Whenever highly talented, motivated and well trained players meet in competition, the margin between victory and defeat is small. Attention to detail can make that vital difference. Diet affects performance, and the foods that we choose in training and competition will affect how well we train and play. Every player needs 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. A good diet can help support consistent intensive training while limiting the risks of illness or injury. Good food choices can also promote adaptations to the training stimulus – this can lead to more improvement for the same training load. The right diet is also important in preparing for games and in hastening recovery afterwards.
Getting the right amount of energy to stay healthy and to perform well is key. Too much and body fat increases: too little and performance falls, injuries increase, and illness results.
Carbohydrate supplies the muscles and brain with the fuels they need to meet the stress of training and competition. Players must be aware of what foods they should choose to meet their carbohydrate needs, how much should be eaten, and when these foods should be eaten.
Foods rich in protein are important for building and repairing muscles, but a varied diet containing everyday foods will generally supply more than enough protein. Well-chosen vegetarian diets can easily meet protein needs. Eating a small amount of protein just after training may help promote adaptations in response to the training stimulus.
A varied diet that meets energy needs and is based largely on nutrient-rich choices such as vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, cereals, lean meats, fish and dairy foods should ensure an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals. Excluding any of these food groups means that more careful food choices must be made.
Maintaining hydration is important for performance. Fluid intake before, during (where appropriate) and after exercise is important, especially in hot climates. When sweat losses are high, foods and drinks consumed must contain sufficient water and salt to replace these losses.