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Junior Sport: Tips and Advice (Nutrition)

Common Nutrition Considerations:

The Training Diet: Week-Round Recovery

  • Footballers require a high carbohydrate intake on a daily basis to replenish muscle stores after each training session. On average, players will require between 5-8 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight each day. So if you weigh 50kg you will need around 250-400 grams of carbohydrate daily.
  • This means making carbohydrate foods such as bread, breakfast cereal, fruit, pasta, rice, vegetables, low fat milk and yoghurt the focus of meals and snacks.
  • Players who fail to consume sufficient carbohydrate may suffer mid-week slumps and progressive fatigue over the season.
  • Players in heavy training need to start recovery nutrition tactics immediately after each training session. Ideally, players should aim to have 50-100 grams of carbohydrate within 30 minutes of finishing training, along with some protein. Recovery snacks should be combined with fluid to replace any fluid lost during the session.

Nutritious carbohydrate-protein recovery snacks (containing 50g carbohydrate + valuable source of protein and micronutrients)

  • 250-300ml liquid meal supplement
  • 300g creamed rice
  • 250-300ml milk shake or fruit smoothie
  • 600ml low fat flavoured milk
  • 1-2 sports bars (check labels for carbohydrate and protein content)
  • 1 large bowl (2 cups) breakfast cereal with milk
  • 1 large or 2 small cereal bars + 200g carton fruit-flavoured yoghurt
  • 220g baked beans on 2 slices toast
  • 1 bread roll with cheese/meat filling + large banana
  • 300g (bowl) fruit salad with 200g fruit-flavoured yoghurt
  • 2 crumpets with thick spread peanut butter + 250ml glass milk
  • 300g (large) baked potato + cottage cheese filling + glass milk

Bulking Up

  • Players trying to increase muscle size and strength need a high-energy diet in addition to a quality training program that includes resistance or weight-training. The nutritional requirements for increasing muscle bulk and strength not only includes protein to form new muscle tissue, but carbohydrate to fuel the training needed to stimulate muscle growth.
  • Other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals are also beneficial. In short, increased energy from nutrient-rich food and fluids is required.
  • Achieving a high-energy intake should not be seen as an excuse to fill up on energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods (i.e. high-fat takeaway or “junk food”) and it may not be as easy as it sounds. Meeting energy requirements for growing, training and bulking up requires organisation and commitment.

These tips will help:

  • Be organised. Have suitable foods available at all times. Make use of portable foods such as cereal bars, fruit, dried fruit, fruit buns, juice and milk in tetra packs.
  • Increase the number of times you eat rather than the size of the meals.
  • Add extra kilojoules to meals without adding bulk by using foods such as jam, honey, syrup and sugar.
  • Drink high-energy fluids such as smoothies, milkshakes and liquid meal supplements.
  • Include a protein-containing food or fluid as part of your pre- and post-resistance training snack.

Body Fat Levels

It is important for football players to be aware of seasonal changes in energy requirements. For year-round weight control, it may be necessary for players to be more conscious of their food intake to match the decrease in training demands during the off-season. Alternatively, players may choose to take up a different activity or continue some fitness training to achieve/maintain a physique that is fit for the start of a new season.

A Commonly asked question:

Q.   Are there any particular foods useful for healing injuries?

A.   Unfortunately, there are no magical foods. There are substances present in foods such as antioxidants, fatty acids and vitamins which assist in various functions such as cellular repair, inflammatory response and tissue growth. However, these substances are present in a number of foods and interact in complex ways. The best thing to help speed up recovery is to consume a mixed diet with a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, wholegrain cereals, fish, nuts, legumes, dairy products, meat and plant oils. Avoid restricting your intake excessively in order to minimise weight gain while you are injured. The body will take longer to recover when total energy intake is inadequate. Focus on foods which provide a wide variety of nutrients and avoid an excessive intake of poor quality foods such as lollies, cakes, biscuits, deep-fried foods, alcohol and soft drink.

Document sourced from AIS Fact Sheets. For further information please see AIS website.

Please note: this information should serve as a guide only. When in doubt always seek advice from Southside Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Centre or your GP.

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