What happens once you finish your trip? You immediately check on your fuel gauge and refuel. During sports events just like a trip your nutrient stores are depleted and your body needs to recover and replenish. The strenuous games deplete glycogen stores, cause electrolyte imbalances through sweating and muscles are fatigued. The main aim is to rehydrate, rebuild and restore balance to the body. You may notice that you even lose a few kilograms especially for events longer than 60 minutes.
Muscles need to recover in preparation for the next events and the faster and correctly one fuels the easier the recovery process. Optimal nutrition however should be observed pre-event, during event so as to complement the post event healing. Only focusing on post event will not have major impact on your body generally, you will struggle with muscle recovery as the body tries to compensate.
After a game, it is best to start rehydrating immediately just before the 30-minute mark. Take your water alongside other fluids. We understand that It may be tough to get in a meal immediately so start with fluids. These include sports drinks, fresh fruit juices or smoothies and dairy products such as yogurt. These options provide quick source of energy and electrolytes. They are easy to sip as you await a main meal that should be consumed 1hour to maximum 2hours post-game. Post event fuelling continues up to 24hours. Avoid rehydrating using alcohol or caffeine drinks such as coffee and energy drinks as they can cause further dehydration.
The main nutrients we focus on are carbohydrates and proteins. Choose both simple and complex carbohydrates. The best quality of carbohydrates to take will be those with a high Glycemic index. Glycemic index (GI) is a number attached to carbohydrates sources to show how they raise your sugar levels, it ranges from 0-100. GI is categorised into low (below 55) , medium (56-69) and high GI( above 70). Some of those foods include: white rice, watermelon, mashed or baked potatoes. Carbohydrate intake should be calculated differently using body weight: 1-1.5 g/kg body weight. For example, an athlete who is 70kg will need between 70gms-100gms net carb in the next four hours’ post-game. In event that is not achievable for various reasons like night games or other subsequent games then carbohydrate loading should continue after games up to 72 hours with an increase on days without events. Even when choosing high GI foods avoid those that are processed.
Protein on the other hand is very key in reducing chances of muscle soreness and aiding in muscle recovery. The recommended amount varies from 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Every 3-4 hours post event one should consume 20-25gms protein. The best protein sources are lean proteins with less fat. Chicken breast, eggs and yogurt fish are the best animal sources. Vegetarians can go for chickpeas, lentils, beans and seeds. Introduce fiber and high fat meals in moderation since they both regulate how carbs are released in the body. Fat delays digestion and how your body delivers carbohydrates to your tissues. Supplementation using protein powders can be done if daily limit is not attained from the food or when a sports person cannot get food immediately after the event.
A balanced example of a post event meal would be:
orange juice, rice, chicken breast, cabbage
yogurt with a fruit, rice, beans stew with carrots
Nutrition is a continuous process and that means your post event meal is as important as the pre-event and all should include healthy meals as they are a base for another upcoming event. Use locally available foods and create a balance.
Image courtesy: blog.bonsecours.com
By Eunice Nthenya
MSA Nutrition Expert