Recovery Nutrition for Football

Footballers need to recover well between games if they are to perform well each week. The hard running during a game, plus bumps and knocks, can cause significant muscle damage and result in tightness and soreness.

How you pull-up after training and games is largely determined by how you recover. Playing AFL footy also uses up the bodyís energy stores and may result in large fluid losses which need to be replaced.

The food and fluids consumed following exercise are critical for optimal recovery

The earlier you start the recovery process, the better your muscles and body will feel for the next training session. Immediately after games, both physical recovery and adequate nutrition are essential to get the body back into top condition.

Priorities post-game:
  • Re-hydrate
  • Muscle repair
  • Replace fuel stores
Fluid Replacement

Trainers do a great job in providing fluids to players during the game, however it is often difficult for footballers to keep up with fluid losses and this leads to a fluid deficit at the end of the game. It is important to replace fluid as soon as possible, with the aim of drinking 1.5 times the amount of fluid lost in the game during the several hours post-game.

Water is fine for most people after exercise when it is accompanied by snacks or a meal that can provide other nutrients. However, if a player does not feel like eating solid fluids for several hours then it is important to drink fluids containing nutrients e.g. sports drinks, liquid meal replacement such as Sustagen Sport, milk drinks and smoothies.

What foods are best for recovery from exercise?

It is important to consume food and fluids as soon as possible, ideally within 15-30 minutes after the game.

Protein and carbohydrate are essential nutrients for recovery. Research indicates that protein is essential following strength training to promote muscle recovery and optimal muscle mass increase. Carbohydrates are also required to replace that burnt during exercise and restore muscle glycogen.

A snack such as a chicken and salad roll (white bread) is the perfect option, containing protein and high glycemic index carbohydrates.

For individuals who donít feel like eating straight away, a liquid meal replacement or milk-based drink is another great choice. Fruit, low-fat muffins, muesli bars or dried fruit/almonds are also suitable post-exercise snacks.

Post-match meal

The meal eaten in the hours after the game can make a big difference to recovery, and should contain protein and carbohydrate, but not too much fat.

Good choices include:

  • Beef and vegetable stir-fry with rice or noodles
  • Pasta with chicken or lean meat tomato sauce, add vegetables or serve with salad
  • Chicken and vegetable risotto
  • Grilled chicken with vegetables (including potato/pumpkin)
  • Home-made pizza (low-fat cheese and lean ham)
  • Soup with pasta/noodles/rice and meat/chicken/legumes

Donít forget to have a large drink with this meal, and sip regularly on fluids during the hours after training and games

Complete recovery is not achieved in just a few hours after the game, it can often take more than 24 hours. Adequate fluid and food intake is important over the next couple of days to ensure optimal recovery and preparation for the next game ahead.

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