Recovery Strategies for Young Athletes in Football

It is well known that football involves activities such as sprinting, jumping, changes of direction, passing, shooting and body contact, which can all lead to fatigue. This fatigue can be linked with a decline in physical or muscle performance induced by exercise. In football, a single match leads to acute fatigue, which can be associated with a decline in maximal muscle strength, which takes several days to recover. With games sometimes being scheduled twice a week, players have less time to recover, which can contribute to players experiencing acute or chronic fatigue that can lead to a decline in performance and an increase risk of injury. Recovery strategies are hugely important in the process of maintaining performance.

Recovery Strategies

Nutrition and Hydration:

Carbohydrate, protein and rehydration are all effective methods for replenishing water stores and aiding muscle repair, post-exercise. To achieve rapid and complete rehydration, it has been recommended for athletes to drink 1.5 times the body weight they lose during a game. Therefore if you lose 2kg then drink 3 liters. In addition add sodium to the rehydration drinks (500–700 mg/l of water).

Pre exercise:

  • Have a meal 3-4 hours before exercise or a light snack 1-2 hours before exercise.

Examples of foods 3-4 hours before exercise:Porridge

  • Porridge with blueberries and honey/raisins
  • Ham, mushroom and cheese omelette
  • Lean meat or poultry with vegetables
  • Protein shake (whey protein, mixed berries and Greek yoghurt) add milk or water

Examples of foods 1-2 hours before exercise:

  • Fruit salad with low fat Greek yoghurt
  • one serving of fruit and one portion of mixed nuts

Post exercise/Match:chicken rice

  • Hydration
  • Chocolate milk or whey protein shake with banana and berries
  • Chicken with rice and vegetables

Sleep

Sleep loss is linked with reductions in endurance performance, maximal strength and cognitive performance. Moreover, sleep and the immune system are also closely linked. Sleep is an essential part of the recovery process and sleep disturbances after matches are common, which can impact negatively on recovery. It has been shown that athletes who sleep less than an average of 8 hours per night have 1.7 times greater risk of being injured than those who sleep  8 hours or more.

Tips to improve sleep:

  • Do a quiet non-stimulating activity before bed e.g. reading a book.
  • Avoid sources of bright light- for example bedroom lights, computer, phone and TV.
  • A poor night’s sleep can be compensated by a short nap (one hour).
  • Download App Flux. This app alters the dimness on your phone during the day and will change from morning to evening.
  • Download App Sleepcycle. This app will monitor your sleeping patterns at night based on your movements.
  • Keep to a regular sleep routine.
  • Shy away from big meals and too many liquids (hyper-hydration) before bed (carbohydrates before bed however can improve sleep quality).
  • Cut down on caffeine (tea or coffee) before bed/late in the day.

 Hydrotherapy

Water immersion has been shown to effect changes in blood flow and temperature responses, which can impact on inflammation, muscle soreness and perception of fatigue. Ensure that you use appropriate temperatures and duration for water immersion:

  • For cold water immersion use temperatures of 10°C to 15°C with a duration of 14 to 15 minutes.
  • Contrast therapy (hot and cold) with ratio of one:one requires seven rotations of one minute in hot water (38°C to 40°C) followed immediately by one minute in cold water.

 Post-Match Recovery Routine:

Hydration – Whey protein shake with mixed berries and one banana or Chocolate Milk – Cold bath or contrast water therapy – Meal – Sleep

Harry Bearman – Follow @HarryBearman15 on Twitter

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