Many people who played certain sports during their childhood and youth want to continue to do so as adults in recreational league sports. But juggling a hectic work schedule, raising a family, and trying to get two or three practices in during the week can be a daunting task. Sometimes it’s difficult just to find the time to eat at all, never mind finding the time to prepare a healthy and nutritious meal.
Just like elite and youth athletes, recreational athletes (or those who don’t consider themselves athletes at all) must have a good understanding of proper nutrition in order to stay fueled not only during games but throughout each day.
It’s quite understandable that you perhaps don’t have large blocks of free time to set aside to study nutrition for adults who are involved in recreational league sports. This article outlines the best foods to eat before and after games, and also covers the best (and worst!) food and drink choices to make when going out to the pub after your game.
What to eat after a workout at night
It’s been said that you shouldn’t eat large meal portions after five o’clock in the evening. Our ability to burn calories is slower during this time of the day. Also, it is hard to sleep with a heavy stomach. Since most recreational league games are at night, you still need to eat a small meal or snack afterward. Otherwise, you will not be able to replenish nutrients and your body will not recover as easily. So, don’t neglect to fuel your body.
Vegetables are one of the best foods you can eat. They provide nutrients to your body and make you feel full so that you will not have the desire to continue eating.
Here are some examples of good post-workout snacks:
- Hummus and raw veggies
- Hummus and crackers. Grain-rich crackers make an ideal snack. Overall, hummus and crackers are a considerably better alternative to chips and dip.
- Egg salad
- Chilled shrimp with guacamole: this is a good snack to eat just before going to bed. Just make sure that the guacamole isn’t too hot. Hot and spicy foods are the worst thing to have on your stomach before going to bed.
- Nuts or seeds – you can’t go wrong with nuts. High in healthy fats, they help to curb other food cravings. Walnuts, whole natural almonds, sunflower seeds, pistachios, and pumpkin seeds are winners for bedtime snacks.
- Tuna on Whole Wheat – There are benefits to putting proteins and carbs together, as they give you a better post-workout recovery. This meal can be as low as 220 calories.
- Turkey and cheese with apple slices
- Whey protein
Pub food choices
Most social sport league game nights aren’t considered complete until you’ve met up with your teammates (and probably the opposing team as well) at the pub after the game. While the post-game socializing will probably include a pint or other tasty bevvy, it’s really tempting to add a few pub appetizers to your tab as well.
But before your eyes start scanning all of those tasty choices on the menu, think long and hard about the ramifications of ordering items that are high in sodium and empty calories, especially unhealthy fats, and carbs.
It is important not to stray too far from your exercise and training regime, but also your nutritional plan.
Healthy pub food choices for after the game
A night out at the pub doesn’t have to mean not eating any of your favorite foods. Your objective is to aim for those that not only are tasty but also healthy.
Chicken breast and steamed vegetables: You can’t go wrong with this popular dish which can be as low as 270 calories.
Veggie platter: Many pubs offer a veggie platter option. Your teammates might grill you about ordering something so healthy, but you’ll probably be surprised at how many end up asking to share!
Grilled chicken wrap: Go easy on the heavy sauces, and ask for a side salad instead of fries.
Satay: If you’ve never heard of this finger food, they are full of grilled chicken, shrimp, and pork. Just avoid the sauces that come with them.
Meatballs: Yes, meatballs can be healthy if they are prepared right. The healthiest kinds are made of lean beef, turkey, chicken, and pork. Many folks who like the occasional night out at the pub take their meatballs with a load of vegetables. See, there are times when you can have your favorite snacks and eat them too.
Salad with salmon or grilled chicken: Salads are a great option, because they often include a variety of vegetables and sometimes even fruit to round out the nutrition. Just go easy on high-fat toppings, like fried onions or bacon. And opt for a vinaigrette dressing, instead of a creamy dressing.
Hamburgers: It’s okay to eat a hamburger as long as the meat isn’t too fatty. Lean hamburger meat is high in protein. Order yours with plenty of good vegetable toppings such as lettuce, avocado, and tomatoes. Go easy on condiments such as ketchup, mustard, and barbecue sauce.
Salsa: Before you say what I believe you’re going to, I don’t mean a dish of salsa and enough tortilla chips to feed a small army. No, you’ll still be eating healthy on this mission. Trade the chips for vegetables, namely carrots and celery sticks.
Lean steaks: There is a popular misconception that steaks are high in cholesterol and are therefore bad for you. Lean steak is high in protein as well as vitamin B12.
