Friday 30 September 2016

There’s a great sports drink already in your fridge

Published 07/10/2015 | 09:54

Forget about sugary, expensive sports drinks, there’s a great one already in your fridge.

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As we’re watching professional rugby players put life and limb on the line for their countries in the World Cup it’s worth remembering that these athletes work incredibly hard to ensure they’re best prepared to meet the challenges on the pitch. Strength and conditioning plays a huge part, as does their cardio fitness and of course their diet.

As the game gets increasingly physical, with collisions that would hospitalise ordinary people being part of the game any advantage is welcome. All the work in the gym and on the training pitch will count come match day, but nutrition is paramount in getting the body where it needs to be.

The body needs food to fuel exercise and carbohydrates are vital for supplying the energy during intense exercise. Protein, is important for muscle growth and repair, assisting rugby players to recover efficiently from intense exercise.

There is a limit to the amount of protein the body needs to build muscle so it’s important the right amount of protein in ingested as part of a balanced diet. The main thing that stimulates muscle growth is exercise, with protein supporting that work. For adult athletes, protein intakes of 1.2-1.8g per kilo body weight per day are optimal for both strength and endurance training.

The body does not store protein well so the best thing to do is to include protein in meals and snacks across the day to make sure the muscles are getting a steady supply. Dairy is an ideal source of protein for athletes, and it also contains a wide range of other important nutrients.

Rob Kearney, Ireland’s first choice fullback is an exponent of dairy as a good source of protein. He grew up on a farm so he’s always been surrounded by it, but it’s just as much part of his routine today. A typical training day for Rob includes a pitch session in the morning, some video work and then either speed or weights in the afternoon. With such a hectic schedule, his diet is paramount and while it varies on a week-to-week basis, he says at the end of the week, closer to the game, it would involve much more carbohydrate loading for energy.

Earlier in the week, it’s more a high-protein diet, with less carbohydrates.

 “I’m a bad breakfast eater, even though it’s the most important meal of the day! If I can get two poached eggs, with some bacon on toast that would be pretty good, and then on other days I would have porridge made with milk.”

His favourite meal? He says it’s hard to beat a good steak and chips with a pint of milk! As for the milk, not only does he drink it, but with ice. “I’ve always liked the taste of it. It’s something that I enjoy. I probably do an unusual thing with milk; I always have it in a pint glass with ice because it tastes great when it’s really cold.”

There are all kinds of sports drinks on the market and yet milk gets overlooked. It’s components of nutrients—protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water are easily absorbed and metabolised by the body. Research has shown that milk, when consumed after exercise is just as effective, if not more so than many commercially available sports drinks (Shirreffs SM et al. Br J Nutr 2007 Jul;98(1):173-80).

Milk a naturally contains carbohydrate, the all-important fuel for exercise and if drunk  within 30 minutes after physical activity the carbohydrates are transported quickly to the muscles for immediate use, or to be stored as glycogen for the next session. Failure to consume adequate carbohydrates after training can lead to fatigue and muscle soreness.

The vitamins contained in milk are also useful for active people. Milk naturally contains electrolytes and is therefore an excellent rehydration fluid. With a dizzying array of sports drinks and protein products on the market, it’s reassuring to know that a great one is probably already in your fridge, is inexpensive and is a 100% natural product. Milk, and other forms of dairy have been part of our diet from as long as we’ve been sitting at the table. Even if you’re not a professional rugby player, but simply an active person who loves to exercise, there’s even more reason to enjoy a nice glass of cold milk.

 

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