Injuries & Nutrition

Most athletes want to know how best to fuel themselves for training, games and gym sessions while also focusing on how best to recover. You can find out more about suggested fueling strategies here and can read up on nutrition for recovery here and here. While fueling for performance is obviously important, we often tend to neglect optimal nutrition when recovering from an injury.

Injuries occur to a variety of body parts and can be due to a number of factors (discussing these is outside the scope of this piece). All injuries will, however, impact on performance in games, training, and often, day to day life. Continuing with nutrition practices that are suited to full training and work schedules is not ideal and can lead to negative consequences when returning to play. Below we will outline the three main aspects to consider nutritionally when injured and how best to approach them.

Nutritional Considerations When Injured:

  1. Aiding recovery on injured area
  2. Adjusting to change in energy demands
  3. Psychological impact of injury

Aiding Recovery

Daily protein requirements, and how to meet them, will be discussed in more detail in the future but meeting these requirements is a key element of optimising recovery. General recommendations for protein intake range from 0.8g to 1.2g per kg of body weight. This suggests an 80kg athlete would need 80g of protein a day which roughly equates to 1 chicken fillet, a pint of milk and a ham omelette (with 3 eggs). Athletes involved in resistance training are recommended to consume considerably more, aiming for 1.6g to 2.2g per kg of body weight. An 80kg athlete should then be aiming for 150g to 170g of protein per day which is evenly spaced throughout. Trying to have a palm-sized portion of protein at each meal is the best way to meet these requirements. Aim for at least 4 different servings of the following options per day with 5 being optimal.

Examples of a palm-sized portion would be:

  • 1 chicken fillet
  • 3 eggs
  • Fillet of steak
  • 1 salmon darne
  • 2 pork chops
  • 2 slices of ham
  • 1-2 turkey burgers
  • Large glass of milk
  • Scoop of whey protein

Foods higher in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as salmon, may help to reduce inflammation while these can also come in supplement form.

Vitamin D is another potential supplement to consider as it helps us absorb many nutrients from our food.

More information from Close et al here.

Change In Energy Demands

When training and working hard we can burn a large number of calories. A typical player’s schedule can include 1 match, 2 collective pitch trainings and 2 solo gym sessions a week. Combine this with a busy job or generally active lifestyle and a lot of food will be required to fuel everything. Larger players, who play around the middle third in hurling and football can easily expect to burn upwards of 3,000 calories a day, and even more on days of particularly hard games or long trainings (O’Brien et al reported that gaelic footballers burned 3,700 calories a day during a typical pre-season week). Most players have no need to track exact calorie intake but will intuitively eat close to the right amount based on hunger and appetite (although under-eating can be a major contributor to injuries). Major changes in training load (such as the first few weeks of pre-season) will often lead to increases in hunger and a need for larger portions or an extra meal/snack per day. While often unaware, players set portion sizes and meal amounts based on their individual calorie demands for a busy playing schedule. These habits can be difficult to break when there is a major change in activity levels such as injury or the season-ending. Injury is a particularly difficult time to manage as it comes on suddenly, allows no time for planning and will generally lead to entirely different energy demands than the majority of other players.

Players tend to either continue eating as normal when injured – which leads to excess weight gain (predominantly fat) or majorly cut calories which leads to a drop in weight and slows the healing process. Trying to find the mid-range between these two options is key to optimising recovery and being in decent shape when returning to play. The most straightforward way to find this mid-range is either to cut your carbohydrate portions in half or eliminate carbohydrate from 1-2 meals per day and replacing it with extra vegetables. If you usually have a cup of rice with dinner then drop to half a cup. Drop from 2 large potatoes at dinner to 1. Have half a bowl of porridge instead of a full bowl and add some fruit or a boiled egg. Try have a salad bowl with a small bread roll at lunchtime if you normally have a large filled roll. Adding extra vegetables or salad to your meals will help fill your stomach and plate so you still feel like you’re eating the same as before.

Psychological Impact

While not directly connected, our brains and stomachs certainly have an impact on each other. An injury can change a lot of our normal behaviours such as activity levels, going training, meeting teammates, playing matches, etc., When feeling a bit down or with a lot of unexpected free time on our hands we can crave foods that are both high in calories and low in nutrients. Binging on comfort food or “mindless eating” are major contributors to unwanted weight gain and can make a return to competition even more difficult than it needs to be. We can take a few proactive steps to try and prevent these from happening.

Preparing some meals in advance that are high in protein and contain a lot of vegetables will lessen the chances of you grabbing high-calorie convenience foods when hunger strikes. It may also be a good time to learn, or improve on, a new skill, such as cooking, to fill your newly found free time.

Trying to get in some form of activity is also a help in filling free time and creating an extra calorie demand. Doing any rehab exercises at collective squad sessions can help stay integrated with the rest of the team and show management you’re eager to return. Going for walks or any other type of training will also help when returning to play and make room for some “treat foods’.

 

Bonus Tip – Never Waste An Injury!

What we mean by never “wasting” an injury is using the time away from traditional training to focus on a weakness that’s not affected by the injured area.

If you’ve injured an ankle, then you can still focus on upper body strength.

A broken thumb/wrist can still allow you to increase aerobic capacity through running or on an exercise bike.

Injured shoulder muscles may still allow you to build up lagging leg muscles.

A pulled hamstring may still allow you to spend a few weeks bringing up a lagging ‘core’.

Other injured areas will generally still allow some form of training to be done. This can help to increase some aspects of performance for when you return, allow you to do some form of training (which can be completed at the same time as the rest of your squad), and allow for some extra calories to be consumed.

