In order to gain an insight into the diets of Academy footballers, for a four-day period during September 2017, as part of a wider PhD research Project, U12, U14 and U17 boys were invited to send photographs and details of the meals and snacks they consumed to Marcus Hannon (Academy Performance Nutritionist PhD Practitioner). Following the analysis of the information that was collected, it was highlighted that many of our boys are not eating later in the evening when they get home, before bed. The following article discusses the importance of this pre-bed feed for our Academy boys.
Boys at the Academy expend a significant number of calories on a daily basis; their energy expenditure is substantially more than that of the general public who are not exercising for the same durations or intensities. Therefore, it is crucial that our boys’ energy intake (from food and fluids) matches their energy expenditure. Repeated failure to consume enough calories will lead to:
- poor recovery
- impaired sleep quality and fatigue
- reduced concentration in school
- increased risk of illness/injury
- impaired growth (skeletal and muscle) and maturation (delayed/hindered puberty)
Boys at the Academy should therefore aim to eat around 6 times per day (approximately every 3 hours): breakfast, mid-morning, lunch, ‘pit-stop’, ‘grab and grow’ and pre-bed.
All of these feeds should contain a source of carbohydrate and protein. Eating carbohydrate regularly throughout the day will help with concentration levels during school and will also ensure that the body’s carbohydrate stores are sufficiently topped up for training. After training, these carbohydrate stores will need to be replaced. It is also vital that the boys consume enough protein throughout the day. Protein consumption (around 20-25 grams) every 3 hours is essential to promote muscle growth and development and also for repair of the muscles following intense training. Both the ‘pit-stop’ and ‘grab and grow’ contain appropriate quantities of both carbohydrate and protein for before and after training. However, analysis of the snap and send data revealed that for some of our boys, the ‘grab and grow’ is their last feed of the day. To ensure full recovery and replenishment of the body’s carbohydrate stores it is essential that boys eat again before bed, even if they are tired and do not feel like it!
Considering that during sleep, all boys will undergo a fasting period, the time before bed is the last opportunity to nourish the body. An overnight fast of ~8 hours without a supply of protein beforehand can lead to muscle breakdown. A lack of protein before bed will result in the body not having the nutrients it needs for growth and repair throughout the night, which may lead to sub-optimal recovery, increased muscle soreness and potentially subsequent injury. Additionally, failing to replenish carbohydrate stores before sleep will result in insufficient energy for the next day which can affect concentration levels at school and the ability to train optimally. Carbohydrate before bed has also been shown to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep. Therefore, it is very important that boys have a ‘feed’ before bed and that it contains carbohydrate, protein (and some fluids). Flavoured milk is an example of a food/drink that contains all of these nutrients. Below are some examples of quick and easy meals/mini-meals that you may want to try before bed. Batch cooking at the weekend and reheating this throughout the week is another efficient way of fuelling if you are pushed for time.
Example 1: Beans on toast
KCAL 451 | CHO 59g | PRO 24g | FAT 13g
1 small can of baked beans
2 slices of toast
¼ cup grated cheddar cheese
Example 2: Nut butter smoothie
KCAL 513 | CHO 51g | PRO 20g | FAT 25g
400ml whole milk
1 tablespoon of hot chocolate powder
1 tablespoon of nut butter (peanut / almond / cashew)
Example 3: Omelette with toast
KCAL 466 | CHO 35g | PRO 38g | FAT 18g
2 slices of ham
3 spring onions
6 cherry tomatoes
2 slices of toast
Example 4: Yogurt pot
KCAL 467 | CHO 63g | PRO 31g | FAT 9g
½ large pot of high protein yogurt (Skyr/Arla/Fage)
2 tablespoons of honey
2 tablespoons of oats
3 tablespoons of berries (or any fruit)
1 tablespoon of seeds (any)