For a water polo player, the majority of the time spent at games and practice consists of high-intensity exercise. This means an adequate, nutritious diet is necessary to replenish what is lost.
Players should consume proteins, carbohydrates and fats in each meal they eat throughout the day. They should never skip meals, as this leaves their body starving for energy. The typical water polo player will require at least 3 meals each day. Because the body burns an excessive amount of carbohydrates when the athletes are in the water, it’s recommended that carbs should account for approximately 60-65% of their diet.
Eating Before Practice
Having a snack before practice will sustain a player’s energy levels, helping them maintain peak performance. If practices are early and it’s not feasible to eat a full breakfast, that doesn’t mean athletes should skip the meal altogether. Instead, you should eat something that digests quickly. For example, a fruit smoothie will digest in less than 45 minutes, making it a good choice for someone who doesn’t want to be bloated.
Everyone’s body reacts differently to food. It’s best to experiment with the kinds of foods eaten before intense exercise, as well as how soon before practice you can eat those foods.
Eating After Practice
It’s best to eat bigger meals after practice to help your body recover from vigorous exercise. This helps your muscles heal so they’re ready for more. Your muscles are best able to absorb carbohydrates 45 minutes after activity, so don’t wait too long before you eat. If you’re not hungry for a big meal, it’s still important to eat a well-balanced snack so your muscles aren’t starving for nutrients. Then, eat a bigger meal when you have more of an appetite.
Snacking throughout the day can help curb hunger and provide your body with additional nutrients. However, don’t fill up on sugary snacks that are high in fat. Donuts and cookies may taste good, but foods with high fiber content and complex carbohydrates are better for an active body. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are great options.
Hydration is also important. For athletes who perform in the water, it’s not uncommon to forget about drinking water. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to make sure you’re hydrated. Drink water throughout the day. For especially intense games and practices, opt for a diluted sports drink or fruit juice.