It is always exciting for footy fans at finals time! With 17 AFL seasons under my belt, including 3 premierships at Hawthorn AFL Football Club, I still love the sniff of finals time in September. AFL is a long, gruelling game. Maintaining energy levels for 25-30 minute quarters, a and repeat this for 22 matches and finals is challenging. It is important players fuel their body with nourishing foods to get the most out of training, recover and sustain energy levels throughout the season. So what do AFL players need to eat?
Nutrition needs are individual, quantity will certainly vary with quality key for all. More doesn't equal better- it could equal slow and sluggish.
So, what foods do Aussie rules players need?
Aussie Rules and many aerobic sports require adequate energy from start to finish, therefore fuelling with high quality carbohydrates is important. As a rough guide, a third of your plate should be carbohydrates foods, such as wholegrain bread, pasta, brown rice, oats, potatoes, barley,corn, fruit. The amount will vary with energy needs – for example on a non training or light training day you may include only a ‘fist full’ of carbohydrate, unless of course you are trying to gain weight. You can take advantage of the lighter training day sparing excess kilojoules to the body to use for growth. You can see it is not the same, ‘recipe’ for all.
So can I fill up on high sugar foods, they have plenty of carbs? No, nutrient dense carbohydrates are what we are looking for.Lollies, soft drink, biscuits and cakes might provide sugar for energy, but they are poor when it comes to supplying other valuable nutrients; vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, critical to repair the body for the weekly on field battles.
Protein keeps an AFL (Australian Football League) player’s body in good working condition, by promoting growth, repair and maintenance of muscles and cells,and supporting the immune system, after all you can’t be at your best if sick. It is best to spread intake throughout the day, by including some at each meal,around 25-30grams of protein at each meal. Kick-start your day with yoghurt,milk, cheese, baked beans, tuna or eggs. Breakfast can be the meal that lets us down on the protein front.
After a training session or match AFL players need a hearty meal. Look for a quality carbohydrate and a protein source, with plenty of veggies. Some popular post training meals I have found players enjoy are:
Quality snacking is important too:
Staying hydrated helps limit fatigue and maintain concentration.Water is generally enough for both training and games for most of us. At the elite level an oral rehydration fluid and sports drink might be useful for the electrolytes and sugar for energy. However, water with old fashioned, half time oranges or bananas can top up energy levels and provide some electrolytes for most of us.
As a spectator what will you eat to cheer on your team? A pie or hot dog is traditional. How about marinated chicken strips on the barbeque in a wholegrain roll with a shredded slaw or salad and salmon baguette? A homemade meat pie with slow cooked meat and veg or a cheese and fruit platter or some freshly roasted nuts? After all you need your energy to barrack hard… ‘Go the……..’?
Like some more sports nutrition information? Checkout my book- Eat Like An Athlete- it is packed with tips and tricks to suit you.
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It sounds like such a simple thing to do, eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, but obviously not, as most Australians are not eating anywhere near the recommended servings a day. The big questions is why not, is it really that hard to do or does the message simply not resonate? How about we try a new approach. Stop telling people they need to eat more fruit and vegetables for their health as the key message could be a place to start.
There is a lot of pressure to perform and bring home good results for both elite athlete's and students. Nutrition can play an important role and you are in control of how you choose to eat at a time when sometimes we can feel out of control. I have picked 7 tips to help you perform at your best!