Healthy alcohol drink choices
Just because you are training and always watching what you eat doesn’t mean you have to give up everything you enjoy. Social drinking is a part of our culture and many folks like to have a drink or two after work or on the weekends. As a recreational athlete, you are continually looking to avoid empty calories or anything that will hinder your performance or put on weight.
When it comes to drinking, your best bet is low – calorie alcoholic drinks. These drinks will help you to stay on track without completely depriving yourself. Remember, everything is best in moderation. Here are the best low-calorie alcoholic drinks.
- Vodka seltzer with lemon or lime: The seltzer adds a nice bubbly complement to the vodka, while the lemon or lime adds a nice flavor twist.
- A glass of pinot noir or champagne: While many alcoholic drinks have a lot of sugar and extra calories, red wine and champagne contain many antioxidants as well as polyphenols.
- Scotch on the rocks: Here’s another low-caloric favorite that is also low in sugar. Sip slowly, so you’ll enjoy it longer.
- Other healthy alcoholic drinks that are actually recommended by nutritionists include dry wine, vodka and cranberry juice, light beer, gin, whiskey, tequila, light rum, as well as the classic Bloody Mary.
Just remember that it’s not necessarily the alcohol that adds all the calories, but the mix.
Unhealthy pub food choices
When dining out, you definitely want to avoid oily foods that are heavy in saturated fats such as fish and chips. If you are really serious about your training, it is best to avoid or limit your intake of fried foods.
Additionally, another thing to stay away from while you’re out at the pub is large portions. In case you haven’t noticed, even the healthier meals contain too much food for one person per meal. If you are unable to order a smaller portion, consider splitting the meal with a friend.
Anything deep-fried should be avoided – so I’m afraid that’s chips, schnitzels, onion rings, deep fried calamari, wedges, and crumbed lambcutlets are out. And that includes that pub favorite, chicken wings, as well. Deep fried foods tend to be high in fat and calories, and often use the ‘bad oils’ that contain trans fats. Not only that, the process of deep-frying can actually rob the food of its nutritional value. You can always pick a chip off someone else’s plate if you get desperate. But just one!
Sauces such as gravy and creamy salad dressings are also chock full of calories.
Nachos are high in calories, especially when you add in sour cream, avocado, and layers of the artery – hardening cheese. They may taste good but eating too many of these unhealthy snacks will make you feel lethargic and potentially kill any healthy gains you’ve made during your workout.
If you’ve ever eaten ribs and wonder why they taste so good, it is because they are full of fat. And no, I don’t mean the healthy fats your body needs. In fact, there can be as many as 1,000 calories in one serving. The meals you eat should be devoid of empty calories as much as possible.
French fries: When discussing foods that have enough fat to make you feel bad for a day, French fries take the number 1 spot. French fries are also high in acrylamide, a chemical that has been linked to cancer. Instead of getting fries, go for a garden salad or baked potato.
Pizza: If you’re like other seasoned recreational athletes, you most likely already eat very clean. While it is possible to make healthy pizza at home, the type you will encounter in the pubs is a fatty calorie bomb. Too much salt and saturated fat combined with processed meats can also give you a terrible case of heartburn, which is the last thing you need prior to hitting the field or swimming pool.
Why nutrition for athletes is important
Simply put, if you do not have the right kind (or the right amount of nutrients) in your system, you will not be able to perform at your best when playing sports. While you may still play basketball, soccer, or hockey, or belong to a Masters swim club, you are not a professionally paid athlete.
Your days are very busy. Sometimes, you just don’t have the time or energy to put into healthy cooking or preparing meals. Instead, you opt for a frozen pizza or takeout.
But you must make a concerted effort to constantly eat healthily. Every healthy meal that you eat contributes to your overall health and wellbeing. Good nutrition also contributes to your athletic performance, even when you’re a recreational athlete.
Now onto the topic at hand.
Regardless of what level you play at, if you’re an athlete, proper nutrition is needed to provide a good source of energy so that you can perform the activity you love doing. Strength, training, performance, and recovery are all factors when it comes to sports and is largely determined by the types of food you consume. The healthier you eat, the better athlete you will be.
It isn’t uncommon for regular folks to eat six small meals throughout the day. Eating smaller meals more frequently helps to provide your body with a consistent source of fuel. Depending on your age and activity levels, you probably want to consume between 1800 and 2000 calories a day. Each meal should be rather small in portion size.
A small healthy breakfast could consist of two boiled eggs and a piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter. Eggs are high in protein, which not only builds and repairs tissues but also makes you feel full so that you will not want to eat again for at least two hours.
The best healthy foods that will fuel your abilities as a recreational athlete are lean chicken and steaks, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale), brown rice, yams, boiled potatoes, and fruit, including avocados.
