Optimal Athletic Performance consists of three critical elements that work together like three legs of the same stool. If one of the legs is missing, the stool falls over.
The three elements are Training, Nutrition and Recovery.
TRAINING: takes place prior to the tournament and is typically not part of the tournament regimen.
NUTRITION: pre-game meal should focus on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains which provide carbs (the fuel your body burns). Protein helps rebuild muscle and is best as part of the post game meal. Your body is like a sponge for about 30 minutes after a game and absorbs carbs to replenish your fuel tank better than other times so don’t just focus on proteins. Servings for all meals should include;
Fruits: 1 serving (a serving size is roughly equivalent to the size of the palm of your hand)
Vegetables: 1 serving
Whole grains: (the darker in color the better) 1 serving
Proteins: (the lighter in color the better) 1 serving
Include natural fats: oils from fish, nuts, etc.
Avoid processed foods and foods high in saturated fat or sugar. Stay away from soft drinks. The closer food is to its natural state, the better it is for you. Pre-game meals should be eaten about 2 hours before the game because it takes about that long for your body to digest and absorb the nutrients. If you focus on eating correctly 80% of the time you will be in good shape. A burger and fries are tasty and ok once in awhile – just save it for the ride home after the tournament.
Hydration: this is critical and often an overlooked element of nutrition. Muscles need water to function correctly. Drink regularly. If you wait until you are thirsty, your body is past the point where it needs more water. Sports drinks that contain electrolytes (potassium, sodium, etc.) along with carbs and proteins are good before, during, and after a game. If you experience muscle cramps during a game it is likely due to lack of hydration or low levels of electrolytes. Drinking a gatorade, eating a banana, these types of things will help replace what your body is telling you it needs.
RECOVERY: is a critical element to performance which often takes a back seat at tournaments. Post game stretching and rolling out will reduce soreness and when done correctly, will improve performance long term. Light aerobic activity for about 10-15 minutes with dynamic stretching as part of the warm-up prior to the next match will eliminate stiffness. Avoid even lightly strenuous activities such as swimming or lots of walking. Tremendous demands are placed on the body when asked to play 4-5 games over a three day period. Down time must be maximized to allow the body to recover and avoid over use type injuries. Get 8-10 hours of sleep per night (preferably closer to 10).
CAMP, Building Better Athletes