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Match day nutrition tips for referees

Referee fitness
A professional referee can cover up to 10km in a game with a mixture of walking, jogging and sprinting at maximal intensity. While you may not be a professional, the correct nutrition on game day can have a positive effect on physical performance, which will reflect in your refereeing, allowing you to be in better positions to make crucial decisions. Elite referees have shown to noticeably increase carbohydrate intake on the day of a game, but research suggests they still don’t have enough to maximise repeated sprint performance.

The aim of a ‘pre-match’ meal is to top up your carbohydrate stores that have been used during your sleep and throughout the day. You should aim to consume an easily digestible meal, rich in carbohydrates (1-4 g per kilo of your body weight) 2-3 hours before kick-off.

Top Tip: It’s not always logistical to have a full ‘pre-match’ meal due to work commitments, so make sure you pack accordingly. An GO Energy Bar or GO Isotonic Energy Gel immediately before you start warming up can ‘top up’ carbohydrate stores and provide immediate energy.

A simple indicator of your hydration status is to check the colour and volume of your urine. If it is pale and plentiful then you are probably well hydrated (aim for lemonade colour); if it is dark (think apple juice colour) and low in volume then chances are you are slightly dehydrated. Note if you’re consuming large amounts of B vitamins or certain foods (e.g beetroot) they can affect the colour of your urine.

Solution: SiS Hydro
Going into a game in a hydrated state is critical to maximise physical and mental performance, key for decision making. SiS Hydro contains key electrolytes like sodium, which increase fluid absorption and retention, preventing excessive urinary volume. Consuming one the evening before a game and one in the 1-3 hours before a game will help hydrate you effectively. Guidelines suggest taking 5-10 ml of fluid per kilo of body mass. For a 70kg referee, this means taking on 350 – 700 ml in the hours before a game.

 During the game
As a referee, it is unlikely you will get the chance to take on fluid or fuel during match-play, emphasising the importance of pre-match and half-time nutrition. During half time, you have 15 minutes to refuel and prepare for the final 45 minutes. After the first half, your carbohydrate stores will be significantly depleted, providing that you prepared well. It is crucial that you take on energy and fluids during this time. While sweets and energy drinks may provide energy, this will take time to digest and may cause gastrointestinal distress when you start the second half. Below are some half time options to help provide sufficient energy, fluids and electrolytes.

Option 1:

250 ml GO Electrolyte

1* GO Isotonic Energy Gel/ Caffeine Gel*

Option 2:

500 ml GO Electrolyte

1* GO Caffeine Shot*

Option 3:

250 ml GO Electrolyte

1* GO Energy bar mini

*Caffeine helps decrease physical and cognitive fatigue. Caffeine intake is also related to decision making and reaction time, particularly when combined with carbohydrate

As refereeing involves periods of high intensity work, with high distances covered, sore muscles in the hours and days after a game are inevitable. Nutrition can help you adapt to the demands of refereeing and help you feel better sooner. A post-game nutrition plan will depend on when the game finishes. Follow these nutrition tips to help accelerate the recovery and rebuild process:

  1. Your metabolism stays lifted for around 30 mins –2 hours post-exercise, so consume REGO Rapid Recovery Plus as soon as possible after finishing, containing both protein and carbohydrate.
  2. Consume a full meal within 1-2 hours of finishing. This can be earlier if you plan on going to bed as soon as you get home (eveining games). Good choices include lean meats, high GI carbohydrates (e.g breads, rices and pastas) with plenty of vegetables.
  3. If your game finished late and you are only going to consume one shake after a game, then REGO Rapid Recovery Plus is the ideal option. However, it is beneficial to consume an Overnight Protein shake 30 minutes before you go to sleep to ensure you feed your muscles with a constant stream of amino acids needed for muscle rebuild.
  4. In the hours post game, aim to take on 150% of the fluid lost through sweating. Work this out by weighing yourself pre and post-game, or estimate this by weighing yourself pre and post training session under similar conditions. The difference is your sweating rate. Electrolyte solutions like Immune and SiS Hydro can help the body absorb and retain the fluid more effectively.
  5. Finally, make sure you get a good night sleep to allow adaptations to take place.
Written By

Professor James Morton

A professor of Exercise Metabolism at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and a Registered Sports and Exercise Nutrition Practitioner with the British Dietetic Association’s UK Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register (SENr), James is responsible for research and innovation at Science in Sport, overseeing the Performance Solutions Team.