Protein, carbohydrates, and fats
Athletes need a certain proportion of protein and carbohydrates in their bodies. This depends largely on the level of intensity of the sport they are playing. If you are unsure of what exactly the right balance is for you, it is advisable to seek professional guidance from a qualified dietician.
Opinions tend to vary, but it is recommended that an active person’s caloric intake be between 45-65 percent carbohydrates, 20-35 percent fat and 10-35 percent protein.
Although carbohydrates often have a bad reputation, they are a very important source of fuel when it comes to building muscles during exercise. They also enhance brainpower.
Many people avoid all fatty foods, but healthy fats and oils including chia seeds, avocados, walnuts, and cheese are crucial for athletes as they are an excellent course of energy, and also give your body the essential fatty acids it needs. Fat also enables your muscles to relax and contract.
If you’re an athlete in training, you don’t want to skip muscle-building and energy – enhancing protein-rich foods such as wild fish, chicken, and eggs.
Food for energy and stamina
Athletes – even if they are of the recreational variety – need lots of energy and stamina to be able to play for long periods and not be too tired afterward. The best foods to build energy and stamina are bananas, fatty fish, brown rice, apples, and plenty of water.
When playing in an all-day tournament, it’s especially important to make sure that you’re providing your body with a steady source of nutrition. You may not realize at first how much energy you’re burning, but you don’t want to hit an energy wall halfway through the day.
For more information about what foods to bring to a tournament, check out this article.
Foods for weight loss
Many of the foods already mentioned in the article (cruciferous vegetables, whole eggs, and boiled potatoes) are ideal for weight loss. Other options include tuna, beef and legumes, and salmon.
Best recovery foods for athletes
No doubt, you’re probably wondering why it is so important to eat something small after doing a workout session. You put a great amount of effort into your games and practices which can burn as much as 1,000 an hour. As the old saying goes ‘food is fuel.’ And yes, your body needs plenty of fuel to run smoothly.
Why recovery foods are important
With regards to eating right after a workout, you need to understand how your body is affected by physical activity. When you exercise, your muscles burn the fuel by using up their glycogen stores. The result is that your muscles are partially depleted of glycogen. Furthermore, proteins become damaged in this process.
Directly following a workout, the body works hard to rebuild its glycogen stores and regrow muscle proteins. Eating within twenty minutes of a workout helps to fight against muscle protein breakdown while increasing muscle protein synthesis. Also, your body will recover quicker. Even if your workout is later in the evening, it is very important to eat.
What is recovery food?
The best post-workout recovery foods are ones that should be easily digested, not too heavy on the stomach, and be effective enough for adequate recovery.
There are many perfect post-workout foods that are high in protein including Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, a protein shake with a banana or a protein bar (the best types of protein bars are Quest, Simply and Mybar).
Carbs also play an important role in post-workout recovery. Rice cakes, chocolate milk, and oatmeal are some of the best options. Healthy fats that are ideal for your post-workout snack include nuts and trail mix.
Energy drinks – do they really work?
Because they contain a high volume of caffeine, many people believe that energy drinks are the perfect solution for enhancing athletic performance and driving your recovery following a workout.
Caffeine is definitely popular – as evidenced by the number of coffee drinkers in our culture. And yes, it does provide a temporary boost. The issue with energy drinks as that while they may provide you with a temporary boost, they often do more harm than good.
The lowdown on energy drinks as that by contains a whopping amount of sugar and substances you probably don’t want to ingest. It has been proven that energy drinks contribute to weight gain. It’s no secret that too much caffeine has ugly side effects including nervousness, irritability, insomnia, rapid heartbeat and increased blood pressure.
A big no-no is mixing energy drinks with alcohol. The two just don’t go well and the result can lead to heavier drinking and serious health problems, as energy drinks have been known to lessen feelings of intoxication.
In a nutshell, the occasional energy drink or perhaps two cups of coffee per day is fine for recreational athletes, but it is important to limit your caffeine intake. Otherwise, you will only end up sabotaging your performance.
Eating before a workout
A pressing question many hobby athletes have is when is the best time to eat prior to a workout. Generally, it is wise to eat about two hours before exercising. Furthermore, whatever small meal you choose to consume should be high in carbohydrates, as you need carbs for fuel because you are burning off a great amount of energy.
So, there you have a few healthy food and drink options for your post-game beer league socializing. Remember, you’re at the pub to catch up with the other players in the league, and the food and drink is just a bonus. You’ve probably burned more calories than you realize during your game, so refuelling your body is a good idea. However, be sure to make smart choices, and your body will feel even better. And you’ll also be surprised at how many of your teammates will probably follow your healthy lead as well!