Whether you are a beginner or a high handicap polo player, the right nutrition can have a big impact on your performance. Eating after a polo match is essential to kick-start the process of muscle growth and repair, which in turn has an impact on your fitness and sporting performance. Therefore, what you eat is as important, if not more so, as the exercise itself.
A good meal after polo helps you:
- Replenish glycogen stores in the liver and muscles.
- Repair muscle micro-tears to speed recovery.
- Replenish electrolytes and minerals lost through sweat.
To make sure you recover everything you have lost through sweat, and to speed up the recovery process, it is vital to maintain rehydration during the half-time periods of the polo match, as only when you are hydrated can you better convert carbohydrates into glycogen.
Carbohydrate or protein?
Ideally both. After a couple of chukkas it is important to get a good mix of carbohydrates and protein to help your body recover properly. Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy, so they are the most commonly used to fuel any high-intensity exercise or sport, so it is important to replenish this reserve. Protein, meanwhile, is just as important, as it provides the body with amino acids to rebuild muscle, making it stronger and faster. However, too much protein can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, so it is important to try to maintain a balance.
How much should you eat after playing polo?
Ideally, three to four servings of carbohydrates should be consumed for every serving of protein. As for the amount of protein you need, experts recommend taking between 15 and 20g of protein after a match that has been intense.
When to eat after polo?
Ideally within half an hour. During this period of time, the muscles will be more receptive to protein and will be better able to replenish glycogen. However, eating immediately does not work for everyone, and is not essential. It will take your body more than 24 hours to fully recover, so as long as you try to eat something as soon as you can after the match, and snack regularly throughout the rest of the day, all is not lost.
To get the most out of any exercise, it is essential to eat a complete diet. As much as possible, try to avoid processed foods and prefer those that are natural.
If you want to satisfy your cravings for something sweet, fruit is an excellent choice. Avocado, bananas, pears and watermelon are especially beneficial after a polo match, for different reasons. Watermelon, for example, contains lycopene, which helps reduce muscle soreness. Kiwis, meanwhile, are full of potassium and magnesium, as well as antioxidants.
- Trail mix
A handful of nuts can help kick-start the recovery process with a healthy mix of protein and fat, as well as some calcium and zinc to help support bone health.
- Chicken or salmon
Chicken breast is ideal because it is a lean protein, with low levels of saturated fat and a good amount of omega-6 fatty acids. It is nutritious and, as a source of lean protein, can help with weight loss and muscle maintenance. Salmon, often described as a superfood, is another great source of lean protein and is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which help the heart and blood pressure, as well as reducing inflammation.
- Beans and pulses
Beans and pulses (such as chickpeas, lentils or edamame) are healthy for gut bacteria and can also lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Plus, they're packed with protein for a plant-based option, and they're also full of fibre.
Eggs offer a very healthy mix of protein and healthy fats. They also contain all nine amino acids, meaning they are a complete source of protein, making them ideal for any post-workout session.
- Greek yoghurt
Greek yoghurt is especially beneficial after training polo because it contains a lot of protein and is also a source of calcium.
Beets are high in nutrients and low in calories. They have been linked to brain health, inflammation and blood pressure. They have also been reported to increase blood flow and oxygen to muscles, making them ideal for after playing polo, and potentially helping to boost performance when consumed before a polo match.
Foods containing quercetin, such as broccoli, onions, apples and berries, also reduce inflammation.
If you want to help your body recover and develop after a polo match, which in turn helps improve your performance, then you have many food choices that make a significant difference. Choose the ones that suit you best and observe the change in your performance during each polo match.