How you can improve performance through recovery.

 

Here are a few simple steps to allow you to recover from your match at the weekend. The information provided will maximise your recovery and enable you to prepare earlier for your upcoming match.

Throughout the week your main priorities should be recovering from the previous weeks’ match and preparing for the following match. Within the week there are many factors that come into play such as the type and timings of training sessions and the energy expenditure at work during the week. However, full time players will need to manipulate their intake throughout the week and take into account multiple training sessions performed each day and rest days. Balancing the intake of protein, fats and carbohydrates throughout the week will maximise the potential for recovery from both training and matches and aid in the performance of the following match.

Recovery starts the minute you leave the field on matchday. Matchday recovery is covered within the matchday chapter, however it’s important to reinforce the main points. Due to the high demand during matches, replenishing your glycogen stores with carbohydrates are the main priority at this stage. Consuming 1-1.2g per kg body mass of high-GI foods per hour within the first 4-6 hours after your match will optimally stimulate glycogen resynthesis. Ingesting protein (0.4g per kg body mass) with fewer carbohydrates (0.8g per kg body mass) have been shown to equally stimulate glycogen resynthesis. Due to the contact element of the sport, protein is needed to aid in your recovery of the damaged muscle tissue associated with the sport. Fats have not been shown to affect the recovery process following matches, however they are essential for your health and advised not to exclude them from your diet.

Throughout the week your energy intake should be sufficient to fuel and recover from training sessions. Due to the high intensity nature of rugby, carbohydrates should be the main source of energy. Compared to fat, carbohydrates can be much easier to digest, quicker to be made available for energy use and less calorific, meaning more food can be eaten, great. With this in mind, it has been suggested that consuming 5-7g per kg body mass per day will be sufficient to maintain energy levels throughout the week (Burke, 2007). However, within this amount, timings of when these carbohydrates around training are consumed is also important. Pre-exercise carbohydrate intake should be similar to pre-match, firstly to maximise muscle glycogen stores and to familiarise with the quantities needed. Therefore 1-4g per kg body mass of carbohydrates should be eaten 1-4 hours prior to training. Post training 1-1.2g per kg body mass of carbohydrates should be eaten to recover sufficiently. Balsom et al. (1999) found athletes who consume a high quantity of carbohydrates (8g per kg body mass per day) were able to complete 33% more high intensity work than those who consumed a low dose of 3g per kg body mass per day. Therefore, within 48 hours of your match, carbohydrate intake should be at its highest to fully maximise muscle glycogen stores, allowing for a greater performance during your match.

Protein intake throughout the week should maintain a constant level due to it not being able to be stored by the body. Minimum protein levels per day should be 1.2g per kg body mass. This intake is adequate on days that don’t require as much physical activity such as gym sessions. Little emphasis is placed upon strength training during the 48 hours prior to matches therefore this amount should be consumed within this period. It also allows for greater emphasis on carbohydrate intake without altering body composition.  Early in the week when multiple training sessions may be performed on the same day and increasing strength and power are priorities, greater protein intake is required. During this period, the minimum intake per day should be 1.6g per kg body mass, however increasing this above 2g per kg body mass will be as equally effective. These quantities are daily needs throughout the week, and needs to be split over the day to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Your protein intake should be split into several intakes during each day, minimum of 3-4 per day. Each meal/snack should contain at least 20g, however hitting the daily target is your main objective. Priority should be placed after training to aid in recovery and stimulate adaptations, therefore having 0.4g per kg body mass post training will be optimal for your recovery. This includes both gym and pitch sessions due to the significance of improving both strength and aerobic adaptations.

Fat plays an important role in maintaining your general health and performance. Certain vitamins and minerals are only absorbed into the body with the presence of fats in the diet. With priority on carbohydrates for the energy requirements, fat intake can be reduced but it is vital to not remove it completely from your diet. Intake of fats should be between 20-30%, however having an intake of 0.8-1g per kg body mass per day will fall between these ratios and be sufficient.

Hydration varies between individuals in each team. A simple trick to analyse hydration status is by observing the colour of urine. The paler your urine the more hydrated you are. However, during training it is difficult to analyse hydration status as your sweat rate during exercise will be different to other team mates. It is therefore important for you to identify your sweat rate and rehydrate accordingly. Weighing yourself before and after your match, and replacing 150% of your weight lost with fluid (1kg weight loss = 1.5L fluid) will optimise hydration following training. During training, it is advised for you to sip water at natural breaks when thirsty.

Supplements can be used to enhance both performance and recovery throughout the week. Please refer to the supplements chapter, where a full list of the appropriate supplements that may be applicable to you.

Summary

  • Priority is recovering from your previous match and fuelling for your following match.
  • Post-match/training 1-1.2g per kg body mass carbohydrates for muscle glycogen replenishment, 0.4g per kg body mass protein to stimulate muscle protein synthesis
  • Carbohydrate intake should be 5-7g per kg body mass per day
  • 48 hours prior to matches carbohydrate intake 7g per kg body mass
  • protein requirements >1.6g per kg body mass early in the week with increased training demands
  • 48hours prior to matches protein intake >1.2g per kg body mass for greater emphasis on carbohydrate intake
  • Fat intake 20-30% to allow for optimal health
  • Maintain pale urine for optimal hydration
  • Rehydrate with 150% of weight lost during training
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