photo credit: avlxyz
Despite reports to the contrary, it's quite possible to enjoy your club cricket tea, remain healthy and keep your performance levels up.
The mid-game meal is extremely important to cricket because, as Lucozade are keen to tell everyone, the right (or wrong) fuel can have a noticeable effect on your game.
Before we get into the food itself, what are the rules that lie behind the new high performance teas?
- Eat 1-3 portions of vegetables
- Eat lean protein
- Eat carbohydrates (bread, rice, quinoa, potatoes, fruit) and/or beans from sources that are unprocessed or less processed
- Cut back on the fat
- Eat whole, natural foods where possible
From both a health and performance view these tips work together to do several things:
The fruit, vegetables and unprocessed carbohydrates will supply your body with energy in the form of blood sugar (glycogen). Whether you have just come off the field or about to go on, your body will appreciate a steady supply of energy from carbohydrates.
This is best from natural, unprocessed sources because they contain the highest profile of nutrients that can become depleted as you play. Vegetables are also important in maintaining your acid-base balance.
Processed carbohydrate based foods like energy/sports drinks, white bread, sugar in your tea, pastries and sweets are best avoided. While these options are not the worst thing you can eat they are nutrient poor, can crash your blood sugar levels and don't contain much protein.
This brings me onto the need for protein sources at tea. Protein usually means meat or dairy. This adds flavour to your meal from nutrient-rich sources. It also combines well with carbohydrates to keep energy levels up, more so than carbohydrate alone.
Finally, it's important not to get too much nutrition from fat during tea. While natural sources of fat are important for health in everyday nutrition, you do not need it during play. Also, avoiding high fat foods usually also means avoiding processed foods, which is an important strategy in keeping your energy levels constant after tea.
Now you know the principles, it's onto some examples.
The food â€“ Buffet examples
As most teas are in a simple buffet style, it makes sense to give you some options for finger food that hungry players can stick on their plates. First up are the savoury buffet options.
Wholemeal bread sandwiches
photo credit: VirtualErn
Yes, the humble sarnie still has a place. Ideally you will make the bread wholemeal (not brown) and seeded. The filling will be a lean protein source (tuna, chicken breast) with a vegetable source (sweetcorn, lettuce). Flavouring will ideally come from spices. A little sauce or mayonnaise is not perfect but will not harm your performance.
Coloured peppers, cucumber and carrot sticks
Vegetable finger food is easy to eat, especially with a dip. While you need to watch what fat and/or processing that goes into the dip, you can fill your buffet with a range of bright colours from different vegetables. These are just three examples, let your imagination go and aim for as many different colours on display as possible.
Jerky is so good it's used by astronauts on space missions. It's high in protein, low in fat and has salty, sweet taste. It's very popular in the USA and is pretty easy to get in the UK these days. As a tea choice it works perfectly and it tastes so good you won't even realise it's good for you.
Limp salads are boring and not filling. With a bit of creativity you can easily overcome both problems. Flavour the salad with tuna, eggs, chicken or cheese (not just cheddar, I love feta salads) to get a dose of protein into the mix.
Then add any fresh or roasted salad vegetables. For example: tomato, cucumber, avocado, beetroot, carrots, fresh spinach leaves, red onion, spring onion, red cabbage or one of the many varieties of lettuce (iceberb is soooo out darling). Warm quinoa or oats also work well.
If you still feel you need something extra, add some dressing. Make it low fat and low sugar if you can although a little salad cream won't hurt.
The food - Dessert examples
photo credit: rick
Even people who say they don't like vegetables can usually stomach some fruit. You can eat stuff like bananas and apples on their own for a tasty supply of carbs. You can also go to town and make fruit salads with strawberries, kiwi fruit and a dash of lemon juice.
Dried fruit is another option as long it is not preserved in a lot of sugar.
These are easy to make, taste great but do require a little bit of pre-planning. I'm rubbish in the kitchen and have had success making the following bars from Precision Nutrition:
- Chocolate cranberry oat bars
- Peanut butter fudge bars
- Peanut butter banana bars
I highly recommend the Gourmet Nutrition cookbook if you want loads more recipes like these. Cook them at home, bag them up and lay them out at tea time (or keep them for yourself).
100% Cocoa chocolate
You read that right. 100% cocoa chocolate provides a rich source of antioxidants. The only problem is you have to go 100% Cocoa. Even the 85% stuff is loaded up with stuff you don't want. It has a very bitter taste which will not suit everyone but, hey, it's chocolate and it's healthy!
The food - Drink examples
Water is by far the best option at tea. I know most people love a cup of tea too. Green tea works best. Try and avoid sugary juice though. You are getting plenty of sugar from the natural carbs in your food anyway.
Some final notes
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- Use your imagination. The above are just a few examples. Use your imagination and follow the basic rules at the beginning of the article. You can be healthy without being bland.
- Don't skip tea. You will often find yourself at tea without these options. Do the best you can but never skip your food. It's always better to have something, even if it's light. You need for health, recovery and performance reasons.