 

If you have any specific questions on nutrition around injuries or would like another issue addressed then contact me at fhsperformance@gmail.com

GAA Nursery Plan

——-Folder of 10 Sessions Here——–

Mol An Oige“Mol an Óige agus Tiocfaidh Siad”

As most teams head into pre-season we are all wondering about how best to prepare our adult teams for the coming year, we often fail to realise that our results will be the culmination of many years of preparation. With the exception of a few outliers, it’s very unlikely that any adult player has only recently begun playing GAA. With potentially 20 years of preparation behind many adult players, it’s worth making sure our underage pathways are sufficiently structured to support their journey to the top-level (or whatever level they decide to aim for). Ensuring your current adult teams are well prepared for the upcoming championship is an obvious priority in the majority of clubs while also ensuring there will be players, hopefully of high quality, to populate teams in 10, 15 or 20 years.

Setting up a nursery in your local club brings with it many benefits on top of the obvious development of young players (which can often become a secondary or tertiary priority in particularly successful nursery structures). Some of the key benefits, and will be addressed in more detail below are:

  1. Development of Fundamental Movement Skills
  2. Recruitment of New Players
  3. Recruitment of New Coaches
  4. Showcasing Facilities and Structures

Fundamental Movement Skills

If you wish to skip over the benefits then scroll to the bottom of the page where you will find suggestions on how to structure your own GAA (or any other sport) nursery.

 

Development of Fundamental Movement Skills

 

Fundamental movement skills fall into three categories. Locomotor, stability and manipulative. Locomotor skills involve movement of the child themselves through motions such as walking, running, jumping, side-stepping, hopping and more. Stability skills are balancing and landing. Manipulative skills involve the controlled movement of something external to the child (like a ball) such as throwing, kicking and catching. Ideally these skills should be developed from ages 5 through to 9 or 10 but unfortunately do not receive enough attention (for a variety of reasons). Irish children were found to have poor levels of FMS with 90% lacking competency through the full range of skills. This has many knock-on effects, which include a decreased likeliness to participate in physical activity in later life.

Fundamental movement skills provide the base for all sport-specific skills. If we pick a skill from hurling, such as the handpass, we can find many underlying fundamental movement skills necessary for it to be successful. Throwing, catching and striking with the hand are obvious but when we look at hand-passing in the context of the game we also see how important running, dodging, side-stepping and landing can be as we add in movement and opposition. Developing these fundamental skills would ideally be done primarily through play and exploration with tiny bits of instruction mixed in. This will be explored in greater detail below.

 

Recruitment of New Players

 

The competition between sporting organisations to recruit new players is constantly increasing. There is a much greater choice for children (and their parents) to choose from in terms of what activities they can try out. The traditional sports of GAA, Soccer and Rugby have always had somewhat of a competition for players while still co-existing in many of the same towns and parishes. Recent successes at the international level of rowers, middle distance runners and hockey players coupled with the growth of part-recreational, part-competitive activities such as Martial Arts and Crossfit have increased the options for physical activity participation. Many soccer leagues have also moved away from the winter period and tried to base most competitions around the summer months. This has led to many organisations recruiting at a much younger age than in previous years.

There are many ways to recruit new players to your local GAA club but a combined approach that targets both parents and children generally works best. Social media campaigns through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will inform the majority of parents of when everything is scheduled. Updating social media platforms weekly with news of particular events, pictures and videos of various activities and updates on potential changes in time help to keep parents informed. Recruiting children will often work best through the local primary school (see below for creating stronger links with the community). Flyers with information on when the nursery sessions take place should be given to every child, particularly those in infants classes. When these flyers are given out by well-known GAA stars from the locality it can also have a much greater effect on the children and their motivation to attend. If the local school will allow, then providing a sample sesion of fun games to the children can also serve as an enticement to attend the local nursery once it begins.

 

Recruitment of New Coaches

 

We may lose sight of this at times, but essentially, volunteerism is still the primary driver of the GAA. Without volunteers then we have no one to carry out the many tasks from facility preparation & maintenance to coaching the majority of teams while still ensuring all administration and fundraising is up to date. Recruiting all of these volunteers can be quite difficult. There are many potential barriers, particularly for those with no previous links to the GAA, when looking to volunteer at a new organisation. Perceived lack of knowledge in the sport; no coaching/teaching experience; not knowing anyone currently involved; fear of criticism; not recognising own strengths; are some of the common reasons people do not volunteer as coaches. The majority of people reading this will have experience of coaching and feel relatively comfortable getting involved. For many, however, it will be the most alien thing imaginable to them. Making the steps from, no affiliation whatsoever to a potential coach, as easy as possible is key when recruiting new volunteers. Entering into the world of GAA coaching is particularly daunting as the specific skills can seem quite complex, group management may seem impossible at the outset and the long-term time commitment may also serve as a deterrent. Encouraging parents of new/potential players to become involved as assistant coaches, or even to participate in the sessions themselves, may serve as a way of introducing them to the club and the local community. Beginning with parent and toddler/child sessions serves both as a support for younger children who are new to the sport, but also for parents who are new to the community. Many parents on their first few journeys to the GAA pitch can feel a bit excluded and awkward as they watch on from the sideline and wonder who to make small talk with. Including parents in the activities gives them a purpose while present helps create topics of conversation with other parents and creates an opportunity for parents and children to be active together.

Setting up tea/coffee stations for parents as they watch underage training or a fruit station afterwards also creates a space for people to congregate. This allows a “Recruiter” to focus on a specific area as they try to encourage people to volunteer.

Bronze Award

Other options for recruiting new coaches include setting up a rotation system for the U15, U16, U18, U19 team to attend and help out or serve as assistant coaches. Encouraging Transition Year students from the locality to engage in the Gaisce President’s Award may also serve as an incentive to recruit coaches. Assisting as a coach for 13 weeks of 1-hour sessions can count towards either the ‘Learning A New Skill’ section or ‘Community Involvement’.

