Australian Rules Football is considered one of the most athletically demanding sports in the world. In a normal game of football the average player covers upwards of 15km – made up of over 200 sprint efforts – whilst also dealing with high impact collisions, running, jumping and kicking.
A lot of emphasis is placed on running drills and fitness training to ensure that players can keep running until the final siren – to the extent where clubs are even looking to high altitude training to gain an edge. What is less publicised, but equally as important is the role that food plays in ensuring fatigue does not occur and performance is maintained.
The body uses food, particularly carbohydrates, much like a car does fuel – this means two things.
Firstly, the better the food the better the output. Players seek to eat foods that are low fat, high protein and high carbohydrates. They tend to focus on natural foods particularly whole grain breads and pastas, nuts, fruits, vegetables and lean cuts of meat. In the lead up to games a greater focus is given to carbohydrates to ensure the body’s glycogen stores are stocked.
Secondly, much like a car, the body has a finite supply of its “fuel” – carbohydrates. In fact after about 1 hour of exercise the body starts to run out and will fatigue if not topped up. It is recommended that a footballer consumes between 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour of exercise to maintain performance throughout a game. Energy gels are a great way to achieve this.
So although there is a lot of emphasis placed on running blocks and fitness training of AFL footballers, if you don’t eat the right foods before the game, or refuel during the game, then this hard work will count for nothing. Proper nutrition is vital to having you running strong at the end of the game.