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Optimum Nutrition to Boost Performance on the Pitch

Mar. 11, 2013

Lacrosse players take their game seriously and as a result undertake rigorous training. However, this training alone is not sufficient to see results on the field. All the effort you put into training needs to be accompanied by good nutrition to achieve the best standard of play in a game of lacrosse; without this you won't see the benefits of training, with tiredness and poor performance becoming a problem during matches. If your energy levels are low or you are dehydrated prior to a training session or game, you will find it difficult and won't derive the same enjoyment, as if you had taken adequate carbohydrate and fluid beforehand. For those players who can identify with this, now is a good time to address your diet to ensure that it is optimum for success. While in the main a balanced diet containing foods from all groups is important, particular consideration needs to be paid to intake of carbohydrate and protein, as well as fluid consumption. Although making changes can be difficult once habits have become ingrained, those who use tobacco or know that they over indulge in alcohol, may also want to quit smoking and drink in moderation, as both can impact on fitness and how well you play. However, it doesn't matter what your current diet is like or the lifestyle choices you have made until now, you are already doing well through participating in sport; taking steps to improve your diet and other habits will not only see your game performance improve, but can provide additional health benefits.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are your body's preferred energy source, as they are easier to use as fuel and release their energy more quickly than fats do since less oxygen is required for their metabolism, so they are more efficient. If your body does not receive sufficient carbohydrate, performance is hindered and your body takes longer to recover from exercise. The joint guidelines by the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine advise that athletes require between 6 and 10g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight. This not only satisfies your body's daily energy requirements, but allows the muscles to replenish their glycogen stores, which they rely on for energy during intense exercise. However, the day before a match you may benefit from increasing this up to 12g of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight to meet the increased demands. As lacrosse matches only last 60 minutes, there is no need to consume extra carbohydrate beyond this in the few hours prior to a game.
The best source of carbohydrates is complex carbohydrates that include those found in bread, cereals, potato, pasta and rice. These provide a slower release of energy than more sugary carbohydrates, particularly if you choose wholegrain versions; these are also higher in fibre, vitamins and minerals, which benefit general health. Carbohydrates should be included with each meal and also with snacks; good options for between meals include toast, muesli and oat bars.

Protein

Protein is not typically used as an energy source and instead it is required to maintain and repair muscle mass; it also plays an important role in the immune system, which itself can help with fitness, as infections can make athletic performance more difficult. Strong muscles are essential for speed and endurance during a game of lacrosse, so besides training, adequate protein is needed to build muscle to achieve top performance on the pitch. Consuming between 1.2 and 1.7g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight will meet the increased requirements of sports players, though eating more protein than this will not provide additional benefits, as it will merely be excreted. Lean meat, fish, eggs, low fat dairy produce, pulses and nuts are all good options for inclusion with meals and snacks, as they are low in saturated fat, which is known to be detrimental to health. Follow training sessions and matches with a protein-containing snack to optimize the repair and growth of muscle tissue.

Fluids

Losing as little as 1% of your body's weight due to dehydration can be all that it takes to impair physical and mental function, both of which can hamper how well you play. Although you may see specific figures mentioned for the amount you should drink before, during and exercise, as everyone has different fluid requirements, the best guide for how much to drink is to follow your thirst; that way you are unlikely to take too much fluid on board. However, the volume of fluid you drink isn't the only important factor, the type of fluid is also crucial. During and after intense or prolonged activity, water isn't adequate for hydration, as it does not contain sufficient levels of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium, which are lost in significant quantities during sweating. Failure to replace levels of these electrolytes can result in imbalances within the body, which can cause fatigue, dizziness and impair muscle function; if allowed to progress more serious problems develop such as an irregular heartbeat, seizures and loss of consciousness. For this reason if you will be exercising for an hour or more, a sports drink should be taken, as these contain a balanced mix of electrolytes to replenish losses; with these there is also less chance of developing potentially fatal low sodium levels, which can occur as a result of over-hydration. Flavored sports drinks additionally have the benefit that they are more palatable than water alone, which can encourage us to drink.
Here we summarize the key points for good nutrition for lacrosse players.

DO:
• Follow a balanced diet
• Include complex carbohydrates and protein with every meal and snack; this is especially important after a game
• Select low fat options for carbohydrate and protein
• Follow guidelines for daily carbohydrate and protein intakes
• Drink according to thirst
• Choose sports drinks when exercising for an hour or more.

DON'T:
• Exceed recommended protein intakes
• Drink alcohol the night before training or a match
• Use water to rehydrate after intense exercise.

 

By: Eve Pearce

 

 

 

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