 

Showcasing Facilities and Structures

 

Many GAA clubs around the country boast excellent facilities yet people new to the locality may be unaware of what is on their doorstep. Creating links with local primary schools through Go-Games tournaments after school or Open Mornings on weekends will help in promoting the facilities already in place. Organising a fun morning that combines GAA with other fun/recreational activities will show parents what the locality has to offer both their children and themselves. Floodlit areas, astroturf pitches, indoor halls, gyms, walking tracks and outdoor play areas are examples of the foresight, work and dedication done by many GAA volunteers in the past. Utilising these for current members while also highlighting their existence for potential new members can help clubs to grow in the future.

Hand-Pass-skillcard_09_aw-1

Setting Up Your Nursery

I mentioned above that Fundamental Movement Skills are the building blocks of all future sports skills. For example, a handpass in hurling can include Throwing, Catching, Striking with the Hand, Running, Jumping, Landing, Side-Stepping & Dodging as we include it in the wider context of the game. Developing these skills in younger players (ideally between the ages of 5 and 9) makes learning sport-specific skills much easier in the future. As time develops, hurling or football skills can be included along with FMS. Using basic throwing and catching games also helps to develop game sense in younger players as they may not possess the necessary sports skills to apply to hurling or football games.

If You Can't...

Below is a suggested structure for how to run a nursery session through station based coaching. Each station focuses on a specific skill. A coach (or two) stays at a station. Each group of children spends 8-10 minutes at a station before moving onto the next. The coach (or coaches) remain at the station. This makes it easier for a coach as they only need to be comfortable with 1-2 skills and 2-3 games which are repeated for the session. Children also experience a variety of skills through the medium of games with minimal coaching. Exploration of the skills is key at this stage.

 

Screenshot 2019-02-24 at 20.41.33

Each of the underlined names listed below is a hyperlink to a description of the game. As you move further through each of the documents you will find links to descriptions of the skills and videos that explain them in greater detail.

Screenshot 2019-02-24 at 21.33.39

Advertisement

Notifying people that your nursery is beginning can be done through a variety of mediums. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will reach the majority of parents while giving flyers to children in schools may also help children to ‘remind’ their parents that it’s beginning. If the local school allows, then a practical demonstration of some games will serve as an excellent advertisement of what’s to come. If local adult GAA stars are available to deliver flyers or participate in games then it may also work as a further incentive.

cof

A folder of 10 suggested sessions is included here!

All games and skill descriptions are taken from the excellent Move Well Move Often primary school PE programme developed by the PDST. It is comprised of three books which make up skill descriptions and games.

If you would like to incorporate GAA skills then the GAA Skills Activity Planner is an excellent resource from which to draw.

Screenshot 2019-02-24 at 21.06.10

The sessions can be run inside (if you have the facilities) or outside (weather dependent I suppose). Asking in guest coaches, particularly county stars, can create a great buzz of excitement for younger players while also freshening up the sessions.

If you have any questions about setting up a nursery or the activities included then contact me at fhsperformance@gmail.com.

Pre-Season HIIT Running

>>**HIIT Plan Here**<<

As many GAA teams enter pre-season (or one of many pre-seasons with current championship structures) we can usually expect a pile of running. Managers, coaches and players all suggest many reasons why the hard running is so important from physiological benefits to psychological. Whatever reasons a coach/manager has for the hard running it can often feel like he came up with stuff the night before and the main focus was on making players suffer as much as possible. The hard running is usually continued until the first practice game goes horribly wrong with dropped footballs or missed sliotars even more apparent than the out of breath players. Hard running is usually scaled back at this stage in favour of more “skill” work until another poor performance (usually a league semi-final or championship 1st round) which brings a return to the hard running.

The emphasis on hard running does provide many benefits such as improved cardiovascular endurance, greater aerobic power, quicker recovery between bouts of high intensity actions and a greater durability to cope with neuromuscular loading. A large body of work has been conducted on aerobic power, specifically through high intensity interval training, by many top researchers and practitioners such as Martin Buchheit, Paul B Laursen, Dan Baker, Mladen Jovanovic & Shane Malone among others. All have slightly different viewpoints on what is precisely the best way to develop aerobic fitness for a particular sport but they do agree on a number of commonalities:

  • High Intensity Interval Training is a time efficient way to develop aerobic fitness for field sports.
  • High Speed running will help to prepare muscles (particularly hamstrings) for some of the demands of the game.
  • Players should experience a number of different running intensities to both develop aerobic power and to prepare for various demands of the game.
  • Players should experience a degree of individuality for optimal aerobic development.
  • A realistically structured periodised model should be utilised to allow for the inclusion of strength & power work, sport specific skill development, tactical work, and playing games.

Aerobic fitness can be developed through a combination of training modalities such as slower “jogging” style exercise, cross-training on bike or rowing machine, swimming, circuit training or a combination of all. Ideally a mixture of low intensity and high intensity modalities would be used (see more on this by Stephen Seiler) but for the purpose of this article we will be focusing on High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and more specifically Maximal Aerobic Speed (MAS).

MAS or velocity at V02max is a simple measure we can gather from players in the field and use to prescribe individualised running throughout the season. MAS can also be used to monitor fitness levels and adaptations to training among the entire playing squad. There are a number of ways to calculate MAS although the easiest, and most practical, are to get all players to perform either a time trial (5-6 minutes) or a timed distance (1,000m to 2,000). A number of standardised tests such as the Montreal Track Test, Beep Test, Yo-Yo Test or Cooper Run can be used to calculate MAS although the best method is to find what works most easily for you and your team. My own preference is to time all players doing a 1,200m run although longer distances can be used (particularly if your team are already quite fit).

