Nutrition for performance! Tackling the Footy Pre-Season- The 3 P’s and how it is relevant to you!

This post is an important read, not just for athletes, but for all of you out there interested in improving  physical activity performance, whether it be to do a half marathon or just lift heavier weights at the gym. Nutrition is the key and having good nutrition before working out is important.

VFL Round 1 for my guys at the Sandy Zebras may be in March 2014, however preparations have well and truly kicked off down in Zebra land.

With many of our boys returning from decadent overseas holidays or coming back from uni celebrations and low training schedules, they have also come back with new body composition targets: either lose excess body fat OR gain more muscle tissue… or both…

With Christmas around the corner and their summer programs in the final stages of refinement with our strength and condition team, here are 3 key nutrition points I have been focusing on with our boys:

Persistence : Consistent meals and snacks.

View your core meals as opportunities that are too important to miss. A meal is an opportunity to nourish and support everyday basic living and training needs.

Snacks are further opportunities to fill in gaps that your main meals may have been lacking.  The structure of breakfast, lunch and dinner with 2-3 snacks in the day does eventually mean eating  5-6 times per day – key

Key message: don’t let these opportunities go missing!


Performance: Picking the best fuel for endurance, high intensity and strength:


To ensure you are getting the most out of your training sessions, it is vital to support the vital organs and tissues that drive how fast you go, how long you go, and how well you do it.

Your brain, muscles and cardiovascular system are sponges for glucose (which is the end product of carbohydrate digestion and your body’s preferred premium fuel source). Furthermore your muscles are the most metabolically active tissue in the body. If you have more muscle tissue- you will have higher requirements to not only maintain work output, but to keep that muscle mass there in the first place!

The higher the intensity and/or longer the duration of exercise- the body finds carbohydrate (glucose) the easiest to break apart, sustain energy release and keep you going.

My key message to our boys is to consistently supply your body with regular amounts of  quality carbohydrate throughout the day. Be sure to prioritise Low GI whole grains at your core meals to set a “baseline” of fuel, and then consider reaching for higher GI foods/snacks (eg. white bread, pike lets, crumpets) when you require a top up in energy pre and/or post-exercise.

Specifically,  the term “carbs” actually refers to the core food group of the breads/cereals/pastas/noodles/rice/starchy vegetables.  It should NOT be interpreted as ” eat excessive amounts of “insert singular enjoyable food of choice eg. white bread”- the key message is to include a VARIETY from this family. It may be the wholegrain muesli in the morning, it could be a wrap or sandwich bread or  rice/noodle based left overs for lunch, 1-3 slices of raisin toast pre-training or potato, pumpkin, sweet potato at dinner.

The key is variety for performance. Fuel  the tissues and organs that matter in exercise: your brain and muscles. The brain prefers glucose and glucose is a premium fuel source derived from breads/pastas/noodels/cereals/rice/starchy vegetables. Glucose is an optimal, “clean” and efficient fuel: therefore ideal for endurance and strength gains .

Remember: Performance requires carbohydrate.



The somewhat “super nutrient” of sports nutrition. It seems that all of my athletes and exercisers feel that they need to ‘fuel up’ on protein as soon as the tough gets going.

When it comes to protein, an Accredited Sports Dietitian sees proteins as building material for the body and is more focused on looking at the distribution and quality of protein rather than ONLY the total quantity of protein.

More protein does not necessarily mean better performance.

The analogy I use with my athletes and clients is:

Proteins are like bricks and energy (.ie. carbohydrates) are the bricklayers. You could have 1000 bricks, but if you only have one bricklayer, there is only a certain amount of bricks that the one bricklayer can pick up and put down to build a wall at any particular time.

If you are building muscle – yes be mindful of getting enough protein in- but spread the load and have an awareness of high biological value (HBV) protein foods (lean meats, eggs, dairy proteins) and have your bricklayers on a rotating roster, put more staff on (i.e. a good variety of carbohydrate foods) and you will get more work productivity i.e. more “wall” = more muscle

Regarding HBV proteins- it is merely a term which refers to mainly animal products. Prioritise dairy (its constituent proteins are whey protein and casein), eggs and lean meats over plant proteins (if you are not a vegetarian). They will give better bang for buck.

Particularly dairy, dairy is great as it contains whey protein. Whey protein  is a rapidly digested protein rich in branched chain amino acids- particularly leucine- which has been found to trigger and stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

If you are wondering about protein supplements, prioritise getting all your protein from foods. If you have eaten all your required foods and portion sizes from the food groups, then considering a supplement may be appropriate e.g. WPI protein powders and BCAA protein blends with enough leucine.

This information is the basics for protein intake and exercise- for more personalised recommendations to ensure you are having your protein at the right time, in the right amount and the right kind, then make an appointment with me here.

For more information on protein and amino acids visit the Accredited Sports Dietitians of Australia website.


Enjoy the holidays- work hard, work well. Remember to achieve pre-season gain, it really does come down to persistence over perfection. Each day is a new opportunity, each meal is an opportunity, don’t let them go to waste. ”


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