The recent outbreak of the coronavirus has led to challenging times for everyone around the world. As it is vitally important that we all stay at home to help save live and protect our key workers, as footballers and coaches it is in your best interest to adapt your training programmes accordingly. The following article will discuss some key nutritional considerations during this time that will keep you healthy and in the best shape when we eventually return to normality.
Protect Your Immune System
It is important that you keep your immune system strong at any time of year, however given the current circumstances everyone is looking for ways to stay fit and healthy. Here are 3 simple tips to follow:
- Minimum of 5 portions of fruit & vegetables every day. It is well known that fruit & vegetables contain the vitamins and minerals we need to stay healthy and strengthen our immune system. Try to ‘eat the rainbow’ to ensure you get a variety of different coloured fruit & vegetables in your diet, as this will provide you with a variety of vitamins and minerals.
- 2-3L of water daily. It is important to stay hydrated at the best of time, however it is also important to avoid your mouth becoming dry, as saliva contains antibodies to fight off unwanted illnesses. It is therefore important you drink 2-3 litres of water daily. You can easily achieve this by taking regular sips every 15-20 minutes.
- Minimum of 7 hours sleep every night. It has been proven that regularly sleeping less than 7 hours a night can increase your risk of getting sick. Furthermore, sleep is going to help you recover from the sessions you’ve been completing at home, so make sure you get a minimum of 7 hours every night.
Maintain Muscle Mass
Given that you’ll most likely be following different gym programmes that don’t provide the same stimulus as what you’re used to, it is important that you implement the correct nutritional strategies to maintain your muscle mass. Check out our ‘Introduction to Protein’ article for more information, but here’s 3 easy tips to consider:
- Protein at all meals and snack. You need to make sure you get regular feedings of protein (~25g every 3-4 hours) in order to continuously provide your body with the building blocks it needs for growth and repair. Choose meats, fish and dairy products as these will provide the best quality source of protein.
- Shop wisely. It is important that you minimise the number of trips you take to the supermarket, so when you do go it is crucial that you purchase foods that are going to last. Try to buy long-life proteins such as UHT milk, frozen meats, yoghurts, and tinned tuna.
- Protein feeding before-bed. As is the case for any day, it is important to get a protein feeding before you go to be. This is because you may go up to 12 hours with no protein in your blood stream, which is no best practice, particularly when you’re meant to be recovering whilst you sleep. The best option here is a pint of milk, as it provides a slow and steady supply of protein throughout the night.
Minimise Fat Gain
Your time spent sedentary is most likely going to have increased during lockdown and subsequently so has your calorie expenditure, making you vulnerable to unwanted to gains in fat mass. Consider these tips to minimise or avoid gains in fat mass:
- Reduce carbohydrate portion size. It is still important to eat carbohydrates as they provide you with energy and are required for immune function, however you may want to decrease your carbohydrate intake if you’re training load has reduced or if you find yourself sitting watching the TV more often. I would recommend making your plate look something like this, depending on your goals of course:
- Avoid unhealthy boredom snacking. With the increased sedentary time and social distancing, you’re going to be tempted to boredom eat. The best thing to do here is to be smart when you shop by not buying the unhealthy snacks to snack on in the first place. If you’re struggling with a sweet tooth try stocking up on some fruit. It is really important that you don’t choose these unhealthy snacks as they are usually high in calories and are going to contribute to unwanted gains in fat mass.
This article has given you some simple yet effective tips to keep your immune system strong, maintain your muscle mass, and minimise/avoid gains in fat mass, during this period of lockdown. Try to implement these strategies in order to make sure you stay healthy and are in the best shape possible when the football returns.