Nutrition - why should I care

It is important for the junior AFL Football player to eat well every day – not just on game days. The foods they eat on a day-to-day basis helps develop the ability to store fuel in their muscles, maximise their growth and development and prepare them for performing at their best on match day.

Active children need constant refuelling and cooling. Their nutrition needs are particularly important as they must meet requirements for not only their physical activity, but also their growth and development and overall health and wellbeing.

The junior AFL player will play better, for longer and recover quicker from training and competition when they are well fuelled. A player who is not giving adequate consideration to their diet when choosing meals and snacks, may become tired, irritable and lethargic, and may even struggle to maintain interest and enjoyment in sport.

The day before the game

The day before a big sporting event requires extra effort to ensure adequate carbohydrate is eaten and fluid intake has been sufficient to ensure a good state of hydration. The focus for meals and snacks over the day should be ‘fuel foods’ and fluids, with a reduction in filling high fat foods during this period.
The meal eaten in the evening should have a carbohydrate base such as pasta, rice, noodles or quinoa. Often Football matches are on a weekend, and the pregame meal is on a Friday night when busy families are tired and pushed for time.
This meal can be kept simple and may be a good time for a family favourite pasta dish, (preferably with a non creamy sauce) or a casserole with rice or a simple stir fry with noodles. Lean burgers with wholemeal buns and salad are also a quick, simple yet nutritious choice.  Remember to provide plenty of water to drink at this time, and encourage the kids to find out what healthy foods their favourite sports stars eat the night before a big game.

On game day

The aim of breakfast on game day is to provide some carbohydrate and fluid to top up stores, after what is often 12 hours without food, and to prevent hunger during the game.

For mid morning games, breakfast should be eaten around two hours before the match commences to keep your child feeling satisfied and well fuelled. But if your child gets hungry again up to one hour before starting exercise, provide a small low-fat snack to top up.

If you have to travel long distances or need to make an early start before a game, pack some breakfast-on-the-run foods including flavoured milk drinks; low fat, high fibre cereal bars; bread rolls with spread; flavoured yoghurt or creamed rice; fruit bars; fresh fruit or a plain fruit bun. Some players will prefer a low fat smoothie or pre-prepared liquid meal. The best foods to serve pre-game are those your children are used to eating and are quick and easy to prepare and eat – this will minimise fuss and ensure maximum stomach comfort. Low fibre foods, like low fat smoothies can be a good choice if your child gets an upset tummy due to “nerves” before a game.

Otherwise foods that are rich sources of carbohydrate, yet low in fat, are best eaten at the pre-game meal. Remember to encourage your children to drink fluids at this
time. The best pre-game drink is water, but small amounts of milk or juice may be okay, particularly if your child’s food intake is low on game day. Your junior AFL player should be well hydrated from the previous day’s drinking, so the aim before the game is to simply top up fluid levels, according to thirst.

After the game

Recovery snacks and fluids should be;
• Started within 30 minutes of finishing exercise
• High in carbohydrate with a little protein
• Quick and easy to prepare and eat

 

Further information can be found at:

https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/children/junior-afl/




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