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Pre-training camp nutrition to maximize performance

Pre-training camp nutrition to maximize performance


What do I need to eat to give my best? Should I have breakfast? How many snacks should I have? Should I avoid certain foods? These are just a few of the questions all sportsmen and women ask themselves when it’s time for a tournament or a period of intense training.

One thing is certain: the foods consumed before, during and after a training camp will have a major impact on the athlete’s level of performance and ability to recover. This article deals with player preparation before the start of camp.

As a general rule, a field hockey player’s usual diet should enable him to maintain optimum muscle mass to ensure the power of his shots and skating strokes, without impairing his agility to move easily on the ice. On the other hand, the state of muscle and liver glycogen reserves is the major issue for field hockey players, whether before a game or a training camp. As a match can last up to 150 minutes (game time, intermissions, warm-up), this represents a long period during which players need to be physically available. Although a player’s time on the ice may sometimes seem short, his energy reserves diminish greatly over the course of the game.

During a field hockey camp, athletes expend more energy than on regular training days. In fact, they have to adapt and respond to increased energy demand over a number of consecutive days, and often even several times in a single day. The risk of reduced performance and intensity on the ice during the camp is more than likely if the body’s energy reserves are not at optimum levels from the start of the activities.

In the two days leading up to the camp, glycogen overload is crucial to maximize the energy stored in the muscles, particularly those of the legs. To achieve this, the consumption of energy-rich foods, i.e. rich in carbohydrates, must be increased. These foods include fruit, milk or soy beverages and cereal or starch products (bread, cereals, rice, pasta, potatoes, etc.).

Protein sources (eggs, meat, nuts, cheeses…) and vegetables are also important, but not a priority at this time. It is therefore important to consume them without compromising energy intake.
Food intake can be divided into three meals and three nutritious snacks to ensure that the body is constantly supplied with energy to store and to facilitate digestion. This means meals and snacks approximately every 3 hours.

Here’s an example of what eating during these two days might look like. Fruit or 100% fruit juice can be added for larger athletes, as they have higher needs.

Adapted from Pearly Nerenberg (2016) all rights reserved

Finally, to maximize performance throughout the training camp, a carbohydrate-rich diet is essential for the two days leading up to it. Splitting your intake into 3 meals and 3 or more snacks is an effective way of optimizing muscle glycogen reserves, facilitating digestion and avoiding intestinal discomfort. Low-carbohydrate foods are still part of the diet during these two days, but they must not interfere with the intake of energy foods. Consulting a nutritionist is an excellent way to receive individualized advice tailored to an athlete’s specific needs.

Written by Geneviève Rioux, Dietitian-Nutritionist

References :
1. Burke L. and V. Deakin. Clinical sports nutrition, 5th edition. Mc Graw Hill Education, Australia, 2015, 828 p.
2. Ledoux M. et al. Nutrition sport et performance, 2nd edition. Vélo Québec, Québec, 2009, 283 p.
3. Ledoux M. and Lacombe N. Sports nutrition. Clinical nutrition manual online. Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec, Montreal, 2016 Edition.
4. Nerenberg P. A Sports Nutrition Guide to Prepare for Hockey Camps or Hockey Tryouts. HNN, 2016

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