Each players MAS is calculated by dividing the distance covered (in this case 1,200m) by the time taken (in seconds):

 

Player A – 1200m in 5minutes 25seconds (325 seconds)

1200 / 325 = 3.69 m/s

Player B – 1200m in 4 minutes 25 seconds (265 seconds)

1200 / 265 = 4.53 m/s

 

The test gives a few pieces of useful information. We can see where some players are in terms of their fitness levels and who may need particular attention while also allowing us to individualise our running sessions.

Each player should run at or near an intensity based on their MAS. If all players were based off the time of Player A then many would find it too easy and gain very little benefit. If all players were based off the time of Player B then they may find it too difficult, not complete the prescribed session or pull up with an injury.

We use MAS to prescribe running intensities for each player (or groups of players) based on their current fitness level. Many different intensities can be used based on the time of year, space available, etc but generally we work between 90% & 120% of MAS. A typical example is a 15 second shuttle with 15 seconds rest. If the above players were to perform this at 115% of MAS then we simple multiply their m/s by 15 and it gives us the distance for each player to cover e.g.

 

Player A has MAS of 3.69 m/s

3.69 x 15 = 55 metres

Player B has MAS of 4.53 m/s

4.53 x 15 = 68 metres

 

As a coach you simple mark two lots of coloured cones (green cones for Player A, red cones for Player B) the required distance apart. Using a stopwatch for time, you simply blow your whistle every 15 seconds and players should cover their prescribed distance in that time with a similar level of effort. This is then repeated for the prescribed number of sets and reps.

Completely individualising running distances for each athlete would lead to a mess of cones on the field so grouping them into “bins” usually works best. Most teams will work best in three groups although a player returning from injury may require a much lower intensity while a very fit team may all fit into 2 “bins”.

 

Pre-Season Plan

Deciding on specific intensities, sets and reps can often be difficult so I have created a spreadsheet with 10 weeks of suggested running included. The running plan is divided into 2 sections (weeks 1-4 & weeks 5-10). It is generally advised to re-test after the first 4 weeks as some players will respond to training very quickly while others may not. Another test is only advised for players returning from injury or after a period of many games (especially if some players are used very little during this time).

The plan is merely a suggestion and for coaches who do not feel comfortable laying out a semi-individualised plan themselves. Coaches with more experience of conditioning can feel free to adapt many of the sessions to include more variety in terms of intensity, distance, turns, etc.,

Combining the suggested sessions with lower intensity work through traditional drills, small-sided games and strength/power work will help improve the overall physical preparation of your squad.

The spreadsheet can be used through Excel or GoogleSheets, has an accompanying Explainer Video and a PowerPoint or GoogleSlides slideshow with diagrams of all sessions.

Access a folder with all resources **here**.

If you have any questions on how to use the spreadsheet or would like to know more on this area then contact me at fhsperformance@gmail.com.

Pre-Season Gym Work

Strength & Power Don’t Matter If You’re On The Sideline

***Gym Programme***

The most common goals when teams and athletes begin pre-season training are generally to re-emerge on the field fitter, stronger, faster and more powerful. These are obvious aims when entering the gym and would have very definite benefits to performance… if you’re on the pitch!!

The best strength & conditioning coaches always say your three main aims are to:

  1. Not injure players in the weight room
  2. Reduce the risk of injury when players are on the field/court
  3. Improve overall fitness (stronger, faster, more powerful, etc)

The aims are ordered in terms of importance but often people focus on the third and neglect the first two.

Not injuring players in the weight room should be obvious yet we sometimes hear horror stories of injuries occurring as heavy weight is lifted with poor technique or inappropriate exercises are used before players are ready. This is a basic standard within the profession and should be adhered to at all costs, regardless of requests from over-eager athletes and management.

Studies of the NFL, NBA, and NHL have found one of the greatest predictors of success across a season to be player availability. Not the financial budget, the number of All-Stars or phenomenal fitness test scores but the number of players who are available for selection throughout the majority of the season. Surely this suggests that our main aim during the off-season is to leave players in a better position to resist injuries when they are playing and training?

So how do we build this into an actual off-season plan?

Each sport has a number of common injuries, especially non-contact injuries (contact injuries are like a whack of a hurl on the hand or a kick to the shin). Non-contact injuries are the area we really need to reduce from our time spent in the weight room. We can never truly prevent injuries but simply try to reduce the number of injuries while still allowing players as much time on the field as possible.

The most common non-contact injuries in GAA are hamstrings pulls, ACL ruptures and groin strains. We often hear of lads with ‘bad hamstrings’ or ‘dodgy groins’ but they are rarely born with this ‘condition’. They generally develop weaknesses and imbalances from incorrect movement or imbalanced training.

This article (and accompanying plan) will help coaches and individual players to implement an effective pre-season training plan and warm-ups to minimize the number of non-contact injuries suffered and maximize playing time. The key areas focused on will be:

  • Address common weaknesses in players or playing groups.
  • Incorporate simple exercises into a warm-up that will help maintain strength across a playing season.

A number of areas should be addressed during the off/pre-season (and be maintained during playing season) but if we dedicated specific time to each particular area then our sessions could last for multiple hours and take from other aspects of life. By focusing on a few key areas, we can include the majority of movements and develop most aspects of strength.

Instead of developing strength in individual muscles, we try to build strength in a range of movements. These can be divided into a couple of categories.

  • Jumping – can include hopping, bounding, jumping for distance, jumping for height and, most importantly, landing on one or two legs.
  • Throwing – can include overhead, sideways, forwards, backward, kneeling, standing, etc.,
  • Upper Body – particular focus on both pushing and pulling movements. Delving into greater detail can include both horizontal and vertical pulling/pushing as well as using dumbbells for unilateral movements or barbells for bilateral movements.
  • Lower Body – can be divided into three key movements: squat, hinge and lunge. Again, these can be further categorized into bilateral and unilateral movements.
  • Core – Mainly divided into flexion and anti-flexion or rotation and anti-rotation exercises.

