You can’t just pitch up to play CONCENTRATE TO PARTICIPATE
Reading FC and weekend warriors can benefit from the right preparation and nutrition, explains Dr Rob Child, Science in Sport’s chief scientific officer
You don’t have to be a professional footballer to take advantage of the benefits of the right nutrition. And Science in Sport, who are official sports nutrition partner with Reading FC, are hoping their work with the Madejski Stadium club can benefit the weekend warriors as well as Championship stars. Dr Rob Child believes you have to fuel correctly to maintain concentration levels and get the best out of players.
And it all begins in the prematch preparation before you move on to recovery. He said: “ Football is a fast-moving sport but has high attentional demands as well. You have to follow the ball, eyetracking, but you also have to make rapid decisions in terms of tactics and where your opponents are, as well as your team-mates.
“Even though we think of footballers in terms of skill there is also a big cognitive component to it as well as the physical side.”
Statistics show that more goals are scored in the second half of games than the first 45 minutes. Fatigue plays a large big part in drops in attention, leading to more goal-scoring opportunities. This can happen due to a drop in glycogen concentration, the fuel in the muscle, which is used at a very high rate during sprinting, for example.
Footballers can end up with very low glycogen levels, as low as someone who has run a marathon even though they have covered a shorter distance due to the intensity of game. This can be coupled with a drop in blood glucose, the fuel used by the brain, which compromises mental performance so attention and decision-making will be affected.
Dehydration is also a cause of fatigue, particularly in hot weather, so players can end up with muscle cramping and, again, when the brain gets dehydrated mental performance is also affected. Dr Child said: “ They are the three key things you want to work at in terms of recovery and the match. “Preparation for the game starts the night before, to some extent.
“The evening meal should be focusing on starchy carbohydrates. Things like pasta, noodles, rice, squash and sweet potatoes, because that will help to fuel the muscles for the game.
“On the day of the match you want a high-carbohydrate breakfast, be that porridge, muesli or cereals, to top up the glycogen store in the muscle and then, depending on the timing, potentially you want lunch and, again, that should concentrate on carbohydrate, but you should complete the meal two hours before the game.
“Things like SiS energy bars are a good, convenient source of carbohydrate and can be part of the loading strategy pre-match.
“In the warm-up, something like SiS Go energy isotonic drink would be the ideal thing because you are maintaining hydration. Even in the warm-up you’re burning glycogen and also sweating a little bit, so its good to replace both.
“It’s also useful to have a caffeine gel two to three minutes before the start of the first half.
“This releases the carbohydrate during the first half, getting a closer match between energy delivery and energy utilisation by the footballer to get a stable blood glucose.”
Half-time provides some opportunities for recovery and Dr Child recommends hydro and caffeine tablets as well as an isotonic gel two to three minutes before the start of the second half which will be digested and absorbed during the final 45 minutes to maintain blood glucose levels. But recovery after the final whistle has been blown is also important.
Dr Child said: “Post match there is a need to repair the damage caused by exercise. The amount of damage is dependent on the amount of running the players have had to do and the amount of sprinting. “Also, if there has been a lot of physical contact in the match, a lot of tackles, that will cause some muscle damage as well. Also things like a very firm pitch means the loadings on the body are going to be quite high, so you will get a lot more muscle damage.
“The ideal thing would be Rego rapid recovery, because it has got protein to repair the muscle and then carbohydrate to refuel the muscle.
“And because it is a liquid meal it is digested quickly so you get fast nutrient delivery after exercise.
“And that’s important if you have another game coming around quickly or if you are even training the next day.
“It’s also important for the weekend warriors.
“Typically, because the players aren’t quite as fit they actually end up with a lot of muscle damage. Also, if people are exercising for health reasons or to gain some muscle, by not focusing on recovery they don’t actually get the maximum benefit from the efforts they have made in the game or the workouts.
“The recovery side is important for both professional and amateur players but for slightly different reasons.”
Science in Sport have been working on a new recovery product that can be taken during exercise.
Dr Child added: “It’s based around some principles I developed working with elite cyclists at the Tour de France.
“SiS are also working closely with Team Sky to refine their products so we are using feedback from the riders to refine this recovery product before launch.
“Hopefully we will have the product ready by March or April and we hope that teams like Reading will be using it as part of their recovery strategy.”