Fitness & Handball

Nutrition for performance is dynamic. Scientists work continuously to isolate new, safe and effective nutrients, discover new functions of uses for known nutrients. To help to improve physical fitness in general or to improve performance can greatly depend on the proper nutrition of a person. A sport specific plan for example can tell you how much of each nutrient you should take, how to structure your diet so your body can meet your energy requirement.

In every sport the muscles use energy to perform. There are 3 energy systems that the body relies on during a physical activity. In every sport a variety of skills are used and each skill utilizes a unique combination of these 3 energy sources. Here is a general description of the 3 energy systems.

Immediate Energy System: Also known as anaerobic alactic energy system. It provides bursts of energy of high-speed or high-resistance movements that lasts less than 10 seconds. There is no oxygen used in the creation of energy, instead the energy is created from adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and creatine phosphate (CP). CP is produced in the body and is stored in the muscle fibres. It is than broken down by enzymes to regenerate ATP. When the ATP is in turn broken down, the result is a spark of energy that triggers a muscle to contract.

Glycolytic Energy System: Also known as anaerobic lactic energy system, provides medium-term energy for activities that lasts more than 10 seconds but less than 2 minutes. No oxygen is used during energy production. Instead, the energy comes from glycogen. Glycogen is stored in the muscles and in the liver and when energy is needed the body converts glycogen back to glucose.

Oxidative Energy System: Also known as aerobic energy system. This system provides long-term energy for activities that are continuous or require prolonged intermittent efforts. The body uses oxygen to oxidize long-chain fatty acids, protein and glucose to generate energy.

Energy requirements for Handball players

The following information is a guideline only. Athletes, who want to optimize their performance, should consult a reputable sport nutrition expert for advice.

Playing handball involves a wide range of skills and movements. A handball player is in constant movement during the game, making sudden stops, turns, jumps, pivots and sprints. He or she must be a combination sprinter, jumper and thrower to execute these fundamental movements. In term of energy requirements, a handball player is a combination of a power and middle-distance athlete.

A handball player will use mainly the immediate and the glycolytic energy systems to provide to the muscles, and use only about 20% of the oxidative energy systems. The following should be kept in mind when considering nutritional support for a training program:

  • Consuming high-quality protein is important to help the muscles in a faster recovery and also to help the adequate repair of damaged muscles.
  • Fat is not an efficient energy source for power and middle distance athletes. Keep fat intake to a minimum. (Fat has about 9 calories per gram. Protein and carbohydrates have only 4 calories per gram).
  • Carbohydrates are the major source of energy for short-term activities. Eating high-quality carbohydrates will ensure an adequate supply of energy. Complex carbohydrates are the best source.
  • If energy stores become depleted, or there is lactic acid build up, then an athlete can suffer a temporary muscle fatigue. It is important to refill the glycogen stores in the muscles and liver before the next workout. If there is not enough glycogen the body may begin to break down muscle tissue for the protein it needs for energy.
  • Consume low-glycemic-index foods about 2-3 hours before workouts or a game to help to keep blood-sugar level up.
  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration decreases performance. Stored glycogen also requires water; with every ounce of glycogen 3 ounces of water is stored.
  • As a power and middle-distance athlete, training should be anaerobic on a regular basis. Intensive or training to exhaustion also stimulates increased storage of glycogen in the muscles and in the liver, which then provides additional energy for greater exercise capacity
  • Eat five to 6 meals a day. It is better to eat smaller portions and more often during the day than eating 3 large meals. Smaller and more frequent meals will keep blood sugar levels stable during the day and will ensure that a supply of protein is always available for the muscles.

Target macronutrient ratio:

Preseason and season: