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25 Jun 2022

Future World Cup glory for Ireland?

With the World Cup final happening this Sunday it is depressing that yet another competition has happened with no Irish involvement.

With the World Cup final happening this Sunday it is depressing that yet another competition has happened with no Irish involvement.

But ever the optimist we can always look to the future; perhaps you may have a budding Roy or Robbie Keane in your house, it all about getting them to reach their full potential? Those serious about the ‘beautiful game’ should remember that it is not just practicing football skills, you also need to look at the whole body and mind, and healthy eating is a cornerstone for this.

The body’s main fuel is glucose which comes from the carbohydrates we eat. Glucose is then stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles of the body. Unfortunately body stores of glycogen are limited, lasting for, at best, just past the 90 minutes, this is why the period of extra time you often see even the top footballers cramping up. It is important therefore to train you body to maximize glycogen stores. Whilst training athletes should eat plenty of carbohydrate rich foods such as bread, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, potatoes etc.

In between training sessions it is important that the body restocks its glycogen storage. It has been shown that there is a window of opportunity for building muscle glycogen stores for the first 30 minutes after exercise. It is recommended to have some carbohydrate and protein food straight away – banana, breakfast cereal, yoghurt drink, flavored milk scone, bread – whatever you find easiest to digest. This should be followed up by a carbohydrate rich meal within 2 hours. It may also help to include some protein in this meal if the session was particularly strenuous i.e. meat, fish, chicken, eggs, dairy products.

During exercise fluid loss from sweating can be very high, particularly in warm weather. If you do not replace these losses through drinking you will become dehydrated. Dehydration can cause fatigue and will affect performance

It is important to drink plenty of fluid during the day to ensure that you are properly hydrated when you start to exercise. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink because at that point you will already be dehydrated. During exercise you should aim to drink 150-200ml every 10-15 minutes. Water is fine for most people but if you want to make up your own isotonic drink just add 50-70g sugar and a large pinch of salt to 1 litre of water.

Costa Rica is about the same size (population wise) as Ireland, they were definitely the success story of the Brazil World cup. They showed that it was all possible with steely determination, good training and a good diet; it did help of course to have a great goalkeeper in Navas. But Costa Rica showed that you don’t need a massive population or pots of money – Martin’s men have every chance!

The message is clear, if you have any budding Messi or Ronaldos don’t forget to train your diet as well as your body. For more information on any of the issues discussed above, or for more information on diet and nutrition, please contact Maria at The Community Nutrition and Dietetic Service, HSE Dublin-Mid Leinster on (044) 9395518 or email community.dietitians@hse.ie.

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