Volleyball is a fast-paced, highly demanding sport that requires strength, speed, skill, and endurance. In order to optimize training and performance, athletes need to utilize proper nutrition and hydration strategies. Since volleyball is mostly an anaerobic sport, players should be conscious of adequately fuelling their bodies before, during, and after competition.
When players are working hard during practice or a game, they lose a significant amount of water through sweat. Failure to offset these losses can negatively affect a player’s performance and potentially their health. During training, the typical volleyball athlete loses between one to two pounds of liquid, which is equal to about 16 ounces. It’s easy to forget to drink water, especially if you don’t feel thirsty. However, there are ways to make sure you stay hydrated and ready to play:
###Bring a water bottle with you wherever you go
Staying hydrated is a 24 hour, round-the-clock job. Having a bottle on hand will give you constant access to water as well as remind you to drink up.
1. Drink even when you’re not thirsty
1. Feeling thirsty is your body telling you that you are already dehydrated. Therefore, gauging your fluid needs based on thirst is a poor strategy.
1. Make a schedule. A good guideline for fluid intake is at least 16 ounces of fluid before playing, 4-6 ounces every 15-20 mins during play, and 16 ounces after.
1. Hydrate with an electrolyte drink pre-game, on the court, and post game. Electrolytes help muscle neurons as well as brain neurons fire correctly. Electrolyte-rich drinks, such as Gatorade, Accelerade, and mix-in powders are easy to find and will help replenish your body’s depleted levels after play.
1. Avoid drinks that dehydrate. Stay away from soda, sugary drinks, and coffee (switch to tea instead for that caffeine fix). These manufactured beverages will not help you out.
Making good nutritional choices for pre-game eating is essential. Your pre-game meal is largely the energy source that you will draw from during the match. Since volleyball requires explosive movements and quick bursts over a long period of time, carbohydrates are an important nutrient to help players stay energized. Carbo-loading, which should be about 50% of your plate, should be supplemented with lean protein (~20%) and healthy fats (~30%). Good carbohydrates can be found in pastas, cereals, whole grains, fruits, and veggies. Examples of proteins are lean meats, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, and dairy. And nut butters, avocados, olive oil, and full fat yogurt are all great sources of high-fat foods that will fuel you for your game.
![Volleyball Nutrition Pie Chart](http://www.coachup.com.s3.amazonaws.com/training_center/volleyball/Volleyball%20Nutrition%20Pie%20Chart.jpeg)
Get creative, but not too creative. Although concocting the perfect pre-game meal requires a lot of trial and error, you don’t want to be experimenting with unfamiliar foods right before the game. Stick to what you know makes you feel energized and ready to play. Additionally, make sure you have your pre-game meal about about 2-3 hours before the match, so that you are not hungry and also not too full to compete.
###During the Game
Luckily, volleyball offers many opportunities to refuel during play. If a match lasts longer than usual or you are really pushing yourself during play, you may get hungry. Make sure you have snacks packed away in your sports bag for that extra energy boost. Power bars are always a good snack to have on hand, especially those that contain lots of carbs. If eating while exercising makes you feel queasy, an energy drink is a good substitute, as it will provide calories as well as the sodium and potassium lost through sweat.
After a long volleyball match, the post-game meal is often discarded. However, timing this meal properly and being conscious of what you eat right after play is crucial. Playing in a volleyball game causes your metabolism to speed up, and it maintains this elevated rate until about an hour after you stop. During this period, the body is more efficient at storing carbohydrates and proteins, aiding in muscle repair. So, it is extremely beneficial to consume a large, carbohydrate-dense meal within the hour following the game to optimize recovery.
Pro tip: chocolate milk also makes a great recovery drink because it is delicious and has a great carb to protein ratio.
Volleyball is a tiring sport because it combines both agility and endurance. The team who wins is often the one that outlasts and outplays the opponent, down to the final point. To maximize performance, it is very important to be conscious of what you are putting into your body on a regular basis, but especially when it comes to game time. As a volleyball athlete, being aware of your body’s needs can prevent fatigue, keeping you playing harder for longer.
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