I just spent the weekend with my family and the excitement about the Giants making the Superbowl for the first time since 2000 was palatable. So I decided to do some research and see what my hometown team could do between now and next weekend to ensure a win. I found Michael Gleeson and Ronald J Maughan’s The Biochemical Basis of Sports Performance had my answer. Their book describes the biochemical processes involved in energy provision for different sports events and the way in which limitations in the energy supply can cause fatigue and thus limit performance. Below is an excerpt I hope will help the Giants!
Nutritional strategies for team sports athletes
Energy and carbohydrate needs
Carbohydrate is an important energy source in both training and competition.
Team sports athletes are often less aware of the need for attention to diet to support consistent training and to ensure optimum performance in match play. Many team sports are characterized by an intensive competition schedule that may involve two or three competitions per week (even more for some basketball or baseball players) for a large part of the year, with an off-season in which little or no exercise is undertaken. Pre-season training is often intensive, with the aim of reducing body weight, and especially body fat content, as well as improving fitness. The games player requires strength and power as well as stamina, so the training programme is especially challenging. There may also be a need, especially with younger players, to increase muscle mass: as this normally requires a positive energy balance, it becomes especially difficult when simultaneous reduction of fat mass is required.
The high demands on carbohydrate as an energy source in both training and competition make it important that players ensure an adequate dietary carbohydrate intake, but this must be achieved within the available energy budget. This means moderating the intake of fat and protein to limit total energy intake. It also means paying special attention to the timing of carbohydrate intake: eating soon after training or competition will promote rapid glycogen synthesis. Choosing foods with a high glycaemic index—those that cause a rapid elevation of blood glucose levels and stimulate a marked insulin response—at this time will also help to ensure rapid storage of the ingested carbohydrate in the form of muscle glycogen.
Consumption of a high carbohydrate diet in the days prior to competition may benefit competitors in games such as rugby, soccer or hockey, where the multiple short sprints that are performed rely on anaerobic metabolism. It appears not to be usual for these players to pay attention to this aspect of their diet, but, as explained earlier in this chapter, a Swedish study in the early 1970s showed that players starting a soccer game with low muscle glycogen content did less running, and much less running at high speed, than those players who began the game with a normal muscle glycogen content. It is common for players to have one game in midweek as well as one at the weekend, and it is likely that full restoration of the muscle glycogen content will not occur between games unless a conscious effort is made to achieve a high carbohydrate intake.
Few of the supplements promoted to enhance loss of body fat are effective, and those that are effective are mostly based on stimulants such as ephedrine. Apart from the health risks associated with the use of these products, they are prohibited by the doping regulations and players who test positive are liable to suspension from competition.