By Tony Attwood – a man of a certain age.
When I played for Benelux in the annual five aside competition held on the Emirates pitch some 15 months ago, I learnt a hard lesson. While the Swedish contingent all ate their bananas dead on cue so that the energy hit would come just as the game started, we strolled down the Holloway Road looking for a Greek or Turkish restaurant that might give us nutritional preparation. While the Manchester team played a very impressive keepy-uppy some of our lads had a couple of cigarettes.
Half way through the event I knew I’d had it. I played on when required, but I was gone. What I knew I needed was something to give me a boost, something to keep me going. And I had not come prepared. Yet it was a good final farewell to playing football. I had already retired from five a side following a nasty head wound in an indoor pitch, a year earlier this was the final hoorah. I suspect I am the oldest man ever to play a competitive game on the Emirates pitch.
The simple fact is that the body is not designed to play football at any age – certainly not when one is past the bus-pass age. And the body is certainly not set out to play at professional level without additional fuel. In fact I am starting to think that professional football is a rather sadistic event – at least for the older players – and older fans.
The body can store about 2500 calories of carbohydrate which is a hell of a lot less than the average Premier League player needs if he is going to play full out during a game.
If we fail to ensure our carbohydrate stores are at the right level before any punishing physical event then we get exhausted. As Jack Wilshere obviously felt during his comeback match and his second reserve game. (It probably also explains why Arshavin like to take a little occasional stroll around the pitch).
But us old time five a siders, we aren’t footballers – we are just regular guys who want to do a bit of exercise sometimes for fun. Sunday football, five a side, that sort of thing.
So we aim for a combination of carbohydrate and protein (3:1 ratio), and I subsequently did my research and I found sports nutrition, as a little bit of protein actually improves transport of carbohydrate to the muscle stores. Including protein in your post game routine is certainly worth doing according to a study conducted in 2004 which looked at the effect of different recovery beverages on marines. Yes at my dangerously advanced age I am playing again.
Here’s the clue: the addition of 10g protein to a carbohydrate formula leads to “33% fewer medical visits, 28% less bacterial or viral infections, 37% less treatment visits for joint or muscle problems, 83% fewer visits for heat exhaustion and less muscle soreness after training when compared to a carbohydrate formula without added protein.”
OK that may not bother you at 25, but just you wait til you get your free GP prescriptions (that’s a UK reference – for the rest of the world it just means getting old).
It seems that adding protein to your recovery food could reduce your injury risk as well as refuelling you efficiently. If you’re not sure what to eat or drink after a game try one of the following options to support speedy recovery and ensure you are refuelled.
Just select two to three fruits of your choice, add 200ml of apple juice or a smoothie mix from the supermarket, whizz around in your blender and then add a scoop of Protrient powder.
Here’s another: Protein enriched smoothie:
- 1 banana
- ½ apple (You can eat the other half while you’re making it!)
- 200ml banana & strawberry innocent drink
- 1 scoop Protrient
Recovermax contains a mix of maltodextrin and dextrose for quick and sustained energy replenishment plus whey protein for its protein source, assisting with muscle repair. It also contains 5 grams of Glutamax® in addition to approx. 1g naturally found in the whey protein. This hits the correct amount recommended in research to improve markers of immune function (ideally ingesting another 5g two hours after this) and can be a welcome bonus to support the heavy training that precedes the marathon. Providing electrolytes too to replenish the salts lost in sweat after hard training, Recovermax offers a premium range recovery formula with great functional benefits.
Whether you choose a home-made smoothie or a specific pre-designed recovery formula, it’s important to eat again within two hours to encourage good glycogen restoration and really support good recovery, but make sure you are no tempted to simply skip the immediate feeding and end up waiting a couple of hours for your meal. Think immediate recovery and it will really make a difference to how you feel after your run and ultimately your marathon performance.
So what am I doing about this? Well, I have just bought a new web site, and I am going to start doing my bit – my very little bit – obesity, lack of exercise, and all the stuff that flows from that.
Eating more carbohydrate in the general diet will support replete stores on the start line. Some people of course will take this as their opportunity to eat many more calories, which isn’t really the point. You should maintain your calorie balance at your regular level but increase the percentage of your calories coming from carbohydrate during this week period to approximately 70%. Still opt for complex carbohydrates in your general diet rather than sugars as these are both better for general health and steady energy supply.
If you’ve carbohydrate loaded correctly, it’s likely that you’ll wake on the morning of the marathon feeling a little bloated. Don’t let this alarm you, as you should expect to gain a couple of pounds when your carbohydrate stores are full, as your body stores 2.6 grams of water for every gram of glycogen in the muscle. This inevitable increase in water storage will actually provide some benefit itself, helping to prevent dehydration during the race.
The three key nutritional areas to focus on during the run are:
- To remain hydrated
- To take on extra energy
- To replace the salts you lose in sweat
One hour prior to the marathon you should sip on 500ml of a quality carbohydrate drink such as Viper Active mixed to a 5 – 6 % solution, stopping drinking twenty minutes prior to the start. Ideally you should replace 60g of carbohydrate per hour, but again, this is hard to do if you are just relying on a carbohydrate drink. A carbohydrate drink will typically provide 30-40g of carbohydrate per hour if you are meeting 500ml intake, so ideally you would also replace additional carbohydrate by using 1 Viper Active Gel per hour. Otherwise you could drink water and use 2 gels per hour to meet your need.
Choosing a drink containing electrolytes is important for events of the marathons duration as taking on just water can dilute sodium levels in the blood as we lose salts through sweat during the event. This can lead to unfavourable symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and in severe instances of extreme water intake (symptomatic of hypoglycaemia) coma and death.
Just drinking water, squash or a sports drink without these salts can also lead to an increase in your need to urinate, which is not ideal in the middle of the match. Salts have an added advantage of reducing urine output and keeping you running rather than queuing for the toilet, so make sure they are in your drink.
I am on a mission – to show people of my sort of age that they can still have fun with exercise, which can extend their life and get their weight right and give them fun. The sheer buzz from playing is worth its weight, and it can still be got in later life, if you get the mix right.
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