Drinking regularly during exercise can: - Prevent decline in concentration and skill level - Improve perceived exertion - Prevent excessive elevations in heart rate and body temperature - Improve performance Every athlete and coach should make fluid replacement a key priority during training and competition. The type, temperature and taste of the fluid consumed during exercise can have an impact on the athletes hydration status due to the effect on the volume of fluid ingested and absorbed. Research shows that fluid intake is enhanced when beverages are cool (~15 °C), flavoured, contain sodium (salt) and are composed of a combination of glucose, sucrose and glucose polymers. It is important that the sports drinks contain 6-8% carbohydrate concentration to enhance performance, any higher may result in gastrointestinal upsets. Sport drinks are an ideal choice during exercise that lasts longer than 60 minutes and a great deal of science has gone into developing the carbohydrate, sodium and flavour profile of sports drinks so that they enhance performance and encourage fluid intake during exercise. Food standards in Australia place restrictions on the formulation of sports drinks. As a result, sports drinks sold in Australia are very similar in composition. Choose sports drinks that have 4-8% carbohydrate, 10-20 mmol/L sodium, are affordable, come in a convenient package and taste good. Consumption of fluids should begin early in an exercise session as it takes 10 - 20 minutes for ingested fluids to reach the bloodstream. A general fluid replacement plan is difficult to prescribe as each athlete is different Fortunately, the Australian Institute of Sports have devised an easy method to estimate individual fluid requirements: - Weigh before and after exercise session. - Each kilogram (kg) of weight lost is equivalent to approximately one litre (L) of fluid. - Add on the weight of any fluid or food consumed during the exercise session - The total will provide an estimate of total fluid loss for the session. Once an athlete's individual sweat losses are known, a plan can be prepared to help the athlete achieve better fluid replacement in subsequent exercise sessions, however if this has not been calculated, the athlete can monitor changes in urinating habits - urine colour, frequency and volume.
Foods and fluids consumed following exercise are critical for optimal recovery and the earlier you start the process, the better your muscles will feel for your next training session. It is important to consume foods and fluids as soon as possible, ideally within 15 - 30 minutes after the game. Generally within this time period, players do not feel like eating very much due to the strenuous nature of the game, therefore fluids with carbohydrate and protein can be a great option when the appetite is poor, some examples are: - Sustagen sport - Dairy-based drinks (e.g. choc milk) - Smoothies - Sports drink If the player does feel like eating, some post-exercise snacks that are easy to grab from the sports bag to be eaten during the ‘post-match discussion’ include: - Fruit - Low-fat muffin - Chicken and salad roll (white bread) - Muesli bars - Dried fruits - Almonds Post-match meals, eaten in the hours after the game can make a big difference to recovery, and should contain protein and carbohydrates but not too much fat. Traditionally, sport players have considered carbohydrates in terms of carb-loading on the eve of the match, however, players need to also ensure that they consume suitable amounts of nutrient dense carbohydrates after the match as they help to replenish glycogen stores. Proteins will also need replenishing as they are essential to repair muscle damage and promote optimum muscle tissue regeneration and development. Some good post-match meals include: - Pasta with chicken or lean meat tomato sauce served with salad - Home-made pizza (low-fat cheese and lean ham) - Soup with pasta/noodles/rice and meat/chicken/legumes - Chicken and vegetable risotto - Beef and vegetable stir-fry with rice or noodles - Sushi with salmon or tuna fillings - Burritos with beef, avocado, low-fat cheese and salad Remember: Complete recovery is not achieved in just a few hours after the game, it can often take more than 24hours. Adequate fluid and food intake is important over the next couple of days to ensure optimal recovery and preparation for the next game ahead.