AFL football takes a lot out of the body, from the toll of physical contact to depleting energy stores. The physiological demand of AFL players is position specific, with midfield players covering 12-15km each match and defenders needing to be strong and powerful to match the opposition, requiring shorter bursts of sprinting and anaerobic activities. This makes nutrition an important factor to AFL performance, with a player relying on a variety of foods to maximize performance. Typically, an AFL diet includes a combination of carbohydrate for fuelling and protein for muscle repair and recovery.
TRAINING: FUEL FOR THE WORK REQUIRED
Your nutritional plan for carbohydrate intake on training days should differ according to what the training goals are for that specific day. Some sessions could be performed without carbohydrate (low intensity training day) whereas for the hard effort sessions and very prolonged duration sessions, carbohydrate intake is essential. You should also include sessions where your game-day nutrition strategy is practiced. Remember, never try anything new on game-day! Ensure that you always fuel your harder training sessions and also train your gut to be able to tolerate any carbohydrate consumed during the game itself (1).
Hydration: Heat can play a major role in fatigue and recovery. During training and match play, aim to take on at least 500ml of fluid per hour. This fluid should contain electrolytes like those found in SiS GO Hydro to help absorb and use the fluid more effectively.
PREPARATION FOR COMPETITION…
In the days leading up to a game (24-36 hours), you will benefit from following a ‘carbohydrate loading’ regimen. This can be achieved by consuming 10-12g of carbohydrates per kilo of your body weight with meals evenly spread across the day (every 2-3 hours)(2). Ideally, high glycaemic (high GI) carbohydrates should be the most dominant source eaten with every meal as these are rapidly digested and absorbed by your body(3). So, for an 80 kg player, consuming 800-960g of high GI carbohydrates, this would load your carbohydrate stores preparing you for the high intensity actions and high distance covered (see example day meal plan). It is recommended that you still include vegetables, adequate protein, a source of good fats (avocado, nuts, seeds, olives) and a glass of water with every meal during this preparation phase.
|Time of Meal
|Carb Quantity (g)
|2 cups of low sugar cereal, two slices of thick white bread, thick spread of jam and a glass of fruit juice
|Large white bagel with jam spread, 1 banana
|1 blueberry muffin, 1 sachet of SIS GO Energy or a 500ml fruit smoothie
|3 rice cakes with a thick slice of peanut butter + half a tub of flavoured yoghurt
|3 cups of cooked white pasta, 2 teacakes + 250ml fruit juce
|1 tin of rice pudding
The nutritional content of a pre-match meal should target topping up your carbohydrate stores that have been used during your sleep and throughout the morning. You should aim to consume an easily digestible meal rich in high GI carbohydrates (1-4 g per kilo of your body weight) (2) 3-4 hours before kick-off. So, for an 80 kg player, 2 cups of breakfast cereal plus 1 medium banana and a slice of toast with jam would provide you with 170 g. It is essential that you leave your body a minimum of 3 hours to digest and absorb the nutrients as feelings of GI distress may mean you cannot perform to the best of your ability. Include a source of lean protein (e.g chicken, turkey, beans) with the pre-match meal to kick-start protein synthesis and begin recovery before you put your muscles through the stress of AFL (2).
Tip: An isotonic gel or bar taken just after the warm up can help top up your glycogen stores so that you start the game with maximized energy stores
DURING THE MATCH…
Half time and quarter time provides a great opportunity to refuel. Many players prefer not to eat solid foods during the game due to the intensity, with the aim to prevent stomach distress (3). In these cases, sports drinks and energy gels can be helpful for topping up glycogen stores to help maintain the high intensity nature of the game.
The nutritional literature recommends that you take on around 60 g of carbohydrate per hour (2, 4), prior to and during (including half-time) AFL performance to help maintain high-intensity running and skill execution. At quarters and half time, your body will need to replace the carbohydrates that it has used alongside rehydrating. SiS GO Electrolyte in addition to an SiS GO Isotonic Energy Gel can provide the body with exactly what it needs in a very convenient format that can be consumed in the dressing room or by the pitch. This helps you hit both energy and hydration goals together.
##### 1st Quarter – 250ml GO Electrolyte
Half Time – 1* SiS GO Isotonic Energy Gel; 250ml GO Electrolyte
2nd Quarter – 250ml GO Electrolyte (1* Isotonic Gel if needed)
After training or competition, the body will be in a state of depletion; to reduce fatigue, the risk of injury and promote physiological adaptations it is important to recover well by refuelling and getting enough rest (4). Consider these three key points for creating the ultimate recovery strategy:
Refuel: The capacity of your muscles to absorb and store nutrients is increased 30-60 minutes post-exercise(4), so it is important to replace carbohydrates and provide protein and electrolytes within this time. This can be done with “real food” such as carbohydrate (e.g. rice, pasta, breads etc) and protein options (e.g. greek yoghurt, chicken, fish etc), however this is not always possible or palatable immediately after a game. SiS REGO Rapid Recovery provides the body with 23g of carbohydrate, 20g of protein and 1 gram of salt, which is what the body needs to begin the adaptation and recovery process after training and competition. Food: Take on a full carbohydrate based meal within 1 hour of finishing. This should also include a source of protein and plenty of vegetables. Always plan ahead: Have SiS REGO Rapid Recovery or SiS Whey Protein pre-mixed in your kitbag for when you finish training or match play.
Don’t forget protein before sleep: Sleep is one of the most important aspects of recovery. During sleep, it is also important to have the muscles to have a supply of protein (i.e. amino acids) to help the muscle recovery. Consuming 40g of SiS Overnight Protein prior to sleep can help to deliver a sustained supply of amino acids during the overnight period. Mixing with milk (as opposed to water) can also deliver more carbohydrates to help with recovery of glycogen stores.