“Don’t Drop the Ball” – Your guide to Cricket Match Day Nutrition
On match day, no matter what level you are playing, every cricketer wants to perform well. Whether it be scoring a match-winning run, taking the final wicket in the last over of the day, or taking a screamer of a catch fielding at 3rd slip, nutrition can play a role.
Match day food and fluid will have an impact on your energy levels, skill execution, decision making and concentration. Each of these components will contribute to you consistently performing to your best.
Know your individual nutrition needs
The nutrition requirements of individuals can vary a lot within a cricket team. The needs of a batsmen who has spent the day in the field at first slip will be vastly different to a fast bowler who has bowled 10-15 overs in the day. Also, the format of the game will determine the individual’s nutritional needs as a limited overs game will be different from a multi-day test match format, especially in terms of duration spent playing. When batting a player may not even get onto the pitch if the team is dismissed early.
Match day is not a time to make up for a sub-standard intake in the days leading into the match. Your training diet will help you to fuel each training session as well as recover well and help to enhance the benefits from each of those trainings. Training also provides an opportunity to establish and practice nutrition habits (meals, snacks and drinks) that you will use during a match day.
Preparing for the unknown
The challenge for a cricketer is that on match day you don’t often know what you will be doing until the toss of the coin, sometimes only 30 minutes before the start of play. The trick here is you need to prepare as though you will be involved at the start of play. This includes having a substantial meal 2-4 hours prior to the start (which is often breakfast), as well as drinking fluids in order to hydrate. You might then “top up” your fuel with a carbohydrate snack 1-2 hours before play.
From then on it is a matter of making the most of the opportunities you have throughout play to top up your fuel and fluids. This will include the scheduled breaks in play, for example at lunch, afternoon tea in a test match multi-day format, as well as at the drinks breaks and change-of-innings during all formats.
Ideally foods consumed should be high in carbohydrate (to keep your blood sugar levels topped up) and low in fat (to help with digestion). Consumption of fluids throughout the day are important to reduce the risk of dehydration and are especially important in hot conditions. Sports drinks may be of benefit to those actively participating, for example a bowler, batsmen and wicket keeper as they deliver carbohydrates, fluid and electrolytes.
Don’t overlook recovery nutrition
Recovery, at the end of play, should focus to repair, refuel, and rehydrate. This can be achieved by consuming carbohydrate and protein, ideally within the first 30 minutes, and water or other drinks (such as flavoured milk or a sports drink). The amount and type of recovery foods needed will vary depending on how active a player has been, with those players (e.g. bowlers and high scoring batters) expending more energy often requiring more carbohydrate and protein. Examples of suitable recovery foods include flavoured milk, fruit, sandwiches with lean meat or chicken and salad, a fruit based smoothie and cereal with milk. Nutrition is a key recovery component for all types of matches, but especially multiple-day fixtures and tournament style play – so don’t drop the ball with your nutrition at this time!