Volleyball Nutrition

The key to peak performance volleyball nutrition is pre-game fuel, inter-match replenishment and consistent glycogen building; keeping the ball airborne means keeping the players fed and hydrated 24/7. The estimated calorie expenditure per minute for noncompetitive and competitive play is found in Table 1, below.

FOOD ENERGY

Calories used per minute of play for various weight athletes

Level of Play 117lbs 123lbs 130lbs 143lbs 150lbs
 Competitive 7.8 8.2 8.7 9.5 10
 Non-Competitive 2.7 2.8 3 3.3 3.4

Food energy or calories from foods and fluids are not uniquely different from other power team sports. A high carbohydrate diet of approximately 50-65 percent of total calories fuels both anaerobic and aerobic energy needs. The type of high carbohydrate foods that meet these needs include fruits, veggies, whole grain cereals, breads and pastas and low-fat dairy. Ten to 25 percent of calories from protein provides additional power strength for muscle repair. Main meal foods such as lean meats, chicken, turkey, fish, nonfat cheeses, dairy and egg whites or Egg Beaters, or protein-fortified smoothies or trail mixes can meet these daily needs. Less than 30 percent from healthy fats are recommended for managing ideal competitive weights and can be met through “seasonings” or snacks of nuts, nut butters, fish oils, avocado, soy and vegetable oil-based salad dressings.

While carbohydrates are key to performance, special attention should be given to mineral-rich carb choices to manage electrolyte losses from sweating. Replacement of sodium, potassium with sport drinks, lightly salted foods such as baked chips or pretzels, calcium fortification with low-fat dairy snacks such as nonfat milk or yogurt and iron-rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, fortified cereals, beans or peas, can assist with energy utilization, efficient muscle contraction and prevention of hyponatremia (low blood sodium) and hypokalemia (low blood potassium), which can impair performance. In addition, antioxidants (vitamins E and C from a combination of nut and fruit snacks) have been shown to assist in muscle repair and recovery in competitive athletes.

Volleyball nutrition is not complete without addressing fluid intake. The typical volleyball player may lose up to one or more pounds during practice, or the equivalent of 16 oz of fluid. Therefore, a minimum of two cups of fluid prior to playing, 4-6 oz of fluid every 15 minutes of play and an additional two cups of fluid after practice should be consumed to manage symptoms of dehydration. Athletes training and residing in warmer climates need to ensure round-the-clock hydration in order to prevent the cumulative effects of dehydration on training and performance.

TAKING VOLLEYBALL NUTRITION ON THE ROAD

The challenge to peak performance during competitive match means getting enough nutritious food while traveling. Players should prepare by taking a stash of sport or breakfast bars, shakes, sport drinks, crackers, trail mix, healthy soups like vegetable, bean, noodle or minestrone, small cereal boxes, fresh fruit and mini bagels on the bus or plane. Pre-game meals should be light in fat, moderate in protein and carbohydrate-based. Pasta with grilled chicken or shrimp, lean meat with baked potato or a lean meat, mayo-free six-inch whole-wheat sub will also work two to three hours before game time. If extra fuel is needed before play, a cup or two of sport drink, water with half a sport bar one hour before play may help the hungry player; however, whatever foods are consumed before competitive play should be tested beforehand in practice.