top of page

Nutrition for sport


It is well known that proper nutrition is essential to athletic performance. Athletes should aim to fuel their bodies with the right nutrients, at the right times, to enhance their performance and support recovery.


Pre-game nutrition is particularly important, as it can provide the energy needed to perform at a high level during competition. Different sports rely on different energy systems, so pre-game nutrition strategies must be tailored accordingly.


In this article, we will explore the differences in energy systems utilized in four major sports (hockey, football, basketball, and soccer) and provide examples of pre-game nutrition specific to each sport.


Energy Systems Utilized in Sports:

The three main energy systems in the body are the phosphagen system, glycolytic system, and oxidative system. The phosphagen system provides energy for short, high-intensity activities lasting up to 10 seconds, such as a sprint or a hockey shift. The glycolytic system provides energy for activities lasting up to several minutes, such as a 400m race or a football play. The oxidative system provides energy for activities lasting longer than several minutes, such as a marathon or a soccer game.


Hockey:

Hockey is a high-intensity, stop-and-start sport that primarily utilizes the phosphagen and glycolytic systems. During a game, players perform short, high-intensity shifts lasting around 45 seconds before resting for a few minutes. Therefore, pre-game nutrition should focus on carbohydrates to support the glycolytic system and protein to support muscle recovery.


Pre-game nutrition examples for hockey players might include a meal consisting of grilled chicken or fish, brown rice, and steamed vegetables around 3-4 hours before the game. Closer to game time, a snack high in carbohydrates such as a banana or energy bar could be consumed to top up glycogen stores.


Football:

Football is a high-intensity sport that also relies primarily on the phosphagen and glycolytic systems. During a game, players perform short, explosive bursts of energy such as sprinting or tackling, followed by a period of rest. Pre-game nutrition should focus on carbohydrates to support the glycolytic system and protein to support muscle recovery.


Pre-game nutrition examples for football players might include a meal consisting of lean meat or fish, sweet potatoes, and salad around 3-4 hours before the game. Closer to game time, a snack high in carbohydrates such as fruit or a granola bar could be consumed to top up glycogen stores.


Basketball:

Basketball is a sport that utilizes all three energy systems, but primarily relies on the glycolytic system. During a game, players perform high-intensity sprints, jumps, and quick changes in direction, followed by periods of rest. Pre-game nutrition should focus on carbohydrates to support the glycolytic system, but also include some protein to support muscle recovery.


Pre-game nutrition examples for basketball players might include a meal consisting of grilled chicken or fish, pasta, and vegetables around 3-4 hours before the game. Closer to game time, a snack high in carbohydrates such as fruit or a granola bar could be consumed to top up glycogen stores.


Soccer:

Soccer is a sport that primarily utilizes the oxidative system. During a game, players perform continuous, moderate-intensity exercise for 90 minutes or more. Pre-game nutrition should focus on carbohydrates to support the oxidative system and provide sustained energy throughout the game.


Pre-game nutrition examples for soccer players might include a meal consisting of whole grain bread, peanut butter, and banana around 3-4 hours before the game. Closer to game time, a snack high in carbohydrates such as a piece of fruit or energy bar could be consumed to top up glycogen stores.


Differences Between Men and Women:

In general, men and women have similar nutritional needs for pre-game nutrition. However, there are a few differences to consider.


Women tend to have lower muscle mass and higher body fat percentage than men, which can affect their carbohydrate and protein requirements. Additionally, women may be at a higher risk of iron deficiency, which can impact their energy levels and athletic performance.

Therefore, pre-game nutrition examples for women in sports should focus on providing adequate carbohydrates and protein, as well as iron-rich foods.


For example, a female soccer player might have a meal consisting of brown rice, grilled chicken or tofu, and steamed vegetables around 3-4 hours before the game. Closer to game time, a snack high in carbohydrates such as fruit or a granola bar could be consumed, along with a source of iron such as a spinach salad or beef jerky.


The main takeaway I want you to remember is that pre-game nutrition strategies should be tailored to the specific energy systems utilized in each sport. Pre-game nutrition should also take into consideration potential differences in men and women's nutrient requirements, especially in terms of carbohydrate, protein, and iron intake. By fueling their bodies with the right nutrients, athletes can optimize their performance and achieve their athletic goals.



References:

Kerksick, C. M., Wilborn, C. D., Roberts, M. D., Smith-Ryan, A., Kleiner, S. M., Jäger, R., … Kreider, R. B. (2018). ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: Research & recommendations. Journal of the International

Society of Sports Nutrition, 15(1), 38. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-018-0242-y


Maughan, R. J., Burke, L. M., Dvorak, J., Larson-Meyer, D. E., Peeling, P., Phillips, S. M., … Engebretsen, L. (2018). IOC consensus statement: Dietary supplements and the high-performance athlete. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 52(7), 439–455. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2018-099027


Tipton, K. D., & Witard, O. C. (2018). Protein requirements and recommendations for athletes: Relevance of ivory tower arguments for practical recommendations. Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, 24, 72–79. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnesp.2018.05.014


10 views0 comments
bottom of page