Including all exercises and categories in each gym session would be very time consuming and leave athletes fatigued about halfway through the session. Splitting exercises from each category into sessions throughout the week develops most movement categories and qualities while also allowing for an element of variety.

The gym session attached here is divided into three separate sessions. One focuses entirely on lower body, one on upper body and one is a combination. The third session is entirely optional and can be left out entirely or replaced with an aerobic session if that is more of a priority for some players. Each session mixes in some bilateral and some unilateral movements. Jumping/hopping exercises are included with lower body while throwing exercises are included with upper body. All jumping/throwing is included at the start as the fastest and most powerful exercises should be performed when athletes are at their freshest.

Two warm-up options have also been included. The corresponding numbers on each option focus on the same movement pattern/area of the body so can be interchanged for each other. These warm-ups can also be used once as part of a RAMP protocol when mixed in with hurling or football drills/games when you return to the pitch.

The suggested gym session is not designed specifically for any one person. Ideally, each person would follow a tailored plan to address their own specific needs, but this isn’t always possible. This programme is designed to help athletes follow something structured that allows for progression, will reduce the chances of injury while increasing strength and power.

All exercises written in yellow are a hyperlink to a video of the exercise. Feel free to ask for more guidance on pre/in-season strength work or to offer any feedback on the programme.

John                                                                fhsperformance@gmail.com

Post-Workout Recovery Part 2

In the last post we discussed what was most important directly after exercise. To give a brief synopsis, protein is important to repair the micro-damage that occurs to muscles. This generally takes 24-48 hours so regular portions of protein spread throughout the day should allow for optimal muscle protein synthesis. Carbohydrate is required to replace the glycogen used up during exercise. Glycogen is energy stored in the muscle that can be replaced within 4-6 hours after exercise. How quickly and effectively glycogen is replaced will depend on the amount and type of carbohydrate consumed after exercise.

Post Exercise MealsWe recommend some fast-acting carbohydrate, mixed with protein, immediately after exercise. Flavoured milk, fat-free yoghurt, chicken sandwiches or protein and fruit smoothies are usually the best options in terms of both meeting nutritional demands and being easy to prepare in advance.

Very intense and/or long sessions will use up large amounts of glycogen. Replacing this glycogen requires careful planning in terms of how much carbohydrate is consumed afterwards. How to define the intensity of a session can be difficult for many people and often leads to us consuming either too much or too little carbohydrate (or food in general). Using a combination of time and RPE can help us in deciding on our carbohydrate requirements after exercise. We generally recommend the following in terms of how to rate the intensity of a training or match.

Difficulty Factors
Light Session 45-60 Minutes Long
RPE of 6 or less
Medium Session 60-75 Minutes Long
RPE of 7-8
Hard Session 75+ Minutes Long
RPE of 8+

*RPE – Rating of Perceived Exertion

1-10 scale of how difficult a session was. 10 is the hardest session you have ever experienced. 1 is lying in bed relaxing.

The snacks mentioned above are ideal to keep in a gear-bag for directly after training but ideally we would consume a more traditional looking meal within an hour of our snack. This meal should include a serving of lean protein such as chicken, turkey, beef, tuna, cod, etc., We should avoid fats at this stage as they will slow down the absorption of nutrients. It is important to note that many accompanying sauces or gravy may contain fat so should be avoided or replaced with low-fat options in the post-exercise meal. Choosing the amount of carbohydrate to be consumed is key at this meal. The length or difficulty of the session will guide the serving of carbohydrate. A light session usually requires a small serving of carbohydrate. A medium session requires a moderate serving of carbohydrate. A hard session requires a large session of carbohydrate. Complex carbohydrates, such as rice, potatoes, quinoa, cous-cous or pasta, are best here and should be adapted to suit your own preferences.

Using a variety of vegetables to fill your plate (and stomach) will help you feel full and satiated after lighter sessions. Adjusting the amount of vegetable consumed should be dependent on the intensity of the session and the amount of carbohydrate consumed. If you have just completed a long and intense session, and require a lot of carbohydrate to recover then extra vegetables will take up a lot of space in your stomach. The fibre will also slow down digestion when fast absorption to replace glycogen is more important. Larger portions of vegetables after lighter sessions will not have the same impact on digestion as there is not as much glycogen to be replenished.

We will post in more detail about portion sizes in the coming weeks but following the guidelines in the above infographic should help everyone choose the appropriate amount. People who are more active in general will require a larger portion of carbohydrate and so should use 1 portion above what was recommended based on the intensity of their session. These guidelines can also be used to build an adequate meal at lunchtime earlier in the day especially if there is good communication between coaches and players prior to training.

If using this as a guideline for post-training meals with large groups then self-selection of portions is very important. Keeping protein, carbohydrate and vegetable options separate is recommended as players can choose their own portion sizes. One dish containing meatballs, one containing pasta and another containing vegetable options allows players to build their own plate based on what type of training they just had or based on their own body composition goals. A player just returning from injury who is not up to completing full sessions may require less food than another participating fully will require less food. Allowing him to adjust portion sizes (especially carbohydrate amounts) will help prevent excess weight gain and can help in returning to full fitness sooner.

Feel free to provide feedback on the above piece. If you would like more information on post-workout recovery or nutrition in general then contact me at fhsperformance@gmail.com

Post-Session/Game Recovery (Part 1)

The post-workout window or ‘Window of Gainz’ is often spoken of among gym-goers. Most feel that they must consume a portion of protein (generally a double serving of whey) within 20 minutes of completing their gym session. However, it’s rare to see people act the same after a training session or game even though it may have been of much higher intensity and used up a considerably larger amount of energy (calories).

