We used to think of food as being physical fuel, to power our bodies sufficiently for the workout ahead. While this is still 100% true, the power of food goes beyond this. It can play a crucial role in our mental clarity – helping us make the right decisions on the court at the right time and amazingly in recovery and injury prevention.
Time to delve into what to eat before a netball game.
In the field of nutrition, new research is emerging all of the time and it’s worth saying that every player is different. Our bodies all work in different ways, what fuels one player before a training session or netball game might not work for you.
It’s all about trial and error, if you find a meal that you feel fuels you well for a netball game, stick to it. If you’re up for experimenting with what food fuels you, go for it.
Our top bit of advice here would be to be selective when you try new foods, before a big game or netball trial isn’t the time to experiment!
In this blog, we look at what to eat before a netball game with advice from International netballer Natalie Metcalf.
It is intended as a gentle guide, and we’ll only be skimming the surface in terms of what a netball diet looks like. Glancing at the different food groups and how they help your body as well as some tips on how to manage your food intake before a netball game. It is aimed at netballers, who take part in one to two hours of high-intensity exercise a couple of times a week and want to take their netball nutrition seriously.
For further reading and recipe inspiration, we can recommend The British Nutrition Foundation and The Happy Kitchen cookbook.
The main role of carbohydrates in physical activity is to provide energy. And netball athletes take note – if your diet does not contain enough carbohydrates, it is likely that your performance and recovery will be impaired, as carbohydrates are the key fuel for the brain and for muscles during exercise.
The number of carbohydrates you need will depend on the type, duration and intensity of the netball activity you’re doing that day. As a general rule, if you’re taking part in netball training and games for between one and three hours a day you should be looking to consume 6 – 10g of carbohydrates per kg of body weight per day.
Good sources of carbohydrates to eat before a netball game are:
- Wholegrain pasta
- Brown rice
- Rye bread
- Sweet potato
The wholegrain options listed above are our preferred sources of carbohydrates as they have a lower GI (Glycaemic Index) compared to their white counterparts. This means they release sugar more slowly into the bloodstream preventing the sharp fluctuations in blood sugar that can make us tired. So, for hour-long netball games and longer training sessions, think wholegrain when you think of fuel.
Protein is a must for any netball athlete expecting their body to perform at a high intensity over and over again.
Protein boosts glycogen storage, reduces muscle soreness and helps to promote muscle repair. We’re fans of consuming a portion of protein at every mealtime and also recommend spreading out protein intake throughout the day.
Not only is protein crucial in muscle repair, but the building blocks of protein are amino acids and they are important for our brain function by helping us make neurotransmitters. Put simply, a neurotransmitter is a chemical messenger that carries, boosts, and balances signals between neurons (also known as nerve cells) and target cells throughout the body. These target cells may be in glands, muscles, or other neurons.
Billions of neurotransmitter molecules work constantly to keep our brains functioning, managing everything from our breathing to our heartbeat to our learning and concentration levels. And when you think of the physical and mental skills required during a netball game, neurotransmitters are a crucial part of a netballer’s toolkit. If you enter the final quarter with a sharp mind and body your dieting is working for you.
For netball athletes, doing one to three hours of intense exercise a day, the amount of protein consumed should be around 1.2 – 2.0g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
As with most foods, the timing of consumption is important with protein. Between 30 minutes and two hours after training or a match, it is recommended to consume 15-25g of protein (depending on body weight) alongside some carbohydrates.
Although they may be useful for convenient protein intakes around exercise, protein supplements can’t provide all the different components found in protein-rich foods so a ‘food first’ approach is always our preferred way to take in protein.
Eating protein after exercise helps the body to recover which in the long run helps to prevent injury.
Good sources of protein to eat before and after a netball game are:
- Chicken (free range where possible)
- Eggs (free range where possible)
- Almonds (keep a stash in your netball kit bag)
- Protein bar (keep a stash in your kit bag)
In small amounts, fats are our friends. Our brain is made up of about 60% fat – so put simply, the brain needs some fats and it’s important to consume the right types. The main ones to remember are the Omegas, and the most important one in the family is Omega-3, closely followed by Omega 6 and 9.
The fats to avoid are saturated fat and trans fat – essentially any man-made fats.
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid and studies have found that it can work to reduce inflammatory reactions meaning consuming more Omega-3 could help you in recovery from injury and in injury prevention!
