Proper nutrition is crucial for players to perform when big games are on the line

Proper nutrition is crucial for players to perform when big games are on the line
Johnny Holland has a spell with Cork Con as interim coach and is now involved with Cork's GAA teams. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

ONE of the few positives to emerge from the current health crisis is the apparent increase in activity by the general population.

Of course, it has helped that the unseasonal sunshine provided more encouragement for getting out in the fresh air.

It’s great to see so many out walking, running and cycling, all shapes and sizes and levels of ability taking advantage of more free time on their hands coupled with the good weather.

Yet, that’s only one aspect of the daily grind of trying to maintain fitness levels and ensuring the waistline doesn’t stretch to discouraging levels.

Sticking to a proper and manageable diet is equally important, especially for those top-end athletes as Cork GAA’s performance nutritionist Johnny Holland outlined recently.

“When you’re playing at that elite part of sport you want to give yourself every chance to perform at the best of your ability.

“There is obviously a conditioning element to that along with the game-part, but your body needs energy to be able to do that, as well.

“In hurling and football, it’s about performing for 70 minutes plus, and it’s 80 in rugby.

“Games are won in the last 10-15 minutes, last quarters and it might even be the last couple of minutes.

“Go back two years ago to the Cork-Limerick hurling game, when there was a six-point swing in Limerick’s favour.

“I’m not saying it’s nutrition only, but you must have the energy to be able to pull away,” he said.

Shane Kingston of Cork is tackled by Richie English of Limerick during the 2018 All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Shane Kingston of Cork is tackled by Richie English of Limerick during the 2018 All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Obviously, requirements differ from one individual to the next. For example, former Munster and Ireland prop John Hayes would devour a lot more than Cork hurler Alan Cadogan.

Nutrition is one component and that’s whether it’s match-day situations or just moving from day-to-day, when players want to be able to put their best foot forward in training.

“There are general guidelines about it, carbohydrates for high intensity, potatoes, pasta, rice, porridge oats, all those kind of things.

“For example, there is a big difference between just a puck-around in hurling and a match in terms of intensity and the fuel needed for that.

“Then, maybe a Tuesday training session is more intense than a different session or a weights session after a game on Saturday is a different intensity again.

“We’re trying to get protein into these guys, around 20-30gms depending on the individual, and that’s four or five times a day.

“That’s to help recover their muscle as much as possible and not feeling sore going into the next match,” Holland added.

As is emphasised there’s no one-fit-suits-all programme because people have different calorie-needs depending on size and there are individual likes and dislikes, too.

“Protein shakes come into the equation, but it all starts with breakfast in the morning like eggs or Greek yogurt pot with berries if you don’t like eggs.

“Or you could have avocado on toast or a bowl of porridge.

“Lunch is ham or chicken, adding a bit of cheese, maybe in a salad or a sandwich and fellows would have a protein serving pre and post training.

“Some might have a small dinner beforehand, others a bagel, but everyone is fed after training.

“Generally it’s food first and topping it with a protein shake,” is Holland’s advice.

Johnny Holland kicks a conversion during his playing days with Munster. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE
Johnny Holland kicks a conversion during his playing days with Munster. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE

It’s one of the struggles facing Cork footballers and hurlers in the current lockdown and the general uncertainty of what the rest of 2020 holds for everyone.

While the absence of group training, either in the gym or out on the pitch, is sure to impact fitness levels, eating properly is definitely one aspect certainly within players’ control.

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