Recovery Shakes

There are two main types of physical recovery required within the muscle after intense exercise. When we perform resistance exercise (weight training, etc,) it causes a number of tiny tears in the muscle. These heal over the course of 24-48 hours. Each time they heal, they grow a little stronger. This is why we get progressively stronger over time from lifting weights, provided there is adequate recovery time between sessions. Protein is the main macronutrient required for repairing these tiny tears and most feel it is necessary to consume protein immediately after exercise. Due to a number of studies by Brad Schoenfoeld, Stu Phillips, Kevin Tipton and countless others, we now know that protein should be evenly spaced out across the day as it takes so long to be fully digested and used by the muscles. I will go into more detail on daily protein needs, timing and sources in the future but for now, we just need to know that protein immediately after exercise is not a necessity for exercise however, we most likely have gone 3-4 hours since previously eating so are most likely due a portion of protein anyway.

The other type of recovery required involves replacing the energy stored within the muscle, known as glycogen. Glycogen is supplied to our muscles from digested carbohydrates. Glycogen can be topped up relatively quickly, especially in comparison to protein, so consuming carbohydrate immediately after exercise becomes of much greater importance than consuming protein.

The type of carbohydrate has a significant impact on how quickly it is absorbed by muscles. Wholegrain carbohydrate sources, which are typically higher in fibre, will be released to working muscles much slower than other sources that are typically higher in sugar. This high-fibre, wholegrain sources are ideal for fuelling general day-to-day activities and slowly releasing energy throughout the day, but will not quickly replace lost glycogen stores after intense exercise.

Fast-acting carbs are the best way of replacing glycogen after intense exercise. These generally come from carbohydrates that are higher in sugar and lower in fibre, although fruits are a good option despite the presence of fibre. Convenience is also a key factor when picking carbohydrates for directly after exercise. Freshness and taste in the dressing-room, directly after a game or training session must be taken into account when picking foods for immediate recovery. While a fat-free, fruit-flavoured yoghurt may provide the right blend of nutrients after a game, it can be difficult to eat if you’ve forgotten your spoon or it’s covered in dirt from a mucky pitch.

Recovery Options:

  • Flavoured milks are excellent sources of post-exercise nutrition as they combine a blend of high-quality protein with fast-acting carbohydrates in an easy to carry container.
  • Many supplement companies now produce recovery blends of carbohydrate and protein mixed together in one formula.
  • Fruit (bananas, apples, berries, etc.,) with yoghurt drinks (Yop).
  • Smoothie Blends (see above)

Smoothies are a tasty and nutritious way to meet the requirements of post-workout recovery. Athletes can combine a number of different flavours to meet their own preferences. My own particular favourite is to mix frozen raspberries, vanilla protein, water, ice and spinach. Mixing spinach and raspberries turn the smoothie brown but still taste unbelievable!!

The amount of carbohydrate consumed after exercise is dependent on the intensity and duration of exercise, timing of the next bout of exercise and the size of the athlete. I will go into further details on how to adjust the portions of recovery snacks along with how to construct full meals for after exercise in the next week or so.

If you have any questions on post-exercise recovery or would like anything else addressed then feel free to contact me at fhsperformance@gmail.com

In-Season Week of Eating

Following on from last week’s piece, I have put together a suggested week of eating for the middle of championship or a run of competitive games. This particular week is again based around a 7pm Saturday evening game. Feel free to adapt the foods, timings etc., for your own game at whatever time it’s on.

Full Week

The 24-48 hours leading into a game are mainly about loading up on carbohydrates to fuel the high intensity actions that are about to take place. What about the rest of the week or the days leading into the weekend?

Generally, training before a big game will be tapered down in terms of both intensity and volume. We might include some particularly intense actions to keep players ‘sharp’ but these will be short in duration and nowhere near the number expected in a game. We don’t require the same amount of fuel for these training sessions, or for the days we are not training. Gym sessions, which are ideally included throughout the entire season and adapted based on the playing schedule, will also decrease in intensity/volume as we near competitive games. This requires us to change our fuelling strategies to match the amount of work being done.

Overall energy intake (calories) should be adjusted based on how active we are each day. This doesn’t need to be calculated through a complex mathematical formula while carrying a weighing scales, as there are some simple strategies for adjusting based on the type and time of activity we are undertaking. Each of the three macronutrients play an important role in fuelling our bodies each day through a variety of different means. As carbohydrate is the key fuel for intense exercise, it becomes our main area for adjustment based on activity levels. Protein levels generally remain constant, regardless of activity levels, while fat is usually reduced around high intensity exercise (especially in the 3-4 hours beforehand).

The days we do no training at all, but are still somewhat active through general day-to-day activities, will not require as much overall energy intake (calories). As these days are low in high-intensity exercise, reducing carbohydrate is the simplest way of adjusting what we eat. There is no need to completely cut out carbohydrate (as it would be very difficult and impractical anyway) but reducing portions is a simple and effective way of tailoring fuel intake to meet energy demands. Increasing fat intake, slightly, is another option on low-activity days as fat is the primary fuel source for low-intensity activity.

Adjusting the intake of food types throughout the week is also a practical way of working towards body composition goals while still fuelling adequately for important games. Players that need to decrease body-fat, or lose weight in general, can eat just below (200-300 calories) the required amount of fuel for a given day in the early stages of a week then top up on carbohydrates towards the end. Ensuring they stay within calorie balance on the days leading into a game should finish each week in a calorie deficit of 600-900 calories. While weight/fat loss will be slow at this rate, it still allows players to perform at a high level while decreasing the chances of complications associated with chronic under-fuelling.

