger was quoted as saying. And it turns out, he was right. He introduced special diets into the Arsenal ranks which bore fruit as many of his players went on to prolong their careers into their mid-30s, including recovered-alcoholic and then-Gunners captain Tony Adams. In fact it is known that Wenger was instrumental in convincing Adams to attend rehab and rid himself of of the addiction. Such problems have affected many footballers with more information on detox and rehabilitation available at Project Know. 

The modern day
Fast forward to today and the picture has completely changed. The money and prestige which is at stake means players and clubs are desperate to tip the odds in their favour by producing ultra-fit players, who can perform at a high level for longer. Nowadays nutrition levels are measured daily and food intake is planned for individual player’s needs, to maximise their performance. For a player looking to lengthen his career, a strong focus on nutrition has proved to be an invaluable necessity. The Football Association has previously released information about what types of food a footballer should eat. These include a balanced diet of simple carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates, saturated and unsaturated fats, protein, vitamins and minerals, fibre and water. The FA believes that, although regular people should consume 55-60% carbohydrates, a footballer should aim at 70%.

The evergreen Ryan Giggs
There are a few shining examples of footballer’s who have extended their playing careers thanks to healthy living and a nutritious diet - none more so than Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs. The former Welsh international is the longest serving footballer in the Premier League and is still going strong at the tender age of 39. Thanks to a combination of strict eating (in which he denies himself luxuries such as chocolate and beer) yoga and certain medical treatments Giggs has proven what can be achieved with dedication and knowledge of the body. Having completed his coaching badges it is expected that Giggs will retire from playing at the end of this season, at which time his achievements will be all the more evident.

What the future holds
History has shown that a nutritious diet and longevity in a footballer’s career go hand in hand. Like any athlete eating well optimises performance, reduces the risk of injury and reduces recovery time. Certainly at the top it is now an obligation rather than a choice for players to focus on nutrition. Doubtless it will continue in this fashion in the future, meaning that those neglecting their diet will be left behind, while those of the ‘Ryan Giggs’ mould will flourish.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sammy Ameobi Wows On Europa League Debut

Have a look at this brilliant video titled the Golden Age of Passing, highlighting the best passes made during Match Day 3 of the Europa League. Particularly interesting was the deft touches made by Sammy Ameobi who had a stellar performance against Club Brugge.

Ameobi's performance did not go unnoticed as Pardew envisioned a big future for Shola's younger brother.

Top Passing Players Of Europa League Match Day 3

Chiek Tiote is the top passing player on Match Day 3 of the Europa League. Newcastle won 1-0 against Club Brugge. Pavel Horvath is still doing the business at the age of 37. How would they fare on Match Day 4?

Western Union unveils new education initiative around UEFA Europa League to deliver one million schooldays where they will turn every pass completed in the Europa League into funding to provide one day's education to young people around the world. This is the PASS initiative led by former French and Arsenal star, Patrick Vieira.

UEFA Europa League Match Day 3 Total Passes

A nice way to get excited over the upcoming Anzhi Makhachkala v. Liverpool Europa League match tonight, eh? Can the Reds' second stringers show resolve and determination against a strong Anzhi side? The Reds outpassed the millionaire Russians at Anfield, will it be the same at the Khazar Stadium?

Europa League and Western Union have launched their new PASS Initiative – where every pass in the Europa League equals a day of school for kids around the world.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Andy Carroll Back To Being "The Beast"

At Liverpool, Andy Carroll had to adapt his playing style. Then again, at Newcastle, Dalglish had been favoring a classic no. 9 already so the signing of Carroll for Liverpool should not surprise many last year. What was more disappointing was the lack of service for Carroll especially when Dalglish also bought Downing and Enrique to lay bombs on Carroll's head. For me, Carroll was not a flop at Liverpool, the supporting cast of Downing and Enrique let him down badly.

The move to West Ham, where Sam Allardyce plays the football that Andy craves, could not come at an opportune time. Andy Carroll scored arguably the best goal in the Euros and he proved that when it comes to heading the ball, he has no peers in the Premier League.

Amazing Raheem Sterling Should Have Won Derby For Liverpool

What an utterly breathtaking game between Liverpool and Everton over the weekend! Without the usual red cards and farcical refereeing decisions, it was refreshing to watch a Derby Day match where football actually took center stage.

Pundits are arguing that there was little technical quality in the game, but it did not matter one bit to me. The match had everything in it, pressure was high, the pace and tempo were ridiculously furious and Luis Suarez once more showed just why he is THE most electrifying footballer in the Barclays Premier League today.

Sure, El Pistolero may not be everyone's idea of a clinical striker but hey, there is no other player I would have on my side. He has the "samba-like" skills (just watching his numerous nutmegs on defenders), the unpredictability, frighteningly high energy and unquestioned workrate that no other player can compete against. To have scored six goals in a Liverpool side in which he fights ALONE every weekend against FOUR tough opposing defenders is a remarkable feat.

It's a shame he could not get that last-minute game winning goal for the Reds.

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