Nutrition for Health Wellbeing & Performance
G.A.A PERFORMANCE NUTRITION E-BOOK
Nutrition mistakes made by G.A.A players & athletes in general
Is this you?
Eating too many processed and refined carbohydrates or not eating enough good
Low Intake of protein and healthy fats.
Poor hydration habits – not drinking enough water. Turning up for training and
A poor quality breakfast/no breakfast at all/unsuitable breakfast for type of activity
being performed that day.
Not enough fruit and vegetable intake.
Poor understanding of how to fuel for your matches/sessions and recover from them
(when to eat and what to eat for each session/match)
Fuelling your matches
Despite its damaged reputation Carbohydrates are a G.A.A players’ best friend when it
comes to performing on the pitch, as it fuels all high intensity activities. There are 3
questions you must answer when preparing your carbohydrate loading phase for
What type of Carbohydrates should I eat?
Unprocessed forms of low GI slow release carbohydrate – porridge, rice or sweet
potatoes with a good source of protein – eggs, chicken, lean beef, pork or fish at each
meal during your loading phase. If you’re not meeting required carbohydrate intake you
can add in some fast digesting carbohydrates like Jaffa cakes or granola bars etc. but only
Limit fats, vegetables and excessive amounts of protein in your pre match meal as it will
slow digestion time. A good example of a pre match meal would be porridge with some
fruit or a chicken and rice dish.
When should I start eating them?
Start your carbohydrate loading approximately 2 days before your game. You cannot
compensate for two days of eating with a massive pre match meal – it won’t work! All the
work must happen a few days before. The pre match meal is simply a top up that you
should eat about 3-4 hours before game time. You can have a light, fast digesting
carbohydrate snack an hour or so before kick-off if you feel like it, but mainly stick with
How much Carbohydrates should I take in?
Between 5-8g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight to be eaten per day in the build up
to the game. This could be achieved simply by having more porridge than usual at
breakfast, a couple more pieces of fruit and an extra sweet potato or two at your dinner
Fuelling your pitch training sessions
There is some recent research suggesting that performing SOME training sessions on a
low carbohydrate intake may allow for greater cellular adaptations to aerobic endurance
This approach advises that certain low to moderate intensity training sessions be started
with a lower carbohydrate availability. Because there is low carbohydrate present, the
body will use fat as fuel. As a result, your body adapts to using less carbohydrate during
moderate exercise, thereby sparing it for higher intensities.
However, because on match days you will consume high doses of carbohydrate - in order
to maximize performance, it is important that our muscles keep the capacity to utilize it
and not just fat. As such this should not be a full time approach to training. Doing so
would mean your body adapting to fat so much, that you could end up not being able to
utilise carbohydrates optimally!
Training in a fasted state should be reserved for moderate to low intensity
Training fasted repetitively can lead to many detrimental effects on hormones and the
immune system, if performed long-term. Consuming protein before your session and
moderate doses of caffeine is a suitable strategy to prevent muscle protein breakdown
and help maintain training intensity, if training on low carbohydrate.
It is recommended that you experiment with this as it may not work for everybody.
Sticking to a moderate to high carbohydrate intake for training may suit you better and if
so, stick with that. Please do not perform fasted training sessions without knowing
beforehand the intensity of the session or without consulting with someone experienced
in this area
For most of your training sessions aim to eat a carbohydrate rich meal with protein
roughly three hours before your training session, if you can’t eat that close to training
because of work/designated break times etc. then have a large carbohydrate rich meal
with a good protein source for your lunch and snack on fruit or granola or nut and seed
bars and stay well hydrated until your training session. Trying to eat a meal an hour or so
before training will do more harm than good as the body will have no chance to properly
absorb and digest it (which may take even longer if your stressed getting about your
boots clean for training and worried about being fuelled for your session!!) which may
lead to stomach discomfort during training!
Recovery from pitch sessions & matches
Recovery involves intake of Water, Carbohydrates, Protein, Vitamins, Minerals,
Antioxidants and more Water!
Weigh yourself before and after training in shorts only and for every kg you have lost
replace with 1-1.5 litres of fluid. This may be tough to accomplish late at night, so aim to
drink what you can at night without it disturbing your sleeping patterns, (which is vitally
important for recovery!!). You can then continue your hydration protocol in the morning.
Since the main fuel used in field and team sports is carbohydrate, you will need to
replenish these stores as quickly as possible following a training session, especially if you
are training a day or two later or have two matches in a week, which is common come the
summer months! Eat fast digesting carbohydrates as soon as possible after training to
build up your stores again.
This is a chance for you sweet toothed players to get your fix, as you can consume fast
acting sugars like sports drinks or Jaffa cakes.
Chocolate milk has been shown by research to be an excellent recovery drink as it helps
rehydrate, gives you your fast acting carbohydrates as well as protein too!
Protein will help repair any damaged muscle and can prevent inflammation and muscle
It can be hard to stomach anything after a tough session or very competitive match so
don’t fret about too much, this is where a sports drink and maybe a handful of almonds
or a smoothie will do the trick, and then you can focus on a quality meal when you get
Mainly focus on mixed meals with a good source of protein lots of slow digesting
carbohydrates and vegetables!
Nutrition and sleep
The importance of sleep for brain function, mood, training adaptation, recovery and
general health cannot be overstated! There is some research that shows that certain
nutritional strategies may promote or hinder sleep patterns & sleep quality whilst poor
sleeping habits can affect nutritional choices and important physiological functions.
Chronic sleep deprivation in athletes may result alter glucose metabolism and
neuroendocrine function, carbohydrate metabolism, appetite, food intake, and protein
These factors can all influence an athlete’s nutritional choices and habits, which will harm
High GI or fast digesting carbs consumed more than 1 hour before bedtime may promote
a feeling of sleepiness.
