Fry-up, sarnies, cake, curry, beer… the staples of club cricket are enjoyable but perhaps don’t always optimise performance. So how should you fuel yourself on game day? Nutritionist Matthew Lees offers expert advice to help you play at your best.
MORNING OF A MATCH
Try starting the day with porridge (add blueberries/other fruits to suit) alongside a glass of orange juice and a cup of tea. This example provides slow-releasing carbohydrates along with some milk for a small protein hit. This will optimise muscle fuel stores and hydration for what is a highly cognitive, skills-based game.
Some nutritionists are arguing this isn’t ideal preparation
BETWEEN OVERS MID-BOWLING SPELL
Access to fluid (on the boundary if possible) is crucial for rehydration between overs. The use of a cooler box will help keep the drink cold and you can also put a carbohydrate (energy) gel in there to have once the spell is over. It is also useful during a prolonged spell to drink carbohydrate solutions (energy drinks) like Gatorade, Powerade or Lucozade Sport, though you can make your own cheaper version using fruit juice and water with a pinch of salt. After your spell, consuming a small flapjack, energy or protein bar can be helpful to support recovery until you’re needed again.
WHILST WAITING TO BAT
This aspect can be a challenge as we never know when a wicket will fall. Stay on top of hydration by drinking water to thirst – you can also enjoy herbal tea for its calming and relaxing effect. If you get hungry whilst waiting to bat (this is commonplace in my experience as a tailender) try to steer clear of high-sugar foods and snacks like chocolate and sweets – instead grab a handful of mixed nuts.
A nice herbal brew will keep you calm before heading to the crease
BEFORE FIELDING AS A NON-BOWLER
This involves low-intensity activity (changing between overs) with occasional bursts of explosive activity (sprinting after the ball). Without the rigours faced by the frontline bowlers, it is still important to take on slow-releasing carbohydrates (mixed-grain bread, apple, orange, yoghurt) to support stable blood sugar throughout the innings. It’s also crucial to maintain hydration by drinking water to thirst whenever possible.
IMMEDIATELY AFTER PLAY
Following a long day’s play it is really beneficial to rehydrate (preferably with water/juice first, ahead of beer). We’ve all experienced post-match muscle soreness, especially in the early stages of a season, and so it can be very useful to get in some protein sources, like eggs, chicken, tinned fish, lentils or nuts. For ease and convenience it might also be useful to make up a smoothie with high-protein yoghurt (e.g. Skyr, Fage), a banana and mixed berries. Alongside the protein sources, carbohydrate foods can help restore muscle fuels and promote the optimal environment for recovery. This might take the form of beans on toast, for example, or a bowl of pasta with bolognese. These meals are easy to consume given that after a long day of play, particularly in the heat, our appetite can be low.
Simple but effective
Matthew Lees teaches Sport and Exercise Nutrition at Leeds Beckett University and is a keen club cricketer