Above you can find a suggested week of eating that leads into a Saturday evening game. There is training on Tuesday and Thursday. A light gym session is suggested on either Monday or Wednesday (players own preference) with complete rest on Friday. The days are colour-coded based on carbohydrate intake. Green for high, orange for medium and red for low. Each day has 6 meal suggestions. This will generally be too many for most people so I suggest leaving out whichever option you prefer. There is plenty of room for adjustment in terms of the foods eaten. The recommended amounts will also require adjusting depending on size and activity levels of each individual.

 

If you would like any more information on this or have topics you would like covered in the future, contact me at fhsperformance@gmail.com.

A Guide to Pre-Game Eating

Before we go into any details, it must be stated that eating terribly in the weeks, months and even years before a game will not be counteracted by the perfect pre-game meal. For those of us who have got our nutrition nailed down during the week, are at an appropriate body-fat level and have fitness levels that are ready for performance, then what should we eat to maximise our performance?

3-4 Hours Previous

Ideally, we’d start preparing 24-36 hours out from a game. A club GAA player can expect to cover between 6-8km in a game of hurling and 7-10km in a game of football (position dependent). A lot of that distance is covered via high-intensity running and includes a number of short sprints, accelerations, jumps and tackles. These have a high energy cost on the body and require us to properly fuel up in advance.

Low-carb, high-fat diets (such as keto style) have increased in popularity recently as they have shown some positive benefits in both health and sporting situations. Intermittent field sports, such as Soccer, Rugby and GAA are not suited to a low-carbohydrate diet especially in the lead-up to a game. Gaelic Footballers have been shown to burn up to 1,200 calories in games of, particularly high-intensities. Replacing that much energy during game-time is neither practical nor useful (due to how long it can take energy to be absorbed by the body).

1-2 Hours Previous

Guidelines around Australian Rules and Soccer recommend up to 7 grams of carbohydrate per kg of body weight to be eaten in the 24 hours leading up to a competitive game. For an 80kg player that could mean consuming over 500g of carbohydrate. This is purely for competitive games and players at the higher end of calorie expenditure (particularly energetic midfielders and halfbacks/forwards). All other players can scale back from this amount depending on how much energy they generally expend during a game.

To try and consume this much in the pre-game meal would be both uncomfortable at the time of eating and during the game itself. Planning how best to eat all of this carbohydrate well in advance is key to properly fuelling for a game.

To use the example of a 7pm, Saturday evening game, we recommend beginning the carbohydrate load at Friday lunchtime. Adding an extra serving of carbohydrate to your normal lunch as well as your normal meals in the lead up to the game is generally the easiest way to meet guidelines (see the suggested eating plan at the end of this piece). On the day before the game, we still recommend keeping your sugar content relatively low and encourage the intake of carbohydrates that are higher in fibre and are derived from wholegrain sources. Potatoes, rice, brown bread and porridge oats will generally be your best options.

As game time draws closer then you can add in some options that are higher in sugar. Avoiding foods high in fat, and in fibre, are key to absorbing the ‘fast-acting’ carbohydrates that will help provide the final top-up of fuels for performance. Both fats and fibre will slow down digestion so minimising their consumption will aid in how much you can utilise the carbohydrate you are eating. ‘Fast-acting’ carbohydrates will be absorbed by the body much faster than traditional high-fibre, wholegrain sources and are generally higher in sugar. Toast with jam, breakfast cereals, fat-free fruity yoghurts, jaffa cakes, fig rolls and isotonic drinks are some of the more popular ways to ‘top-up’ with energy as you reach the final hours and minutes of preparation.

Protein consumption has not been addressed in this as we recommend 4-6 even portions of protein to be evenly spaced throughout each day regardless of activity levels. Having your final portion of protein about 2-3 hours before a game will generally be enough time not to cause discomfort when playing. Foods high in carbohydrate and moderate protein is ideal for recovery after the game. Chocolate milk and a banana immediately after the game followed by a traditional meat and potatoes/rice meal an hour or so later will help to replenish glycogen stores as quickly as possible.

Meal options for 3-4 hours before a game and snack options for 1-2 hours before a game are provided above as well as food options for the 24-36 hours before competition. Adjust these based on when your own game is and how much energy you tend to expend during a typical game.

36 Hours PreviousIf you have any questions on how to best prepare for a game nutritionally or want references for any of the information provided above then contact me at fhsperformance@gmail.com

Make Each Day Count

daily-recovery

Last year I posted about a number of recovery strategies, which can be found here.

Earlier this week we talked about a Weekly Recovery Plan. We now move onto strategies that should be included each day. Whether you are training hard or not, these strategies should be employed to recover from daily life, work, stressful situations or simply to help you feel more productive each day.

The Daily Recovery Plan requires you to hit at least 50 points each day while extra points will provide added benefits.

There is no special equipment or facilities required yet you do need to be mindful of setting/reaching daily targets in many of them.

Enjoy Great Sleep

I’m often asked about pre-workout and what’s best for giving you a ‘push’ before training but ideally you wouldn’t require anything if you got enough sleep. The emphasis should also be on quality sleep. Lying in bed, scrolling through Facebook or Instagram does not count as quality sleep and staring at the blue screen will detract from the quality of sleep you do get.

 

phone-in-bed
Laying in bed staring at your phone is taking away from your best possible sleep and the next day’s productivity

 

Setting a routine that helps you wind down from the day is key to making the most of your sleep. Putting the phone on flight mode, setting work aside in advance of bedtime, avoiding caffeine in the evening are all helpful in establishing a routine. I personally enjoy ZMA tablets about half an hour before bed and I know many more who sip a cup of chamomile tea or do some light stretching to help wind down.

It’s most important to establish a routine that suits you and helps maximise your own sleep.

