For years on end, the soccer half time snack have been sliced oranges and have stood the test of time with some merit; as well as the use of high carbohydrate foods or instant sources of sugar such as jelly beans. For many team sports, half time snacks are good for the sponsor and not necessarily the athlete.
Take into consideration half time is a very short opportunity for the athlete to get his or her nutritional needs met before the second half begins. The second half is where most fatigue will set in. So what are the main factors to consider when planning nutrition during the half time interval? It is suggested for athletes to consume carbohydrates, an electrolyte drink and of course water for optimal half time performance.
According to Peak Performance, Half Time Nutrition; “an unpublished study, presented at the 2006 American College Sports Medicine annual meeting, showed that players who had been fed a mixture of protein and carbohydrates at half time performed worse in the second half than those given a carbohydrate drink.” Peak Performance further state, ” There are significant differences in the physical demands of team sports like soccer, American football and rugby, with soccer being more physically demanding in terms of distance covered per minute than rugby. However, most team sports show activity patterns that would be expected to have considerable energy cost, with typical distance covered per match at around 8-11km. The energy cost of competing in a match is much higher than an even paced run of the same distance, and a number of changes of intense activity, which is typically associated with heavy demands on carbohydrate energy supply. Outcomes in team sports are highly influenced by skill, so it is also important to consider factors that may influence skill and concentration when considering strategies to optimize performance. Often these factors go hand in hand with carbohydrate depletion, associated with reduced exercise capacity and poor concentration; effects that may be compounded by dehydration. Both dehydration and muscle glycogen depletion have been associated with injury and accidents.”
The athlete must have good pre-game eating habits prior to the game as well as hydration. Even in colder months hydration is very important. According to Peak Performance, ” the impact of carbohydrate supplementation during the half time interval could well depend upon the prior eating habits of the player. Similarly, the rehydration needs, and therefore the efficacy of half time rehydration strategies, will depend on pre-game hydration status as much as the playing conditions and player work rates. Sports nutritionists working with premier League Soccer clubs have noted that players often turn up to training less optimally hydrated during cold weather than in the hotter months. This may be due to players give less priority when the sun is not shinning and are unaware of the increased water vapor losses in cold conditions. Nutrients, especially electrolytes, may prevent fatigue and reduce muscle cramps in the second half. The most important electrolyte lost in sweat is sodium.”
So here is the breakdown as stated by Peak Performance,” much research indicates to replace fatty, energy dense foods with more carbohydrate. To maximize power to weight ratio; each gram of carbohydrate stored as muscle glycogen is bound to 3g of water, so if a player starts with 500g of muscle glycogen and this is used during the game it will release 1.5g of water. This released water is important when considering the fluid and energy requirements at half time. There have been reports of soccer players losing four to five liters per hour of sweat in very hot and humid environments and up to three liters in temperate climates, sweat losses closer to two liters per hour are more typical. In such cases, a half time fluid consumption of between 500 and 800mls should be sufficient to prevent decrease in body mass greater than 1% during the second half.
So remember, carbohydrate snack and electrolyte replacement is key for half time performance to avoid loss of muscle glycogen, prevent dehydration, prevent fatigue and muscle cramps. For tradition sake, you can still keep the orange slices too.
Source: Peak Performance: Half-time nutrition