Pre and Post Competition Eating
Long gone are the days when athletes thought that eating a big steak before a game would give them lots of energy. Today's elite sports men and women follow a strict diet, particularly on the day of a competitive match or event. While diet won't turn poor athletes into great ones, it can make the difference between performing poorly and tapping your full potential.
The Glycemic Index
Not all carbohydrate is digested and absorbed at the same rate. The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale of how much a particular type of food raises blood sugar over a two-hour period compared to pure glucose.
For example, a piece of food with a GI score of 45 means that it raises blood sugar 45% as much as pure glucose in that two-hour period.
Common sense says that simple sugars which are broken down quickly, like fructose in fruit, should have a higher GI than complex carbohydrates, but that's not always the case. White bread, white rice and potatoes (all classed as complex carbohydarets) have a very high GI. That means they raise blood sugar almost as much or even more than pure glucose. Fructose has medium GI because the fibre found in fruit slows digestion and absorption.
Choosing foods with a high GI will help to quickly replenish carbohydrate stores after a game or event. Before a game or event, low GI foods are more appropriate as they release energy more slowly and for a longer period.
Pre Match Eating
The goal prior to a game or event (and even a training session) is to maximise carbohydrate stores in the muscles and liver and to top up blood glucose stores. Studies have shown that consuming foods with a high GI within an hour of exercise can actually lower blood glucose, which is not what an athlete wants! The reason is because the body produces an "overshoot" of insulin, which helps muscles to take up sugar in the blood. This in turn causes low blood sugar levels.
Athletes should eat foods with a low to medium GI before a match. This allows for a relatively slow release of glucose into the blood and avoids the unwanted insulin surge.
Consuming carbohydrate at least an hour before the start allows any hormonal imbalance to return to normal.
Example low GI foods include pasta, whole grain breads and rice, oatmeal, milk and milk products and fruit (except bananas and dried fruit).
The pre-match meal might consist of pasta in a low-fat tomato sauce, baked beans or scrambled eggs on toast and fresh fruit such as apples, pears or orange juice. Some grilled fish or chicken and vegetables could accompany the carbohydrates. Ideally this meal should be eaten at least three hours prior to the start - especially if nerves are a factor, which can impair digestion.
Food in the stomach is given a high priority to be digested before it has chance to spoil. As a result greater blood flow is directed to the digestive tract - not good news when players' muscles will soon be demanding an increase in blood flow too. The result of performing with a full stomach is nausea - the body's attempt to cease exercise so that it can redirect blood flow back to the stomach.
There is one exception to consuming carbohydrate immediately prior to the start of a game and it's in the form of a sports drink 5 or 10 minutes before kick off.
For more details I strongly recomend you to consider THE EVERY OTHER DAY DIET GUIDE