Nutrition to Maximise Recovery in GAA
As the 2020 GAA club championship is in full flow, teams are losing players across the country due to injury. The combination of a prolonged break from training and competition during lockdown and the resumption of a congested fixture season are two factors which are placing GAA players at high risk of suffering an injury. Nutrition and lifestyle are two key factors that should be high on GAA players list of priorities over the remainder of the season.
The Lead Up to Performance:
Often we can focus heavily on recovery and nutrition post-training or match but if athletes are not fueled correctly in the lead up to training and matches their risk of injury is much higher. Recent research has found that “Gaelic football players do not meet sports nutrition guidelines in relation to carbohydrate intake". This is a worrying finding and one that may be closely related to the high prevalence of soft tissue muscle injuries within the GAA community. The sport of GAA is described as an "Intermittent high-intensity team sport, which is highly reliant on carbohydrates as a fuel source to optimise and sustain maximal performance".
Due to these findings I have recently launched a performance nutrition eBook titled "GAA Carbohydrate Loading Guide" which covers the strategies necessary to fuel your body correctly in the lead up to a match and is available on my website at www.evanregannutrition.com .
Hydration status plays a vital role in muscle and brain function and is a pillar of performance nutrition that should not be overlooked.
Daily Target: Approximately 35mL of fluid per kilogram (kg) of body weight per day.
Example: A player will multiply their body weight 70kg for example by 35mL which gives 2,450mL of fluid as a target (Aiming for 2.5 Litres is a good target here).
Pre-Exercise: Consume 500mL in the 2 hours pre-exercise.
Don't wait until you are thirsty to drink water, thirst is not a good indicator of hydration status.
Use the urine color chart to assess your hydration status and aim to be in the 1 - 3 range.
The Three R’s of Recovery Post-Exercise:
1.) Rehydrate: This should begin immediately post-match or post-training using sources such as water, milk, protein milks, electrolyte or carbohydrate solutions. A rule of thumb is for every kilogram (kg) of body weight you lose during exercise you should aim to include approximately 1.5 Litres post-exercise.
2.) Refuel: Carbohydrate rich foods are key for refuelling your body and replenishing the energy stores which will have been depleted during exercise. A target to work towards for the amount of carbohydrate you need post-training or match is approximately 1g - 1.2g per kilogram (kg) of body weight.
3.) Repair: Protein rich foods are essential for the repair of the muscles that will have been damaged due to exercise and play a key role in the development of new muscle fibres and tissues. A protein intake of 0.3-0.4 grams per kilogram (kg) of body weight in your post-exercise meal is a good target (Usually equates to 20 - 40 grams of protein).
What to do if I get Injured?
Injuries come hand in hand with sport and often how you react to an injury will determine how well you recover. Focusing on what you can control and your attitude towards the injury are major determinants of a successful return to performance, I have outlined some key recommendations in regards to nutrition below.
Have a positive energy balance (10-15% Calorie / Energy Surplus - Depending on severity).
Increase your protein intake (2 - 2.5 grams per kilogram (kg) of Body Weight per Day).
Include high leucine sources of protein in your diet: (Whey Protein Powder, Soy Protein Powder, Greek Yogurt, Chicken Breast, Lean Beef, Cheese, Eggs, Skimmed Milk, Kidney Beans, Tofu, Raw Peanuts).
Include plenty of variety in your fruits and vegetables (Antioxidants for anti-inflammatory).
Include sources of Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Calcium & Zinc.
Include healthy fats high in Omega 3.
Include unprocessed quality carbohydrates.
Include fresh & ground herbs and spices which contain anti-inflammatory properties.
Get 8-10 hours sleep per night.
Avoid alcohol, prolonged calorie deficit and processed foods.