This year, we celebrate the 90th anniversary of Netball in Australia! I recently had the pleasure of speaking with some talented netballers from the Western Sydney Academy of Sport about the importance of nutrition for their sport and overall health. One of the most common themes that came up on the day was around planning and timing their “fuel” to match their training. By “Fuel” I’m referring to both food and fluids! Many people have a good idea on how to make healthy food choices however they may not be as sure on how to effectively match their fuel with the demands of training & game day. With junior netballers, this would also include the additional demands of growth!
Regardless of whether you are playing Netball at an elite or recreational level, it is vital that you carry out some basic fuel planning around your training sessions & game day to get the most out of yourself. Fuel planning involves looking at the type, amount and timing of your food and fluids. Here are four key tips I shared with the WSAS netballers last month that you can try out for yourself:
1. Carbohydrates are your friends – together with protein!
Carbohydrate foods are often a misunderstood group!
- Carbohydrate foods are often a misunderstood group! They include bread, pasta, rice, starchy vegetables, grains, fruit & milk. These foods are an essential part of an overall balanced diet, where the less processed options are the preferred choice.
- One main reason we need carbohydrate foods is to provide our body with energy by way of glycogen in our muscles. It is important that these stores are regularly topped up, especially around training sessions and before a game.
- This can be as simple as making sure there is a carbohydrate food at most main meals & snacks across our day. Most people do this without realizing.
- Lean protein is the other essential part of our healthy diet as these foods promote muscle recovery & repair.
- Depending on whether you are playing at a recreational level or elite, training sessions may range from once per week or up to two sessions per day. Use a weekly planner to write down training sessions then match up your “fuel”, to support those sessions.
- Essential to make sure you are well hydrated, with the majority of your daily fluid being water.
- The amount of fluid each player needs is individual & will differs depending on the conditions such as indoor versus outdoor courts and weather temperature
- Focus on being well hydrated throughout the entire day, not just during and after training
- Use water bottles as a guide for how much you are actually drinking
- Sports drinks & Electrolyte drinks are only helpful if training session last longer than 90 minutes
For more information on Sports Drinks for young articles – check out this article.
3. Bone health & Iron levels
- Calcium rich foods are important to assist bone health, especially in junior players who have yet to reach their peak bone mass.
- Calcium rich foods include dairy milk, yoghurt, cheese and fortified lactose free milks or soy milks. If you use non-dairy, plant based milk alternative, please be sure that the milk is fortified with calcium as many are naturally very low.
- As with all sports predominately played by females, iron deficiency may occur. This is seen more commonly in players that follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. If your energy levels continue to be low, it is recommended that you discuss the possibility of iron deficiency with your general practitioner.
4. Game day nutrition
- One thing to always remember nutritionally, “Never try anything new on game day“!
- Know what your pre-game meal is. Depending on your age group and match time, this may be breakfast, lunch or mid meal snack time.
- If you find you struggle with nerves on game day, try to have something small. Trial different food types, textures and flavours. Do you prefer a liquid breakfast such as a smoothie? It may be that you prefer a sandwich or wrap rather than toast? It is worth experimenting to find what fuel works best for you so it can sustain your energy levels throughout the game.
- Good idea to also practice good hydration strategies to avoid dehydration through the game too.
Hopefully these tips will help you to improve your energy levels, performance and overall health. If you would like individualized sports nutrition advice for yourself or your daughter, please contact The Healthy Body Company to organize an appointment.
The Healthy Body Company team has published the following articles for our netball community: