Every player has their own pre-match rituals, and for many a pre-match meal is one of them. But what many players do not realise is that the foods they consume before a game can have a big impact on their performance. Lets take a look at some of reasons why pre-match nutrition is important and what strategies you can use to support your performance.
Why is Pre-Match Nutrition Important?
- Replenish muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) stores if they were not fully restored from the previous exercise session.
- Replenish liver glycogen (carbohydrate) stores, especially for matches in the morning – as liver glycogen stores decrease overnight.
- Maintain blood glucose (sugar) levels during exercise, which facilitates the uptake of glucose into the muscles for the continued use of carbohydrate as a fuel.
- Improve high-intensity exercise, especially in the later stages of exercise.
- Consume a high-carbohydrate meal 3 hours prior to the match.
- Low glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates may be more beneficial, due to long-term stable blood glucose concentrations and feelings of fullness.
- Choose foods depending on your preference.
- Avoid consuming sizeable amounts of protein, fat and fibre as they can decrease the rate of digestion and absorption of carbohydrate, and may leave you feeling bloated or too full for the match.
- Sip water throughout the build up to the match to stay hydrated. Check your urine colour to determine your hydration status.
What about the 60 minutes before a match?
You may have read that consuming carbohydrates in the 60 minutes before exercise can cause ‘rebound hypoglycemia’. When a carbohydrate is consumed, blood glucose concentration increases, subsequently increasing insulin concentrations to promote the absorption of carbohydrate into the muscles and tissues. The increase in insulin and the stimulus of exercise can cause a rapid decline in blood glucose levels at the onset of exercise called ‘rebound hypoglycemia’, which researchers once thought would decrease performance. However, more recent research has found that if ‘rebound hypoglycemia’ does occur, it rarely affects performance and blood glucose levels stabilise quickly. Therefore, consuming a small carbohydrate-based snack, such as a cereal bar, banana or Lucozade, will not negatively affect performance.
About the Author
Mark Funnell holds a BSc (Honours) degree in Sport and Exercise Science and an MSc in Sport and Exercise Nutrition from Loughborough University. He is currently working as a Performance Nutritionist for the England and Wales Cricket Board with both the England Women’s Academy and Midlands Regional Disability Cricket squads. Additionally, Mark is a graduate member of the Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register (SENr), an ISAK Level 1 Anthropometrist and a UK Anti-Doping advisor.