You finish the game...
A member of staff immediately hands you a protein shake with lots of carbs and you down it immediately.
You sign autographs on the way into the tunnel and by the time you’re sitting down listening to your coach go through the good and bad points from your win, you’re already having a massage to key areas before he’s finished talking.
Next, you’re in a perfectly temperature-controlled ice bath at 10 degrees for10 minutes. Hey, maybe you have contrast baths there and you’re in and out based on the in-house research that’s currently being done by your club.
You live 5 minutes from the stadium so you decide to go home and have your post-match meal there. Your in-house chef who works closely with the club nutritionist has prepared you a meal that will help you recover ASAP.
You put on your Normatec boots while you relax with your family. After your pre-bed snack, which is again high in protein and carbs, you turn in even before Match of the Day is on and get a great nights sleep in a bed hand-picked by the club’s sleep consultant.
The consultant also picked your blinds meaning it’s pitch black and the bed is the biggest money can buy so your partner doesn’t wake you up with small movements in the night.
Sound proofing to the walls and windows means that there’s no chance of you waking up and, in this scenario, if you did have kids, maybe the Nanny will be there to look after them if they stir in the night.
The next morning, the blinds automatically roll up at the set time, meaning you wake up via natural sunlight and not an alarm. You walk downstairs and your chef has prepared a great breakfast for you…
You see how far this could go on!
If your post-match routine is nothing like the scenario above, it’s no problem and you’re not doing anything wrong. The key is to find ways to replicate and imitate the recovery methods used by world class athletes, but in a real-world setting.
Consuming something that is protein rich that also combines carbohydrates post-game is crucial. A shake would be convenient as you can pre-prepare it yourself and add water, consume that and you’ve already ticked a big box.
Consuming a shake also means that you’ll probably be hungry shortly after meaning you can consume more overall calories without feeling too full. If you do like to eat something post game, high carbohydrate bars can satisfy that urge and tide you over to your post-match meal if you have to travel.
For your post-match meal, it is definitely the quantity, not the quality that matters most.
A study found that where protein, carbs and fats were matched, McDonald’s led to the same level of recovery (measured by subsequent cycling performance) as foods that were generally considered to be healthier.
This is by no means an invite to eat junk food all of the time and we do believe that food quality matters if the situation allows.
The point is that eating something is always better than eating nothing.
A good post-match meal when on the road and far from home could be a quarter chicken and rice from Nando’s.
If you have time before bed to have a snack, that would be ideal.
A good example would be 200g of greek yoghurt with a scoop of whey protein mixed in, 2 bananas and 1TBSP of peanut butter. This will ensure your body has a source of nutrients throughout the night and you also won’t wake up due to hunger pangs.
During intense exercise in hot weather, the body can sweat up to 1.5L per hour in an average person and 2-3L per hour in a highly trained athlete who has been exposed to various conditions.
Make it a habit to keep your water bottle with you at all times to replenish the lost fluids. A squeezy bottle with a large capacity ~1L is ideal as it will encourage you to drink more as you don’t have to constantly refill and take the cap off.
Bring a foam roller to the game. A foam roller is a cheap and portable way of ensuring you can massage muscles that may be a problem for you or even just to maintain good tissue quality. Spend 5-10 minutes post-game before you leave the pitch.
If your team is at home or away, you can fill up a paddling pool with cold water and add ice.
This way many players can get in at once and you’ll avoid queueing. If this is not possible, then wait till you get home and if you do have a bath add cold water and ice as necessary to get the bath to ~10 degrees.
Use a thermometer to measure the temperature to ensure the water is not dangerously cold.
You’ll need roughly 1-part ice to 3-parts water to get that temperature right so do not fill the bath to the top as you’ll need a huge amount of ice to bring the temperature down. Spend 10 minutes in the cold water.
If that's not an option, your next best choice is a simply having a shower.
Current research shows that compression garments may have a number of benefits including helping to remove waste products, reducing swelling and decrease post exercise muscle soreness (DOMS). Test out wearing compression garments over-night if possible.
You’ll need a comfortable bed that suits your sleeping style to make sure you get the best out of your night’s sleep. Use black out blinds if possible to keep curtains closed and light out.
Apps like sleep cycle, although not fully scientifically validated, can make you more aware of your night’s sleep and how different variables affect you.
If you struggle to get to sleep due to feeling buzzy after a late game or over thinking what happened, try meditation apps which will help to regulate your breathing and calm you down.
A bad night’s sleep will slow down the recovery process so it’s crucial you get enough good quality sleep to help you be back at training as soon as possible.
Your post game routine doesn’t have to be the most expensive or scientific. But, you do need to do everything you can within reason to make sure you kick-start the recovery process.
Choose the small things that are do-able in your real-world situation and make sure you get the most out of them.