Quality Nutrition

I won’t go into too much detail here, as there have been countless articles and books written on how best to approach eating for performance, recovery and health. I have posted in the past about getting the right amount of calories here and macronutrients here that will go a long way in helping recovery. If you wish to go into further detail then contact me via email for an in-depth consultation.

Finding simple recipes that you enjoy preparing and eating will help get the nutrients you require while still having a healthy and positive relationship with food.

Click on the link for examples of Piri-Piri & Lime Chicken and Beef Chilli.

 

Plan some “YOU” Time

Training is usually spent doing what a coach or manager tells you. Work is often the same whether instruction comes from a boss or clients. It is very important that we spend some time with ourselves doing things we enjoy. This will be very specific to the individual but 10-20 minutes a day of book-reading, listening to music, watching Netflix or walking the dog provides a great chance to relax and be in control of our own thoughts and actions. Spending quality time with yourself will also benefit the quality of sleep you receive later that day.

 

me-time
Enjoy yourself in a way the way you prefer most!

 

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

I often see people in shock when they get sick or injured, yet when we take a look backwards, many subtle signs are noticed:

  • Feeling a bit tired or low on energy for a few days beforehand.
  • Pains in the knee, lower back, shoulder or generally achey muscles.
  • Weight is slightly reduced and finding it hard to eat as much.
  • Feeling irritable or a little sadder than usual.

These are all signs that your body is not adapting to the stresses placed upon it due to changes in routine. These changes can be a combination of many things such as harder training, reduced sleep, harsher weather conditions, extra work responsibilities or stressful personal relationships.

 

fatigue
It can be a vicious circle of mental tiredness, physical fatigue and stress. Try to cut down on a little of each and it could have a large impact across the board.

 

I usually recommend that people monitor each point of wellbeing by rating it out of 10.

For example, if you are generally an 8-9 across the board then suddenly mood and energy levels drop to 5/6 then you are highly at risk of picking up an injury or becoming ill. This is a strong sign that you need to spend extra time recovering from whatever is causing you stress before it’s too late and you have to deal with a pulled hamstring or head-cold.

 

kitmanlabs2
Kitman Labs are an Irish company based in San Francisco. Used by many top professional teams around the world to monitor athletes wellness and readiness to train/perform.

 

Whether increased sporting performance is your goal or you simply want to feel better in your general day-to-day life, I highly recommend this monitoring plan.

Feel free to share it with teammates, athletes, coaches or friends to help them perform better in whatever they are trying to achieve.

Any questions find me at fhsperformace@gmail.com.

One Week to Recover

weekly-recovery

Last year I posted about a number of recovery strategies, which can be found here.

Since then I have spoken with coaches that are more experienced than I am about the most practical ways of implementing recovery (particularly Martin Kennedy).

The first big change I have made is to split recovery into 2 separate sections;

Weekly & Daily Recovery.

This article concentrates on Weekly Recovery. Later in the week, I will post about Daily Recovery.

Weekly Recovery strategies should total at least 100 points each week. See the above infographic for examples of different strategies.

The second change is how to approach each strategy. Many people take recovery to the extreme and it starts to become a stress on their lives. This completely defeats the purpose and often prevents them from gaining the full benefit of training.

Ideally, we should try to include each type of strategy as part of normal life or use it to spend quality time with people who are important to us. Recovery of the mind can be as important as recovery for the body when training hard and preparing for a big game/event.

 

Enjoy A Massage

Sports MassageThis is not possible for everyone as access to a physio can be difficult or expensive. It will provide many benefits but should not be relied upon too often.

Self-massage with a foam roller or tennis ball will help many people. This can be done as part of a group session with teammates at the beginning/end of training.

It can also be done at home while watching Netflix or a match while in front of the fire.

Try to build foam rolling in around your own lifestyle so it doesn’t feel like a burden.

glute-release

Light Aerobic Work

Some light activity after a tough game or heavy session will help recovery through increased blood flow.

This is an excellent opportunity to spend time walking your dog, playing with children or listening to music.

With many people spending their working days inside, any chance to get more fresh air and Vitamin D should be used.

 

 

Enjoy A Stretch

Improving your mobility is going to reduce the risk of injuries and help performance in general. If done correctly it can also be a great chance to relax and unwind.

There are many yoga sessions available on YouTube such as here that can be done in the comfort of your own home.

There are also many variations of Yoga/Pilates classes available across the country. Attending these with teammates/friends is an excellent way to enjoy the benefits of both mobility and quality time with friends.

A short Yoga video for 20 minutes before bed can also lead to a more peaceful and relaxed sleep.

 

Compression Clothes
Pre-Season training is tough. Heavy sessions, mucky pitches and cold weather. Recovery in warmer conditions is always more enjoyable than colder conditions. Wearing compression clothes after training holds in heat and keeps blood flow elevated. Pulling on a pair of leggings after a tough running session or an Under Armour top after upper body weights helps speed up recovery and have you ready for the next session. Wearing leggings to bed after an evening session also provides benefits although you need to be careful not to overheat.

 

Enjoy Hydrotherapy

All Blacks Pool RecoveryWater is one of the quickest ways to recover. The key is finding which type of water-immersion suits you best. Some swear by ice baths while they petrify others. The stress caused by fearing an ice bath has such a negative effect that there are little to no recovery benefits. Poor swimmers are often fearful of swimming pools and so will gain very little effects from this type of session while others find it very beneficial.

Epsom Salt baths are a sworn by method for many yet others may find it incredibly boring.

Finding what you enjoy and suits your lifestyle best is most important.

Ice baths can help bond teams together while going to the pool with friends or relaxing in the bath with music or a book will provide many recovery benefits.

Mo in Ice Bath

Check how much each strategy is worth and try to accumulate 100 points each week. Remember to include extra points if you are training particularly hard.

Try not to spend all your time focusing on recovery then forget to actually do the hard training. Don’t be that guy!