Volleyball, unlike endurance sports, is stop and go. This is a good thing in terms of nutrition because there are ample opportunities to eat and drink during a match to keep yourself going. Regardless of how great you are at the skills of volleyball, your energy level and your ability to stay strong all match long will be the keys to a great performance.
Whether you are playing a match or an entire tournament day, you must keep your body properly nourished and hydrated to play your best. Since a volleyball match can vary widely in length depending on the number of sets required to win, you must be prepared to go the distance at all times. A three set match could end in an hour, but a five set match can last up to three hours. Make sure you are prepared for any eventuality.
The idea of sports nutrition is to anticipate your needs for the foreseeable future and to provide your body with the correct nutrients to respond to the demands you’ll require of it. If you get behind in your energy stores, it will take your body a while to recover and get back on track. The game waits for no one though, so your misjudgment can cost your team the game. Make sure you understand what your body needs to perform at the highest level.
Keep in mind that everyone is different and therefore has different nutrition needs. Pay attention to your body and its response to the food you eat. Did you feel good at the start of the game and then have an energy crash? Did you eat too early and find yourself hungry when the first whistle blew? Does eating during a match give you a stomach cramp or a stitch? Adjust your intake accordingly and find what combination works best for you.
Here are some basic tips for sustaining your energy when playing volleyball:
A solid Pre-Game meal: Eat several hours before game time
On the day of a match, be sure to eat breakfast, lunch and a couple of snacks during the day. Stick with lean meats, vegetables and carbohydrates like bread, pasta and fruit. Stay away from foods with high processed sugar and any new foods you have not tried before on game days.
The most important meal of the day is your pre-game meal. This is what your body will primarily draw from during a match, so choose your foods wisely. Most experts agree that the Pre-Game meal should be eaten 2-3 hours before your match. If you’re not sure what your ideal time is for pre-game, try eating two and a half hours before the match and then vary the time slightly for the subsequent matches, paying close attention to how your body responds.
Since volleyball requires a lot of quick movement and bursts of strength over a long period of time, it is necessary to provide your body with a good amount of carbohydrates such as fruits, veggies, whole grain cereals, breads, and pastas, and low-fat dairy. Supplement your carbo-load with protein (lean meats, chicken, turkey, fish, nonfat cheeses, dairy and egg whites) and veggies and you have the ideal pre-game meal. The recommended ratio is 50-65% carbs, 10-25% protein and less than 30% healthy fats like nuts, nut butters, fish oils, avocado, soy, and vegetable oil based salad dressings.
During a match or tournament: Keep your energy up all game or all day long