Good sources of fat to eat before a netball game are:
- Oily fish (mackerel herring sardines, fresh tuna)
- Chia seeds
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, this is only a gentle guide and should serve as an introduction to your food and exercise research. As a general rule, we try to make sure that our plate is made up of a good mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat – give a third of your plate to each food group with a slight preference for carbohydrates given the intensity and power needed by an athlete during a 60-minute netball game.
Natalie Metcalf’s Netball game Day Menu:
Welcome to my match day menu!
Recently I shared a blog looking at what to eat before netball training which gave an example of a typical Thursday “training mode” menu.
Now it’s time for the match day fuel plan.
It’s really important for me that I fuel right in the build-up to game day, to ensure I have enough energy to get me through a big intense match. As I mentioned in my previous nutrition blog, what works for me, might not be right for you though so please bear this in mind.
I also mentioned that building a healthy balanced diet is important for me, as well as routine. I want my body to know what to expect on a game day – food and hydration-wise. In all honesty, I keep it really simple on netball game days – no new exciting foods, until after the game at least!
My netball game-day menu:
Let’s take a look at what my game-day menu generally looks like. This is for a game with a first centre pass at 6 pm:
|Scrambled eggs on 2 pieces of sourdough toast
|Game day coffee! Flat white with oat milk – yum!
|Stretching session. Yoga or just a general stretch – see what your body feels like that morning
|Chicken with rice and vegetables (normally broccoli and peppers)
|Smoothie time – mixed berry smoothie (raspberries, blueberries and blackberries with banana, greek yoghurt and a dash of honey)
|Leave to drive to the game (in this instance this would be a home Superleague game in Manchester)
|Arrive at the venue, walk and gently stretch
|Activation, into warm-up
|Water and 2 x energy gels are normal for me in a game
|Milk and protein recovery drink containing 20g of protein
|Post-match meal of chicken with rice and vegetables
That’s a typical match-day menu for me. On a match day, smoothies are a great way to boost my carbohydrate intake – this can help support my endurance performance and ensures I have high levels of energy output throughout the game.
There you have it – that’s typically what I eat before a netball game.
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog on what to eat before a netball game and if you have any questions drop me a message on social media!
Nat Metcalf x
Natalie Metcalf’s advice on What to eat before netball training
In addition to eating healthily, netball players should stick to three other rules during the day of a big training session or netball game:
This might seem obvious, but most of us don’t drink enough water during the day, busy work and school schedules not allowing regular fluid intake. Drinking enough water throughout the day helps maintain mental clarity and allows the body to function smoothly. A rough guide for netball athletes is to drink between 1.5 and 2 litres every day, this is best consumed steadily throughout the day. The easiest way to tell if you’re dehydrated is to check the colour of your urine – it should be pale, almost clear and not dark yellow. Dehydration can lead to headaches and poor concentration – two things you definitely don’t want to be suffering from as the whistle goes for the first centre pass.
Give your body time to digest
This is super important for all netball players. Netball is a high-intensity sport with changes in direction, jumping and leaping thrown in. All these movements put huge pressure on your body and the last thing your body needs to be doing as it’s leaping up and down and from side to side is digesting food. Aim to eat at least two hours before a netball match to give your body time to digest properly. We appreciate this isn’t always possible however so if a busy schedule means you have an hour or less, stick to eating little and often that day and make sure your “final” meal is a lighter one and a mix of carbohydrates, protein and some fats.
By boosting your energy levels through regular meals you’ll have more strength to exercise. For example, if you’re wondering what to eat before a netball game in the evening, see it as three opportunities to get your nutrition right during the day by balancing the number of carbohydrates, protein and fat you consume at mealtimes. If you leave fueling your workout until the last meal before your netball game, it’s likely you’ll feel sluggish and full which is far from ideal when your teammates need you to be firing on all cylinders.
You do you
There’s a lot of advice online about what you “should” eat and it can be overwhelming. Balance is everything. If you’re getting a good mix of the food groups mentioned above, eating colourful plates, and eating healthy snacks you’re on the right track. That’s not to say certain foods are off-limits, here at Elite Netball Academy we also enjoy eating chocolate, the odd packet of sweets and bacon sandwiches! You’ve got to enjoy what you’re eating and hey, some jelly babies at halftime will always go down well with your teammates.
Food is important, it fuels our bodies, our minds and should be enjoyable too. Netball is a high-energy sport and we want you to be at your very best in every training session and during every match so if you pay attention to what you’re putting in, you’ll get more out.
We hope you have enjoyed this article on what to each before a netball game and a huge thank you to Natalie Metcalf for giving us an insight into her typical training day netball diet.
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About Elite Netball Academy:
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