Fueling potential future
England netball players

After the excitement of England beating Australia in the Commonwealth netball final the UK public and British press are rightly focusing more attention on this fast paced and hugely enjoyable sport.

I was delighted therefore to recently be asked for my advice regarding netball nutrition and in particular, whether young, competitive netball players should carbo-load before an important match. There are differing views on carbo-loading. My view is that carbo-loading as we knew it is out dated and that eating large helpings of pasta, bread and sugar-laden carbohydrates is detrimental for all of us and especially athletes. The nutritional value is low and they can leave an athlete feeling bloated and heavy.

Gastrointestinal issues is a high priority for athletes with many of them suffering from ‘leaky gut’ and dysbiosis of some sort. There are minimal benefits from pasta and it can be inflammatory for certain people.

Maximising glycogen stores before an intense competition is a good strategy. You store 2.7 grams of water along with every gram of carbohydrate stored and starting an event sufficiently hydrated is also an important consideration.

I recommend sipping on a carbohydrate and electrolyte drink a day or two day before the match.

Most athletes start the match with 60-90 minutes of stored muscle glycogen. The aim is to keep energy and concentrations levels up throughout the match by fuelling muscles, not filling stomachs.

For an explosive sport such as netball, consistent energy and hydration support to meet the athlete’s demands is paramount. Stodgy food will just slow them down and slow their gastric emptying rate.

Nutrition is as important as their training and ensuring a daily diet high in fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and protein is the surest way to optimise their performance and hopefully, longevity in the sport.

On the court, technical sports nutrition plays a definite role. Energy/electrolyte drinks, energy gels and bars help to keep the netball team optimally fuelled. These simple easy to digest products play a central role in competition.

When hunger kicks in, peanut butter sandwiches, nuts and raisins and high-quality food bars are useful.

Caffeine can play a role as well in assisting with concentration and alertness but is highly inter-individual. Caffeine metabolism and tolerance is a genetic predisposition and should not be abused. High doses of caffeine are never recommended for young adults.

Recovery drinks and meals are central to any athlete’s performance and should not be taken lightly. Junk food as an occasional splurge is fine, but aspiring netball stars need to focus on the next training session and upcoming matches they look forward to winning.

A simple chocolate milk, branded protein drink or recovery shake taken straight after every workout will ensure that muscle repair and recovery and replacing glycogen stores takes place efficiently.

Optimal nutrition is essential for great performance.

I’m proud to have offered nutritional advice to the U16 Grasshoppers netball team, who this weekend came 9th in the UK national finals (with over 10,00 teams eligible to compete) and first in London and the South East.

An incredible achievement – proving that hard work, dedication, correct fuel and great friendships, create happy healthy teenagers.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *