It starts before GAME-DAY!
Sleep is crucial. Be sure to get a minimum of 7-9 hours of good quality sleep the two nights prior to the event. According to The Sleep Foundation:
Sleep allows your heart to rest and cells and tissue to repair which can help your body recover after physical exertion. The changes in your heart rate and breathing that occur as you progress through the stages of sleep throughout the night also promote cardiovascular health.
Sleep prevents illness and helps you recover from illness. During sleep, your body produces cytokines, which are hormones that help the immune system fight off infections.
All of these restorative effects are important for athletes’ recovery and performance.
How Sleep Helps an Athlete’s Mental State.
Sleep helps everyone to retain and consolidate memories. When athletes practice or learn new skills, sleep helps form memories, and contributes to improved performance in the future. Without sleep, the pathways in the brain that allow you to learn and make memories can’t be formed or maintained.
Loss of sleep is also associated with a decline in cognitive function. This can have adverse effects on athletes whose sport requires a high level of cognitive function, such as decision-making and adapting to new situations. Just as exercise can help improve or maintain mental health, sleep is important for maintaining an athlete’s mental health. Quality sleep is associated with improving overall mood, preventing irritability, and decreasing depression and anxiety.
How Does Sleep Affect Athletic Performance?
Both increased quantity and quality of sleep help athletes improve performance.
A Stanford study of men’s basketball players who extended their sleep to 10 hours a night found several positive outcomes. The players ran faster in both half-court and full-court sprints. Their shooting improved by at least 9% for both free throws and three-point shots. The athletes also reported improved physical and mental well-being.
Male and female swimmers who extended their sleep to 10 hours also saw many performance improvements. Reaction times off diving blocks were faster, turn times were improved, and kick strokes increased. Times swimming a 15-meter sprint also improved. Additionally, these athletes experienced improved mood and decreased daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
Varsity tennis players, male and female, who increased their sleep to at least nine hours a week also performed better. The accuracy of the players’ serves increased significantly from about 36% to nearly 42%. The players experienced less sleepiness as well.
Other studies of female netball players and male soccer players have demonstrated that sleep hygiene education helps athletes increase their overall sleep time.
While quality sleep has positive effects specifically on athletic performance, a lack of sleep is detrimental to performance. A great number of concerns can arise when athletes do not receive adequate sleep:
Inhibited ability. In a study of male team-sport athletes who were sleep-deprived, avergae and total sprint times decreased.
Decreased accuracy. After sleep deprivation, male and female tennis players had decreased serve accuracy by up to 53% when compared to performance after normal sleep.
Quicker exhaustion. In a study of male runners and volleyball players, both groups of athletes exhausted faster after sleep deprivation.
Decreased reaction time. A lack of sleep adversely affected reaction time in a studied group of male collegiate athletes.
Difficulty learning and decision making. Executive functions are impacted by a lack of sleep. Choices such as passing the ball or taking it to the net yourself can be more difficult or made too late.
Risk of injury. Research of middle and high school athletes revealed that a chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased rates of injury.
Risk for illness or immunosuppression. Poor sleep habits are associated with lower resistance to illness, such as the common cold
Pre-hydration is a strategic way to gain an edge at your event. Here’s how you do it: About 2-4 hours before you exercise, drink between 5-10 mL/kg of body weight.
How do you find that magic number of mL?
Take your weight in pounds and divide by 2.2 to find your weight in kilograms.
Take your weight in kg and multiply by 5 and then again by 10. This is the range in milliliters you need to drink over the next 2-4 hours.
If you want ounces instead of milliliters, divide by 30.
Say you weigh 170 pounds. Dividing 170 by 2.2 = 77.3 kg. 77.3 kg multiplied by 5 = 386mL (the lower end of the range). Finally, 386mL/30 = 13 oz. 77.3 kg multiplied by 10 = 773mL (the high end of the range) or 26 oz. So…for about 2-4 hours before your event, sip on 13-26 ounces of fluid to be pre-hydrated.
You can also do this on the day before a big tournament. Drink about 8 oz every hour. No need to drink so much that you are urinating super often or your pee is really clear. Just drink enough to feel hydrated, refreshed, and ready to go hard!
MORNING OF FUEL
Breakfast is key – but really calories and protein are the necessities. Make sure to eat your pre-game meal three to four hours before the game.
Ideas for a balanced breakfast.
Egg white or Egg Beaters omelet with two slices of whole-wheat toast or a small bagel and fresh fruit
A bagel topped with turkey, scrambled egg whites, and cheese, served with fresh fruit or a low-calorie juice such as Tropicana 50, or light cranberry juice and water
A smoothie made from one cup of fruit, 20 grams of protein (such as one cup of non-fat Greek yogurt, one scoop of protein powder, and/or two tablespoons of nut butter), one cup of spinach or kale, and one tablespoon of ground flax or chia seed.
If you CANNOT eat because of a nervous stomach, try a protein powder mix in something palatable (like a “milk” type product). Skratch Labs Sport Recovery Mix makes a great breakfast option if food isn’t appealing.
TIMING YOUR FUEL.
3 - 4 hours before your game.
Eat your pre-game meal (above) with a healthy balance of calories and protein
20 minutes before your game.
You have been practicing so you should drink some electrolyte mix and top off your glucose levels. Use accessible (bio-available) glucose like Skratch Labs Sport Hydration Mix to keep your levels steady throughout the game.
Glucose is a key aspect of athletic performance and overall health.
Levels of blood sugar that are too high or low can hamper athletic performance and have negative consequences.
One of the key determinants of athletic performance is the body’s metabolic flexibility—the ability to use both glucose and fat optimally for energy.
When you work out, your body requires glucose and free fatty acids to generate energy. This sugar is sourced from the blood, the liver, and the muscles. It is stored in the form of glycogen in the liver and the muscles. In the first 15 minutes, the sugar is acquired from the bloodstream. After that, the fuel is glycogen from the liver. Half an hour into the workout, the source of energy is fatty acids. Exercise can thus exhaust your sugar and glycogen stores. The body restocks these reserves, but depending on how strenuous the exercise was and the duration of the exercise, it may take 4-6 hours.
Hydrate with electrolytes and restore glucose loss with Skratch Labs Sport Hydration Mix. If the window between games is more than an hour, protein and fat are both necessary to help recover so you're ready to rock the next game. Take a bite of a Skratch Labs Anytime Energy Bar, grab a bag of Skratch Labs Sport Energy Chews, and/or mix up Skratch Labs Sport Recovery Mix. Stay away from high (white/high fructose corn syrup sweeteners) sugar, and fatty and salty foods that will hamper your performance.
This is also a great time to find a quiet place to reflect on your previous game and what key components you will focus on in the next game. Try to keep a low energy output and actually focus on recovery. Don’t stand in line waiting for food as that can be stressful. Listen to motivating music and chat with teammates but resist running around and wasting your valuable energy *until the end of the day.
At the end of the day.
Thank your coaches and teammates, and then continue to hydrate with Skratch Labs Sport Hydration Mix. If it has been really hot, or you have a tendency toward headaches or cramping, try Skratch Labs Wellness Hydration Mix. Be sure that you eat a solid meal within 40 minutes of finishing your last game. Choose energy-packed foods such as whole grain crackers with low-fat cheese, tortilla wraps with veggies and lean meat, hard-boiled eggs, vegetable or bean soups, small boxes of non-sugary cereal, fresh fruit, mini-whole wheat bagels with peanut butter, pita bread with hummus, or pasta with grilled chicken.
Gently stretch before bed and get a good night’s sleep of 7-9 hours, or even more, if you are a younger athlete.
Have a daily schedule.
Before you fall asleep, be certain your bag is packed with your equipment and you know what time you need to wake up, what time you need to eat, what time your bag and body need to be in the car, what field your first game is on, and where you are meeting your team. Have your bottles already made up (and keep them in the fridge) and have your LaxSnax (including chews, bars, and protein mix) organized and mapped out for the next day.
Get ready for your optimal performance tomorrow!