About Touch Football
Touch Football is a sport played widely in Australia, both recreationally and competitively. Teams are comprised of up to 14 players with 6 on the field at any one time. Player substitutions are unlimited throughout the game. It is played in men’s, women’s and mixed competitions.
Competitions are run year round with matches being played over two 20-minute halves separated by a five-minute interval, though other time frames are often used to suit local conditions and competitions.
Competition is usually played over a weekly competition or a tournament format Touch football tournaments may require players to play up to three to four games in a single day. During seasonal competitions, games are played at least once a week, with several training sessions per week.
Similar to other forms of rugby, while running forwards the ball has to be passed backward and the aim is to place the ball in the touchdown zone. The game requires intermittent short sprints as well as agility, ball handling skills and good knowledge of tactical moves.
Unlike rugby union and rugby league, defending players do not tackle but only have to “touch” the ball carrier. This means that there is less muscle damaged caused by physical contact which impacts nutritional needs. After a team incurs six “touches” while attacking the ball, it is turned over to the opposition.
It is important to eat a diet that has adequate amounts of carbohydrate to help ensure muscle glycogen (stored energy) levels are topped up to fueling fast sprints and assisting in training, performance and recovery. Importantly, carbohydrate needs much be matched to training loads – on days of heavy training carbohydrate needs are higher than rest or active recovery days.
Lean proteins are also important for muscle repair and recovery, carbohydrate appropriately timed for fuel. In addition, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains provide important vitamins and minerals, along with some healthy fats.
Individual nutrition requirements will be determined by training load, specific athlete needs, training goals, body composition goals, health and adjustment for growth in younger athletes.
The fluid needs of players during training and games can be high because of the high intensity “stop and go” style of touch football.
Multiple games on competition days also increase the risk of dehydration as a fluid deficit from one match can be carried into the next.
Studies have shown that dehydration can negatively impact performance including accuracy, speed, agility concentration and co-ordination – all important characteristics for successful touch football play.
Starting training sessions and matches well hydrated is essential. In order to stay hydrated, players should drink fluids should before, during and after training and matches. However, body fluid needs will depend on individual fluid losses, which vary depending on individual sweat rate.
Some other tips to stay hydrated during training and competition include:
- Have a drink with all meals and snacks in the lead up to exercise – this will help to start the session well hydrated.
- Make the most of opportunities during breaks in training or substitutions and half time intervals in matches to have a drink.
- Water is an appropriate fluid choice for most training sessions and matches. However, sports drink may provide valuable carbohydrate to improve performance and delay fatigue if playing multiple games in a day.
- Athletes should remember that during summer competitions, fluid losses are greater and deserve special attention.
Eating before competition
It’s important to start games well-fuelled – especially in tournament settings. Each athlete is different, but players will often eat a pre-game meal around 3 to 4 hours before the start of the match. This meal should contain some carbohydrate for fuel as well as some fluids for hydration. A small amount of protein in the pre-game meal is also useful, as it can help to prevent hunger during the game.
Players should practice eating pre-match meals and snacks before heavy training sessions to determine their preferred options and never try anything new on competition day.
Some suitable pre-game meal ideas can include:
- Ham, cheese and salad wrap or roll
- Bowl of muesli with yoghurt and berries
- Baked beans on toast
- Toasted focaccia with roast vegetables + cheese
- Lasange or simple pasta dish
Depending on the time between the last main meal and start of the match, an additional small snack 1-2 hours prior to the game may be necessary. This should be light but rich in carbohydrate and relatively low in fat and fibre so it is easy to digest.
Some suitable pre-game snack ideas include:
- Yoghurt with dried fruit and nut mix
- Fresh fruit or fruit salad
- Rice cakes with vegemite and cheese
- Muesli bars or sports bars
If solids don’t sit well before a game, or players are very nervous, a liquid source of protein and carbohydrate such as a fruit smoothie can be a good option.
Eating and drinking during competition
As touch football is a game of repeated high-intensity sprints, fast decision-making and ball-handling skills it is important to maintain good hydration levels and adequate fuel (carbohydrate) supply for performance.
Since a game lasts less than an hour, eating in the half-time break is not necessary. If playing multiple games in a day, it is important to between games. Athletes should not rely on the venue to have good choices available and should arrive at the ground with snacks. Some suggestions include:
- Fresh or tinned fruit
- Muesli or sports bars
- Trail mix with dried fruit/nuts/seeds
- Flavoured milk tetra packs
- Wholegrain crackers with cheese
- English muffins with jam/peanut butter/avocado
- Sandwiches with simple fillings
- Creamed rice
Hydration is most important during a game, high-intensity exercise leading to potentially large sweat losses, especially heavy sweaters and/or in hot conditions. At half time, during breaks in play and when on the interchange bench, players should sip from a drink bottle to keep fluid intake up to avoid dehydration. Sports drink can be useful for between matches as it tops up energy levels as well as assist with hydration needs.
Recovery meals and snacks should contain carbohydrate (fuel), some protein (for muscle repair and development) and plenty of fluids and electrolytes to replace sweat losses.
A recovery meal or snack should be consumed soon after exercise period, particularly when the next training session or game is the next day. Fluids (mainly water) should also be consumed, based on estimated sweat losses.
Some recovery food suggestions include:
- Egg, avocado and salad wrap
- Dairy-based fruit smoothie
- Poached or scrambled eggs on toast
- Chicken burritos with cheese and salad
- Homemade pizzas with ham, cheese and veggies
Other Nutrition Tips –
- Be organised Players should have snacks ready to go at the stadium as it can be difficult to rely on the venue to provide appropriate choices.
- Alcohol is common after matches, especially in tournaments and social competitions. It should be remembered that alcohol can impair recovery goals and exacerbate injury so it is best to limit or avoid all together after matches.