Competition volleyball is played indoors on a wooden surface (it also exists as an outdoor sport – beach volleyball). Depending on the level of competition a match is played over 3 or 5 sets of 25 points, won with a 2 point advantage, with the final set 15 points. The duration of a set varies between 20-30 minutes. Therefore a match can last anywhere from 1hour to 2.5 hours. Short breaks between each set as well as time outs over the match provides plenty of opportunities to recover and refuel.
A typical week may consist of at least 3 training sessions focusing on court skills, plus weights sessions to build strength as well as one competition match. Competitions may also be a tournament format where several games will be played in one day.
A general healthy eating pattern is essential for a fit and lean volleyball player. Diets should be based around nutritious carbohydrates, lean protein sources as well as fruits and vegetables. Individual requirements will be determined by frequency of training, size of athlete and adjustment for growth in younger athletes and should be discussed with an Accredited Sports Dietitian.
Adequate hydration is essential for optimal exercise ability, skill execution and decision making and therefore can significantly affect volleyball performance. The aim is to start any exercise session or competition well hydrated. This requires drinking regularly throughout the day leading up to training or competition. Aiming for regular amounts of pale yellow urine over the day is a useful indicator of good hydration status. Include a drink with all meals and snacks. Immediately before the training or competition begins, players should aim to consume 200-300 ml of fluid. This not only helps with hydration, but also prepares the stomach for accepting fluids throughout the game.
Staying adequately hydrated is important during longer games and in hot weather to maintain performance. It is important to maintain good hydration through regular fluid intake, and to replace any fluid debt accrued during training or a match. Water is a good option, although a sports drink may be beneficial if playing for longer than 1 hour. Environmental conditions and individual sweat losses are the main determinants of fluid needs. Volleyball is usually played indoors in a controlled environment although, players should be aware that they can still lose significant amounts of body fluids when playing these venues. An easy way to estimate fluid needs it to more weigh-in before and after a game. For more details see the Fluids in Sport factsheet.
Eating before competition
A meal or snack should be consumed in the 2-4 hours prior to the start of activity. Food and fluid choices should be familiar to the individual to avoid unexpected problems (e.g. stomach upset). Athletes who struggle to eat solid foods close to the start of a match could try replacing meals with liquid carbohydrates (e.g. meal replacement, sports drink, juice) may help to avoid stomach upset. Carbohydrate loading is not essential due to the low level of aerobic activity and available time to eat between or within a game or training session. High carbohydrate ideas that can be eaten before matches include:
- Bowl of cereal with low fat milk and a banana
- Tub of yoghurt with fruit salad
- Sandwich or roll with meat/chicken/fish/cheese or peanut butter
- Creamed rice and a piece of fruit
- Toast or English muffin with spread
- Pasta with tomato based sauce
Eating and drinking during competition
During a match lasting less than 1 hour water is an appropriate fluid choice. Games of longer during may require sports drink as a source of carbohydrate as well as fluid. Alternatively, carbohydrate rich, easy to digest snacks such as fruit, cereal bars or sports bars can help to top up muscle glycogen (fuel) stores.
Competition venue facilities may not have suitable options to meet nutrition needs so players need to plan ahead and pack their own snacks, especially during tournaments. Some suggestions for portable snacks to eat between matches include:
- Fresh or tinned fruit
- Muesli or nut bars
- Trail mix with dried fruit/nuts/seeds
- Sandwich with honey/jam/ banana
- Milk or juice ‘poppers’
- Tub of low-fat yoghurt/custard
- Creamed rice tins
- Crackers or rice crackers
Recovery after training and competition can be accelerated by consuming a meal or snack containing carbohydrate to replace muscle glycogen stores; protein to speed up muscle repair and fluid to replace sweat losses. Ideally a recovery meal or snack should be consumed within 30-60 minutes of finishing training or competition. This is particularly important when several games are played in succession to maintain optimal performance right through to the end of the tournament.
A snack followed by a meal of carbohydrate and protein provides the necessary components for recovery. Some recovery snack ideas include:
- Sandwich with meat, fish or cheese with fluids
- Yoghurt and fruit with fluids
- Milkshake, Fruit Smoothie or Sustagen