High protein diets may increase sleep quality whereas high fat diets may negatively affect
total sleep time.
Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to insulin resistance and may become a risk factor for
type II diabetes.
Diets with a reduced total caloric intake may negatively impact sleep.
Supplementing with as little as 1 gram of the amino acid tryptophan may help improve
sleep – tryptophan is a precursor to the release of melatonin (sleep hormone). This amino
acid is found in foods such as pumpkin seeds, turkey or chicken.
The hormone melatonin and foods that have a high melatonin concentration may
decrease the time it takes you to go to dreamland. Goji berries, walnuts, raspberries,
tomatoes and mustard seeds have good sources of melatonin.
Over-hydration can disturb sleep patterns and is a reason most cited by athletes for sleep
disturbances, as athletes may need to urinate during the night!
Remember the rehydration protocol if you have late night training sessions, ensure you
drink what you can without disturbing sleep and rehydrate in the morning!
Alcohol and caffeine significantly reduce the release of melatonin as well as diminishing
sleep quality and time and should be avoided as much as possible around bed time –
except on special occasions of course!
Athletes should try to get at least 8 if not 9 hours of sleep a night or nap during the day to
potentially avoid these negative effects.
Supplement definition: “Something that’s added to the diet in order
to deal with a deficiency.
Supplements only work optimally if they are used as they are defined, they should not
become a staple of your diet and are only there to help add to your good diet. You can’t
out-supplement a poor diet!
Sleep – sleep is often overlooked as a health benefit, it is important for recovery &
adaptation so supplement if your deficient!
Water – same as sleep! drink more water to ensure adequate hydration levels if you don’t
drink enough already!
Probiotics – probiotics help improve intestinal tract health and enhanced immune system
to name a few. Probiotics help inhibit bad gut-bacteria and reduce this bacteria’s harmful
effects. This will lead to a lot less sick days and training sessions/matches missed due to
Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin, essential in a country with as much rain as Ireland!
Vitamin D is essential for brain and immune function.
Fish Oils – Important for brain function and inflammation.
Protein – protein shakes are recommended, but for convenience only! Try get as much
protein as you can from natural foods from the earth!
Fruit & Nut Baked Porridge.
Ideal Match Day/Training Day Breakfast.
Slow Digesting Carbs Good Sources of
Protein and Fruit!
Smoothie with Lots of Slow
Digesting Carbs and Protein.
Can Be Substituted for Pre or Post
Training Meal If Stuck For Time.
Grilled Pork Chop with Grilled Pineapple
Mixed Peppers and Sweet Potato Cubes.
Ideal Post Match Day/Training Day Meal.
Slow Digesting Carbs Good Sources of
Protein and Vegetables and Antioxidants.
Sweet Potato Veggie Cakes with
Poached Eggs & Spinach
Ideal Match Day/Training Day
Breakfast or Snack.
Slow Digesting Carbs
Good Sources of Protein and
Dark Chocolate Fruit & Nut Bites.
High Protein Healthy Treat!
Chocolate Protein Banana & Oat Pancakes
Tasty Breakfast Filled with
Protein and Good Sources of Carbs.
Serve with Fruit, Yogurt or Both!
General Good Nutrition Habits
Stick to eating foods that don’t have ingredients listed on them. Good food should only
have one ingredient! You don’t need to know what’s in fruit, vegetables and meats since
you get what you see, eggs are just eggs, bananas are just bananas and chicken is just
I prefer to use the term eat food from the earth, as every food that’s supplied by nature
has one ingredient in them! If it walks, crawls, flies, swims or grows in the ground or on
trees then its good!
Drink plenty of water – two litres is a good place to start, this is much easier to achieve if
you have a good water bottle you can carry around with you, as it will serve as a reminder
If you are eating well 95% of the time you are doing fine – if you have 3 meals a day and 3
snacks that’s 42 opportunities to eat well every week, 95% of 42 leaves you 2
opportunities to indulge in your guilty pleasures in a given week. But don’t feel guilty,
there’s no such thing as bad foods, only bad habits! If a treat keeps you on track for 95%
of the time then it’s a good thing! Don’t fall into the dreaded diet cycle!
Supplement with vitamins and minerals where needed, especially if you are deficient. Try
to get what you need from good food and fruits and vegetables.
It is recommended that you experiment with any recommendations made before implementing
them. DO NOT TEST SOMETHING OUT BEFORE A MATCH IF IT IS NEW TO YOU!!
THIS EBOOK IS SIMPLY A SOURCE OF INFORMATION WITH SOME PERSONAL
RECOMMENDATIONS BASED ON SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND MY OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.
PLEASE ENSURE YOU CONSULT A DOCTOR IF UNSURE OF ANY ALLERGIES/DEFICINCIES YOU MAY
OR MAY NOT HAVE BEFORE TAKING ANY OF THESE RECOMMENDATIONS ON BOARD. TO
REITERATE I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL.
IF ANYONE HAS ANY FURTHER QUEIRES ON ANY MATERIAL SEND YOUR CONCERNS TO:
A healthy athlete is an athlete that is less likely to get injured or sick and is much more capable of
adapting to any training stimulus thrown at them as well as being able to perform better come
match day. So don’t just eat for performance, eat for health and wellbeing.
Some of this information may be overwhelming if you are new to this so remember focus on food
quality first, then food timing! Eat one ingredient foods from the earth as much as you can as well
as drinking plenty of water and sleeping well and you’ll notice a difference.
For blog posts and healthy meal ideas on all things nutrition:
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ENJOY HEALTHY EATING!