The foods and drinks that a player chooses in training and competition will affect performance. All players need to be aware of their personal nutritional goals and of how they can select an eating strategy to meet those goals. Every player is different, and there is no single diet that meets the needs of all players at all times. Individual needs also change across the season and players must be flexible to accommodate this.
Diet may have its biggest impact on training, and a good diet will help support consistent intensive training while limiting the risks of illness or injury. Good food choices can also promote adaptations to the training stimulus. Training hard to improve fitness makes no sense if the foods eaten after training are not chosen to maximise the adaptations taking place in the muscles. This may also allow for the same level of fitness improvement with less stamina training – allowing more time for skills and tactical work and reducing the risk of overuse injuries. Getting the right amount of energy to stay healthy and to perform well is key. Too much energy in the diet and body fat increases; too little and performance falls, injuries are more likely to occur, and illness results. Body mass and physique should be optimised in pre-season rather than trying to make adjustments at times when match demands are high. The optimum level of body fat is an individual issue, and body composition assessment is essential before any attempts to make changes are made.
Prof Ron Maughan
Professor of Sport and Exercise Nutrition