The crucial element for footballers to take into account post-match is the timing and content of the meals they are taking on board.
The ‘anabolic window’ is the optimal period of time following intense exercise for consuming fast and slow acting carbohydrates, and of course protein. This window occurs in the first 15-45 minutes after your game, in which your body goes from a catabolic state (tissues breaking down due to demand) into an anabolic state (tissues achieving muscle growth and recovery).
During these 45 minutes it is crucial to load the body with the correct nutrients (rather than junk food or worse, nothing) to achieve a speedy recovery and get back into match-condition quicker. Doing this allows the body to:
- Remove waste products (like lactic acid) quicker
- Replenish muscle and liver glycogen stores
- Reduce muscle damage and DOMS (next day muscle soreness)
- Set the stage for muscle repair and growth
This initial recovery meal can come from some unlikely sources - chocolate milk is a fantastic source of both protein and fast acting carbs, and is a great recovery tool. However after the initial 15g/30g of protein/carbs you would gain from this meal, it is important to then follow this up with more substantial nutrients.
During the next three hours, footballers should consume a ‘follow-up meal’ loaded with more protein and carbohydrates, avoiding foods with high fat content. For protein anything up to 30g will suffice, and may come from chicken, tuna, salmon, or other meats.
Research has shown that muscle recovery is enhanced when protein is taken on with carbohydrates. It is also suggested that the ideal ratio between carbohydrates and protein should be 2:1, so it may be beneficial for example to consume 50g carbohydrates and 25g protein after a game.
Here is an example post-match nutrition routine after a 3pm KO:
Meal 1 - 5pm (changing rooms) Whey protein shake mixed with milk (15-20g protein), melon/pineapple chunks 200g (30g carbs)
Meal 2 - 6:30pm Brown rice and Salmon with green beans, tomatoes, broccoli, 500ml Water.