Last week, we explored how an elite footballer can best prepare for match day.
Today, we investigate how they can accelerate recovery and reduce the time needed to return to baseline…and therefore be better prepared for their next match (Collins et al, 2021).
From a nutrition perspective, one of the primary objectives is to rapidly replenish carbohydrate stores (muscle and liver glycogen) as we know that starting the next session or match in a carbohydrate depleted state will impair performance.
The first four hours post-match presents an opportunistic timeframe to accelerate glycogen replenishment.
In this first phase of recovery, players should consume 1g/kg of carbohydrate every hour for four hours (4g/kg in total). I.e. an 80kg player would need 320g of carbohydrates.
Achieving this carbohydrate quota is difficult when appetite is supressed. Therefore, players should use a combination of sports drinks, smoothies/recovery shakes, snacks and meals. These should be available in the changing room, the car/bus and again at home/hotel to facilitate full recovery.
If this carbohydrate intake is not met, then suboptimal replenishment will happen and could negatively impact subsequent performances during congested fixtures (recovery = fuelling).
Rapid accelerations, decelerations and change of direction can cause significant muscle damage. Therefore, consuming adequate protein (~0.4g/kg) in 3-4 hour intervals is highly recommended to support muscle protein synthesis and initiate muscle remodelling/repair/adaptation.
Players should add a higher protein snack/meal/shake of 0.6g/kg prior to sleep to keep rates of muscle protein synthesis elevated overnight. Although protein intake doesn’t appear to support acute muscle function recovery following muscle damage, the guidelines are still recommended to support long(er) term recovery of the muscle.
Consuming polyphenol rich tart cherries is popular amongst many athletes as a recovery strategy. However, this doesn’t appear to be overly beneficial following a football match with the aim of recovering muscle function. That being said, when consumed pre-bed, can improve sleep quality.
High amounts of alcohol can impair glycogen replenishment, rehydration, muscle protein synthesis, immune function, sleep etc. Therefore, it’s discouraged to have a ‘big sesh’ during congested fixtures.
Hopefully this is common sense…Ultimately, recovery strategies are aimed to restore your physical baseline so you’re in the best possible position to compete your hardest when you need to the most.