'What should I eat after a match to help my recovery?'
What you eat and drink post match is an essential element of the recovery process if you're wanting to compete at a high level. First off, carbohydrates should be your primary energy source.
Depleted muscle glycogen stores must be replenished before, during and after training and matches. The preferred option for most players during competition to keep topping up their glucose stores is with isotonic sports drinks. Fail to replenish your muscle glycogen stores affectively, and you're going to:
- Feel sluggish for the next few days
- Increase the chances of you developing a soft tissue injury in the days following
- Struggle to maintain a high performance level
Carbohydrates should make up 55-60% of your total calories for the day. A common misconception among many players is that excessive amounts of protein need to be consumed to help with recovery and muscle growth. The truth is that protein requirements range from only 1-3 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight per day.
The body can only digest between 35-50 grams of protein affectively at any one time. Consume above that amount and the excess protein is simply eliminated by the body with no benefit. If you're taking on board excess protein in the form of a supplement, you're quite literally flushing money down the toilet.
However you do need to take on-board protein in the quantities described above, neglecting this can cause loss in bone and soft-tissue quality, leading to strains and stress fractures as the body begins to break down.
- Consume 3x the amount of calories from carbohydrates in ratio to fats
- Twice the amount of calories from protein than fat
This is known as the 3:2:1 method, and is a nice easy way to guide your macronutrient intake.
For footballers, fat intake should be less than 80g per day or 18% of your total calorific intake. You will hear this alot, but you should avoid saturated fat and stick to 'good' fats from natural sources such as avocado.
If you're not consuming enough calories, your bodyweight can drop, lowering your overall muscle mass which then has detrimental affects on your performance.
Any easy way to calculate your daily required calorie intake is:
- Males require 42-50 kcal per kg of bodyweight
- Females require 30-35 kcal per kg of bodyweight
Obviously if you've got a heavy training day, you'll be at the higher end of that scale, if you're not training then you should stick to the lower end. The higher the training intensity, the higher your calorific needs.
82kg male player x 50 (intense training day) = 4100 Kcal for that day just to maintain!
Ingesting foods which provide an array of vitamins and minerals is also key. They help in growth and repair, and help with the transport of oxygen and transportation of nerve impulses. Vitamins E, A and C as well as iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium are particularly important for athletes.
If you want to gain muscle mass, you must consume more calories than you've used that day, but these must be from quality foods eaten throughout the day not just in one big extra meal.
If you would like to gain a deeper and broader understanding of your nutrition as a footballer, you can check out our 'Nutrition For Football' Ebook here.
Carbohydrate options: Potatoe, rice, pasta, breads, vegetables, fruit
Protein: Chicken, fish, eggs
Fats: Avocado, fish, nuts, greek yoghurt