Half time food and drink – what's best?

This is the first of hopefully regular articles on nutrition, coaching, motivational and guidance for coaches and players.

A question that is asked on a regular basis is ‘What’s the best half time snack for my players?’

“What would be the best half time snack for our kids football team of twelve-year-olds? In the past we have had orange pieces, banana pieces, gummy type lollies. What would you suggest?”

An answer:

Players get low on carbohydrates very quickly in football matches – just 30 seconds of fast running can reduce carbohydrate (glycogen) concentrations in muscles by 30 per cent. Carbohydrate-poor football players usually run more slowly – sometimes by as much as 50 per cent – during the second half of a match compared to the first.

Dehydration has a similar adverse effect on performance. So you need to make sure your players replace fluids and carbs at half time.

The easiest way to do this is with a sports drink, as they contain key ingredients. They also include sodium and potassium, which the body loses through sweat. These are necessary to keep the body’s fluid levels in balance and for muscles to work properly.

But if you don’t want to use sports drinks (they are expensive) there’s nothing wrong with plain old water, plus fruit with a high carbohydrate content.

The easy-to-eat fruits with the highest carbs per portion are bananas (27 grams of carbohydrate) and raisins (half a small cup has 29 grams of carbohydrate). One-twelfth of a melon has 12 grams of carbohydrate, while a whole orange has 16 grams of carbohydrate.

What’s the best drink?

If your players drink sports drinks, then they ought to understand the terminology and use them correctly.

Hypotonic drinks are more diluted than body fluids, and are therefore absorbed faster than plain water. They quickly replace fluids lost by sweating. They are good before training and playing. A simple alternative is one part squash to eight parts water.

Isotonic drinks contain the same concentration as body fluids, and so are absorbed as fast as water. They replace fluids lost from sweating and refuel the body with carbohydrates. They are good during training and matches. A simple alternative is one part squash to four parts water.

Hypertonic drinks are more concentrated than body fluids and so are absorbed more slowly than water. They replace energy stores and are best taken after exercise. They are good after the game and after training. A simple alternative is one part squash to two and a half parts water.

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