On the run up to a big polo tournament the focus is on preparing the horses for optimum performance - are they fit enough? Are they well rested? Have they been properly fed?
But what about the rider?
It is essential to be fuelled correctly for optimised energy levels, focus, reaction time and decision making.
So what types of foods should riders be consuming and when?
Pre Tournament (48 hours before)
Your body naturally chooses the most easily accessible food group for energy and this happens to be Carbohydrates. Make sure that you have stocked up on enough ‘carbs’ 48 hours before your tournament in the form of sweet potatoes, potatoes or brown rice. These sources of carbs are easy on the digestive system so won’t give you any bloating or lethargy unlike pasta or bread.
India recommends a Chilli with brown rice, broccoli and spinach as a pre-tournament meal
It is key to stay hydrated especially on the run up to a big tournament.
Quick Tip - Drink water before you eat anything. It takes 5 minutes for water to enter the bloodstream but can take unto 120 minutes if you have already eaten (as the stomach has to digest the food first).
India recommends you sip on water throughout each day, aim for half of your body weight in ounces of water a day. Another way to stay hydrated is to eat fibrous foods as they take a while to be digested allowing more time for the body to extract more water.
During the Tournament (in-between each chukka)
During cardio-based sports you will lose a lot of salt through sweat. Salt is used in the body to retain water in the cells - if levels are low your body can’t retain water and you become dehydrated. Make sure to have a few gulps of salted water in-between your chukkas.
I’m sure eating is the last thing on a rider’s mind during a tournament but it would be a good idea to munch on a snack in-between chukkas. Aim for easily digestible snacks such as a bite of a banana or a handful of berries.
After the Tournament (24 hours)
Just like your ponies, your body is now low on energy stores and you may be feeling hungry and lethargic. You want to replenish these stores within 2 hours after playing - consider consuming a banana, a handful of nuts or a protein bar). Later on in the day ensure you consume lots of water plus a good amount of protein, carbs and veggies!
Protein helps to repair the muscles and sates your appetite. Good sources are chicken, turkey, beans, nuts, eggs. The average person should consume between 0.8 - 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight (depending upon activity levels).
Vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals which aid in recovery and strengthen the immune system. Aim for a rainbow of veggies on your plate with an emphasis on the green kind - broccoli, spinach and kale.
India recommends roast chicken, sweet potato, and lots of steamed veggies as a post tournament meal