The AFL pre-season is characterised by high volumes of speed, endurance & strength training. The players train for five straight days, followed by two recovery days. Each training session has a slightly different recovery protocol. High running days and “double session” days require a combination of protein and carbohydrates to both refuel the muscles and start the repair process; for this, SiS REGO Recovery is utilised.
Protein is an essential nutrient for athletes undertaking weight training, for its role in promoting muscle growth and maximizing strength through maximizing the function of muscular contractile proteins. However, it is also critical to endurance athletes for its role in mitochondrial protein synthesis which helps the body adapt to endurance training. AFL has the unique physiological demands of being a predominantly endurance based sport which also requires the athletes to undertake repeated powerful high intensity sprint efforts, whilst using their strength to make tackles. So effectively, AFL athletes need muscle repair and growth, as well as, increased mitochondrial proteins for endurance training adaptation. Generally speaking, resistance training occurs on opposite days to running and skills and thus requires its own recovery protocol. For some of the team, the goal in the pre-season is building strength and also muscle size. These players will have a combination of protein and carbohydrates to assist in hypertrophy – for that they use SiS REGO Recovery + SiS Whey Protein and sometimes they will blend these with banana, berries and yoghurt to make smoothies. These athletes also have frequent consultations with the Dietitian to ensure they are consuming adequate energy, to provide a positive energy balance and promote the increase in muscle size. For others, the focus is increasing strength in periods of weight maintenance.
Immediate Post-Game Recovery
The key nutritional priorities for recovery after an AFL game include – refueling and repairing damaged muscle tissue. Additionally, the goal of protein in the post-game period is to negate protein turnover, which occurs as a result of muscle protein breakdown outweighing muscle protein synthesis. For these reasons, the protein should have a complete amino acid profile which is why I concoct my own ‘Recovery’ shake for the players using a combination of the SiS Whey Protein and REGO Recovery protein powders. Whilst the REGO Recovery has the carbohydrates for refueling, the Whey Protein has the higher BCAA content for muscle repair and regeneration. Depending on the time of day the game is played, I may also add a scoop of SiS Overnight Protein or the players may consume this as a separate shake later in the evening. In following-up on these ‘immediate’ recovery procedures, the team will often share a meal within 60mins consisting of tasty carbohydrates (e.g. sweet potato chips, roasted baby potatoes, street corn), lean proteins (e.g. burger patties, schnitzels, Shepherd’s pie) and vegetables (e.g potato salad, coleslaw, Greek salad).
Next-Day Continued Recovery
The day after weight training & games, the players are encouraged to keep their protein intake consistent over the day to assist in maintaining net protein balance. They are also encouraged not to overdo the serving sizes. They are encouraged to consume around ~20-25g of protein in most meals and snacks. These may include the following foods; smoothies, yoghurts, flavoured milk, tinned fish, boiled eggs and trail mixes.
During the season, the resistance training program’s goals are maintenance of both bodyweight and strength. Most player’s will consume SiS Whey Protein combined with either water or low fat milk after weights to negate protein breakdown and promote protein synthesis. Chocolate Whey Protein is still the most popular flavour.