Important Dietary Advice for Cricketers

My 19-year-old son is a cricketer and goes out for training early in the morning on an empty stomach. Is this the right thing to do or should he eat something before he leaves?

Research has shown that training on an empty stomach gives rise to a situation, where stored glycogen (storage form of glucose) in the muscles and liver becomes low and this can impair performance. We are fasting through the night from dinner onwards and the blood glucose levels are very low. When you start exercising you need energy like a car needs petrol to run. If you are empty stomach then glucose stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen gets pulled out for use and one will feel very exhausted and performance goes down.Sub optimal liver glycogen levels will severely affect those in endurance sports like cricket, tennis, etc., as well as gives poor performance in high intensity competition. So this may even affect his run taking or bowling which is high intensity for those moments.

What is the ideal food to be taken before an event or early in the morning?

As Sports Nutrition Consultant for the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore we have insisted that everybody drink a glass of milk and eat a banana before they leave for training early in the morning. A pre event meal must be high in carbohydrate, non greasy and easily digestable. Sugar and flavoring like Bournvita, Horlicks, etc., can be added to the milk. Other suggestions are toast and jam with a glass of milk or cereal (cornflakes) with milk. The reason for suggesting a banana is because a banana supplies glucose and fruit sugar - fructose to the blood in just 20 minutes. Regular sugar- sucrose and sugar in milk -lactose are absorbed into the blood only after 45 minutes.

I am 14 years old and have been in cricket camps for the last 2-year. I drink only 2 liters of water a day. Is this enough for a cricketer?

While counseling young cricketers in the academy one of the biggest reasons for fatigue that I see is poor water intake. A normal person requires 8-10 glasses or 2-2 and a half-liters water daily. If you are training and playing daily then you are sweating more than normal people do and you have to drink more water or you will be like a plant that is not watered sufficiently. It does not die but is drooping and withered. You will be tired and exhausted easily.
Research has also shown that a person's mental capacity to calculate numbers is lower if the body is not fully hydrated. As a cricketer you are always making mental calculations and you have to be properly hydrated if your brain wants to perform at its highest level.
So your body and brain need the water, 3-4 liters is minimum. You need to consciously drink water, even above your thirst signals. Don't gulp it down, keep sipping half a glass of water at frequent intervals so you don't feel heavy when you run.

Guidelines for Proper Hydration

  • Drink at least (200-400ml) 1-2 glasses fluid 2 hours before practice or competition.
  • Drink at least half- one glass fluid just before exercise
  • Drink half glass fluid every half an hour while training or during a competition.
  • Drink at least 1-2 glasses fluid immediately after exercise
  • Drink 1 glass fluid with each meal and between meals (e.g. between breakfast and lunch)

Aerated drinks (cola's) and alcohol, are best avoided during competitions as their high calorie content causes dehydration rather than hydration. Coffee / tea too have a dehydrating effect. Dilute fresh fruit juices with glucose or sugar and a pinch of salt are a good choice.

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