What you can achieve in the grassroots sport you play (whether you are hoping to break all your own records just to be able to still stand up at the end) is dependent on how well your body is working.
For it to work well, you need to feed and hydrate it well.
For the most part, just eating a healthy balanced diet will give you everything you need.
But what is this elusive “healthy balanced diet”?
We are constantly bombarded with headlines claiming breakthrough research into the latest health trends.
The all-hailed superfoods that promise to provide the elixir of health – if you include them in your diet you will burn fat, perform better and live longer.
Some things I’ve been asked to comment about recently include the health “cheese” that contained no fat (and consequently a whole array of ingredients that are not quite food), the benefits of eating avocado stones, and a “cleanse” that involved eating nothing but potatoes.
How do we know what to believe? By its very nature, science is always making new discoveries, and thank goodness – otherwise we’d all still be smoking in order to help our chesty cough.
But sometimes it feels like you need to have a degree in nutrition in order to decode the headlines and that’s where a dietitian comes in really useful!
The place I always start is with the food groups: protein, carbs and fat and fruit and vegetables.
Proteins are extremely complex compounds made from collections of smaller components called amino acids.
And there are a vast number of combinations of amino acid arrangements to form different proteins with different functions.
Most people understand that protein has a role in muscle growth but proteins do a lot more than that.
Proteins are an important structural element for cells: the antibodies used by the immune system to defend our bodies are made from proteins; proteins are responsible for transporting other molecules around the body (such as haemoglobin in blood, which carries oxygen); enzymes are made of proteins and are responsible for things such as digestion and speeding up chemical reactions; chemical messengers such as hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain are also made of proteins; and protein can also be used as an energy source.
Protein in our diet comes from either animal sources such as meat, fish, eggs or cheese, or from plant sources such as soya, tofu, beans and legumes.
Our bodies have evolved to use carbohydrates as the primary source of fuel.
This means that whenever we use energy – for running, waving our arms about or even thinking – the body always looks for carbohydrate energy first.
Carbohydrates come mainly from foods such as bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, oats and wheat and these foods are known as starchy or complex carbohydrates, which have long chains of molecules which take time to break down and digest, or simple carbohydrates like table sugar.
Fat provides an energy source as well as being an important part of cell structure. Fats come from meat; oily fish; nuts, seeds and their oils; full fat dairy; egg yolk and avocados.
Omega 3 fats (found in oily fish) are also anti-inflammatory so salmon, fresh tuna or mackerel make a great post-match protein source to aid recovery.
I go on about hydration a lot in grassroots sport and that’s because it’s really important. And you can read a full blog about it HERE.
The main thing to remember is to drink before and after playing grassroots sport, and whenever you get the opportunity during!
This is especially important if you sweat a lot. It will help delay fatigue, keep you from overheating, keep your reactions fast, and will help you to build muscle too.
Muscle is hydrophilic – you can’t make a muscle cell if you haven’t got enough water in you. Which means if you hydrate well one week you will build more muscle that you can put to work the next.
The timing of your eating is important too. You don’t want to rock up to game with a full stomach making you feel sluggish.
Equally you don’t want to be starving and lacking energy. Aim to eat a meal containing some complex carbs 2-4hrs before you start playing grassroots sport.
This will give you enough time to digest the food and start to absorb the nutrients. Eating carbs and protein afterwards will help recovery and build muscle.
BY - Jo Travers
1 December 2016