Feb 15 , 2019

Referees must consider themselves as sportsmen, and for all practical purposes the advice given to players regarding the best foods and fluids to obtain top performance applies equally to referees.  Much of this material will be familiar to those of you who have been involved in such events as 1/2  marathons and triathlons but it is worth repeating - knowing it is one thing, putting it into practice constantly is another.

Most referees do not appreciate the importance of taking sufficient fluids - before, during and after the game.  Dehydration can have serious consequences, both during a game and afterwards.  Fatigue and muscle cramps can be significantly alleviated if a proper fluid balance is maintained throughout.

Even on a cold day we all sweat a considerable amount, and we must drink before we feel thirsty.  Once we feel thirsty it is too late, we are already dehydrated.  A rough test of when we are properly hydrated is when the urine is clear, though certain exotic foods, medications and vitamin supplements can colour the results.

Water is the best fluid to hydrate with, although those who wish to can take an isotonic (electrolyte) preparation such as Replace or Restore or Staminade.  After the game, electrolyte, some fruit juice or even soft drink can help in the recovery process.  Up to several litres of fluid may be required.  Note, however, that excessive caffeine will mildly dehydrate you.

The subject of alcohol always arises.  As a general rule, don’t drink any alcohol after a game until you have had a pee.  Considering that unless you make quite an effort to restore your fluid balance after a hard hot game it could be an hour or two before you go to the toilet, then the sooner you drink enough water or whatever to have a pee, the sooner you can take that first beer.  This further emphasizes the importance of going into the game properly hydrated and staying hydrated throughout the match.  The main reason we must be careful with alcohol after a match is that it can itself seriously dehydrate the body cells - the "dry horrors" and "like the bottom of a birdcage" are apt descriptions of what alcohol does to the body.

As well, alcohol can also worsen any soft tissue injuries such as strained muscles and ligaments.


Before and after a game:

Referees should eat plenty of  carbohydrate the night before a game - pasta, potatoes, bread and rice are all good sources - and it should form the bulk of the evening meal, with vegetables, and a minimal amount of fat and meat (low-fat poultry or fish for preference).  For afternoon game small amounts of carbohydrates can be taken up to three hours before kick-off.

2. Half time - drink up to a litre of electrolyte drink at 5% - 10% maximum dilution

Plus a banana to help prevent cramp. 

3. After the game referees should get straight into the carbohydrates again, along with the fluids.  Sandwiches are a convenient way of achieving this, as well as fruit.  Eighty minutes of tearing around a field will have left your muscles screaming out for energy and the sooner this is provided the better for recovery.  As with replacing fluids, the food will assist in injury recovery and offset fatigue.

In General :

AVOID large amounts of fat - particularly saturated fats found in butter, many cheeses, cream, fatty meats, poultry skin, chocolate, rich desserts, pastries, cakes and biscuits, and most refined snacks (e.g. potato crisps) and fast foods.  Especially avoid foods that combine sugar and fat, such as ice cream, chocolate bars and rich desserts - they are thought to be particularly potent storers of body fat.

EAT most of your food earlier in the day 2-3 hours before exercise- your metabolic rate and ability to utilise kilojoules is greatest up until later afternoon.  Keep in mind that when sumo wrestlers try to increase their bulk, they consume a huge meal and then go to sleep immediately.

LIMIT your alcohol intake.  Apart from the dehydrating aspects, the fact that it destroys the body's vitamin B, that it can affect the liver, judgement, reaction time, vision, etc. etc. the kilojoules from alcohol are rapidly converted to fat.  One or two drinks a day is preferable to saving them up for a binge on Friday night.

AVOID extra salt.  The modern diet includes salt in many prepared food, so if you eat a "normal" range of foods you will be getting plenty of salt anyway.

INCLUDE plenty of high-fibre nutritious carbohydrates - include healthy breakfast cereals with a tablespoon of energy producing honey, pasta, rice or eggs on toast and fruits such as a banana or apple.  You will appreciate the energy these foods provide for your training sessions and matches, and recovery, as well as the assistance they give in maintaining high levels of concentration.

FLUID balance is essential for the referee.  Ensure you have sufficient fluid handy preferably and electrolyte drink before, during and after the game to stay properly hydrated.

MUSCLE is developed and maintained by exercise.  To exercise efficiently the muscles need fuel.  Quite simply, the premium fuel is CARBOHYDRATE.  It is crucial to eat or drink carbohydrate before and after a match.