To ensure you perform at your very best on the squash court, a crucial piece of the overall performance plan comes in the shape of your nutritional choices. What you eat and drink on a daily basis has a big impact on your general health and energy levels, so a good diet is something that should be a concern of every keen squash player.
One area of particular importance to the squash player, more specifically those playing in tournaments or who are following a daily training programme, is Post-Session Nutrition. When it comes to recovery from a tough match or training session, what you consume immediately afterwards plays a big role in your body’s ability to recuperate and repair, ready for your next performance the next day (or possibly even the same day, for those playing in a tournament).
When we work out intensely, we damage tissues at the micro-level, and we use up fuel. Research suggests that the first 30mins or so after intense physical exertion is considered the prime ‘window of opportunity’ for replenishing the body’s cells. During this initial window, our muscles are primed to take on the nutrients that best stimulate repair and recovery. If appropriate post-session nutrients aren’t taken on at this time, your muscle glycogen replenishment and protein synthesis can be compromised, and subsequent performance will likely be sub-optimal.
The two main nutrients to be aware of when considering post-workout nutrition, are Carbohydrate and Protein – carbs to replenish the muscle and liver glycogen stores, and protein to moderate muscle breakdown and promote rapid repair.
There are a variety of ratios and equations based on body mass suggested for the optimal amount of protein and carbs, but a good general rule of thumb for most individuals will be around 50-60g carbs to 20-30g protein – around a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio.
It’s important to consider here, that we’re looking at these nutritional choices from the perspective of optimal performance, not a general gym-goer who’s training for health and weight loss. Simple carbohydrates in the form of sugars such as dextrose/glucose or maltodextrin are not generally considered to be a good option for the average person’s diet, but for the squash player looking to replenish the muscle energy stores, these high-glycemic carbs are ideal.
We want to make sure these post-workout carb and protein choices that we consume are fast-digesting so that they can get into our systems quickly. Along with the high glycemic sugary carbs we ideally want to be taking in whey protein, which is a dairy-derived protein more quickly absorbed than many others.
So what are some good post-session snacks to boost those carb and protein levels?
A serving of naturally high-protein Greek yoghurt with fruits is a good choice, as is milk and wholegrain cereal. Rice cakes and peanut butter is a favourite of many athletes, so too are tortilla wraps with chicken or tuna fish.
Chocolate milk is actually also surprisingly good as a post-session refuel, which along with the fact that it’s in liquid form makes it way more convenient for many people – it’s generally easier to transport and consume a beverage if you’re training/playing far from home than it is many standard foods. You can then follow up on this with a good carb and protein-based meal later.
There are a number of more dedicated liquid recovery formulas on the market as well which are a very popular choice with elite athletes. Many pile their formulas high with all kinds of other supposed ‘miracle ingredients’ as well, but you’re generally best off sticking with something simple and straightforward containing just the carbs and protein – CNP Pro-Recover is one of my favourite options here, being decent tasting and relatively inexpensive.
Whatever you choose as your post-workout recovery, remember that it’s only a part of the puzzle. Your general diet and day to day nutritional choices play a far more significant part in your conditioning and energy levels than just what you consume post-session – you can’t rely on your post-workout nutrition to cover up deficiencies in your overall nutritional regime.
Assuming you’re already consuming a good healthy diet however, you can go a long way to helping boost your short-term recovery during tournaments and periods of heavy training by making good choices in your post-session refuelling.
B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director
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