Filling up the Match Day Fuel Tank
Gaelic football and hurling are high intensity intermittent sports with matches ranging from 60 to 75 minutes. Players are required to complete many bouts of sprinting followed by short periods of rest and recovery.
Maximum intensity exercise of this nature places a high demand on fuel systems in the body, predominantly the carbohydrate stores of glycogen in the muscle and liver and from glucose in the blood. The body can use fat as a fuel but its use declines as intensity increases. Therefore it is imperative that glycogen stores are full before the match commences. Otherwise players will fatigue and will be unable to maintain the same speed or maintain the same intensity.
Whilst it is difficult to give blanket recommendations, for example a 60kg will have different calorie requirements than a 90kg, the same basic nutritional guidelines will apply to both players.
If you are playing a championship match, it is extremely important that you arrive into the dressing room with a full fuel tank. You won't get any fitter in the days leading up to the match but you can definitely hamper your performance with a sub par nutritional strategy.
The day before the match
Eat meals with a large portion of carbohydrate, porridge, rice, potatoes, pasta etc.
Regular carbohydrate snacks such as fruit, cereal bars, muesli, brown bread with topping.
Drink 2/3/4 litres of fluid to ensure hydration (1litre per 25kg body weight)
Eat foods that are familiar and simple. This will reduce any likelihood of illness and will aid digestion.
Limit fatty and junk foods such as frys, deep fried foods, crisps and chocolate.
Ensure you can get high quality sleep. Try to get 7-8 hours in the nights leading up the match.
On match day
Eat a carbohydrate based breakfast. Porridge with berries, bread with scrambled eggs or muesili with banana and yoghurt are good options here.
Drink regular fluids throughout the day (2-3 litres) to maintain clear urine. No need to over-hydrate.
Pre match meal should be eaten 3-4 hours before the match. Should be high in carbohydrate and moderate in protein. Best options should be low GI, low in fibre and low in fat. This helps digestibility and enables sustained energy supply. Pasta with chicken and salad, rice with beans, grilled fish with potatoes and vegetables are all good choices.
No need to eat massive portions on match day. Digesting food takes up energy and over-consumption can hinder rather than help performance. You should not feel 'stuffed' before you take the field. If you are hungry an hour before a match, a cereal bar, banana or an oatcake can be eaten.
During the match
Drink fluids at regular intervals, don't wait until you feel thirsty. Aim to drink 1 litre from start of warm up to half time.
Sports drinks can be beneficial to performance as they contain sodium and carbohydrates which may reduce fatigue.
If deciding to use a sports drink, it is important to test out fueling strategy during a training session or a challenge match.
Pre game nutrition strategies should focus on eating carbohydrate rich foods to ensure full glycogen level and having adequate hydration.
Post game nutrition should be be centred around carbohydrate and protein foods to promote recovery.