Nutrition Article by Melissa Deal

Good Nutrition to Support Your Play

If you like to do more than just watch Doncaster Rovers play, you might be interested to know how you can optimise your dietary intake to get the most out of your own performance. You might already be aware that carbohydrates help to fuel your training and that protein aids muscle growth, but the type of carbohydrates you choose are equally important as is the amount of protein and when these two vital nutrients are eaten. However, good nutrition for athletics is also about including those foods rich in micronutrients that help to support you both on and off the field.

Fuelling up with carbohydrates

Glucose is your body’s preferred energy supply, which helps to power your muscles during activity. To maintain your energy levels throughout the day and particularly during training or an event, you should aim to include what are termed slow release or low GI carbohydrates with each meal and snack. These are both broken down into sugars and absorbed into your bloodstream slower, helping to provide a sustained supply of energy.

Examples of lower GI carbs include:

  • Granary bread
  • New potatoes or sweet potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Long grain or brown rice
  • Porridge and oat-based cereals
  • Pulses
  • Most fruit and non-starchy vegetables
  • Dairy produce

These types of carbohydrate have the added advantage that they are rich in B vitamins to aid the release of energy, but also supply antioxidants which play an important role in protecting the body cells from damage, including those in the muscles.

However, after an intense workout when your muscles’ stores of glycogen have been depleted you want to rebuild these more quickly. It’s advisable to include a carbohydrate rich snack within 30 minutes of an exercise session to aid recovery. A balanced meal 2 hours after this which contains carbohydrate will further help to rebuild your glycogen stores to ensure that the next time you exercise, you will have the energy stores available to maximise your performance.

Protein for muscle growth and repair

Most people do not have a problem obtaining sufficient protein to meet their requirements, though participation in athletics increases your needs. Your daily protein requirements are estimated to be around 0.4 to 0.6g per pound of bodyweight; though up to 0.9g if aiming to increase your muscle mass.

As an idea to how your protein needs can be met, the following each provide 10g of protein:

  • 1.5oz of lean meat or poultry
  • 2oz of fish, 2 small eggs
  • 250ml glass of semi-skimmed milk
  • 1oz of reduced fat hard cheese
  • 2.5oz of cottage cheese
  • 200g pot of yoghurt
  • 5oz of cooked beans or lentils
  • Small can of baked beans
  • 4oz of tofu
  • 2oz of nuts or seeds
  • 4 slices of wholemeal bread
  • 3oz of wholegrain cereal
  • 3 cups of cooked rice
  • 2 cups of cooked pasta

Protein should be included with your post-exercise snack, so a sandwich, cereal with milk, cheese and crackers, fruit and yoghurt or a milkshake all offer good options that combine both carbs and protein.

While the protein content of these foods aids the growth of muscles and the repair of injury following activity, they also offer additional nutrients that help you to increase your muscle mass and enable tissue healing. One of these is zinc. This mineral is important for protein synthesis, which is vital for the creation of new tissue and repair; seafood, beef, pork, chicken, beans, nuts and yoghurt are richest in this nutrient. Another is omega-3 fatty acids, which are sourced from oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, herring, pilchards and salmon. These essential fatty acids promote a healthy circulation for the delivery of nutrients for muscle healing, but they also act as an anti-inflammatory to reduce the inflammation associated with tissue injuries; there is also evidence that these may have a role in helping to promote increased lean body mass. Oily fish are additionally one of the few food sources of vitamin D. While this vitamin is more usually associated with bone health, it is now known to play a role in supporting the strength and function of muscles.

While other factors such as your training schedule, receiving enough rest and sleep will still influence your athletic performance, taking the dietary steps above will help put you on track to meeting your athletic goals.

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