Whilst supplements will not make up for a poor diet, there are a few that, in some situations, have been proven to aid performance in team sports. Carbohydrate, creatine and caffeine are the primary ones. You should always seek advice from a nutritionist prior to using these supplements in your match day strategy.
Foods to avoid before a match include foods high in fat, fibre and protein. Fat takes a long time to digest, and fatty foods delay emptying of the stomach. Avoid foods such as pizza, burgers, chips, sausages, croissants, fry-ups, sausage rolls, which are typically high in fat. Fibre also delays stomach emptying, and it can cause stomach cramps if you eat too much before exercise. Protein takes a long time to digest, so eating a high-protein meal right before a game is not recommended. Choose easy to digest proteins such as chicken, fish and vegetable sources.
Eat your main meal 2-4 hours before the game. The exact time will come down to personal preference, volume and composition of the meal. If you are still hungry, eat a small carbohydrate based snack 60-90 minutes before you start the game. Things like cereal bars, bananas, yoghurts, fruit bread and crumpets work well during this time.
There are two categories:
– Foods containing 20ppm gluten or less can be labelled ‘gluten-free’
– Foods containing 21-100ppm gluten can be labelled ‘very low gluten’
The term ‘gluten-free’ implies no gluten. However, it is not possible to test for zero levels of gluten. Those with coeliac disease are able to safely tolerate a very small amount of gluten, so be aware that low levels of gluten are allowed in products that may be labelled gluten free.
Whilst carbohydrate loading is important – I’ve done the research to show that people who carbo-load maintain pace better during the London Marathon – the whole premise creates really poor nutrition habits. Fatigue, bloating and lethargy typically result from consuming large amounts of carbohydrate in a short amount of time. Runners tend to assume that it means eating the largest bowl of pasta for their evening meal, adding half a loaf of bread, and a pudding for good measure. This is NOT good practice. The day before a race is all about carbohydrate loading, but eating 4-5 meals in that day as opposed to 3 will help, by spreading the carbohydrate intake. Steal a little bit more food at every meal, use drinks or smoothies to prevent bloating, but above everything, you shouldn’t feel full, bloated or stuffed.
Its true! To help promote recovery, the recommendations clearly state 20-25g of fast acting protein (e.g. whey), and 1.2g/kg body weight of carbohydrate. It is easy to get the hit of protein from milk, a recovery shake or a chicken sandwich, but the carbohydrate becomes a little tougher if you like to be detailed enough regarding your body weight. That aside, evidence shows the benefits of milk in improving recovery similar to that of classical supplements. There are small differences between formulations for those who want to know more, but the question is a good one, and the answer is yes.
If I had the answer to the “stitch” I would definitely be a rich man! In truth, it is a very frustrating, and a common problem. On the basis I can’t provide a solution, I will quickly outline the key areas in which you should think through and address:
– Note down the foods you tend to eat in the periods close to a race. Are they always the same, does the stitch occur at times when you can see trends in your food choices?
– What about the timing of your food intake. Are you having your pre-race meal 4 hours before races, and if not how close, or far away. Depending on that, are you snacking before hand also?
In many respects, I have asked more questions than provided answers. But working together we would keep a diary, and try to work through exactly what your pre-race schedule was and if there were any obvious areas in which to change. It might be an area to discuss direct.