2. Energy gels
Portable, easy to consume, and fast acting, sports gels are popular in endurance sports and are ideal for halftime rugby too. Just rip the top off and squirt the sweet, fruit-flavored gel into your mouth. Wash down with copious amounts of water. Ideal for away games, there are a variety of different sports gels available containing a range of ingredients, including caffeine, so make sure you read up on your chosen product to make sure it is right for you.
3. Flat coke
There is no school like old school, and this trick is very much from the days when sports nutrition was in its infancy. Take a can of regular, full-sugar coke, and then shake well. Open the can carefully and let the carbon dioxide gas escape. Keep on agitating and venting your beverage until it’s no longer fizzy.
Coke contains sugar and caffeine and, contrary to popular belief, caffeine is not the major diuretic that many of us have been told. In short, a can of flat coke, which contains around 35 grams of carbs and 160 calories, will not lead to instantaneous dehydration.
If caffeine makes you jittery, avoid this strategy as you may find it causes anxiety and interferes with fine motor skills.
4. Dried fruit
Dried fruit is tasty, sweet, and naturally high in many important electrolytes. Because it has had most of its water removed, all that is left is a concentrated source of fast-acting carbohydrate.
Readily available, dried fruit is a convenient half-time snack, but even though it’s fast acting, it will still take time to digest. Good choices include dried apricots, raisins, sultanas, pineapple, and mango. Some dried fruit is dusted with sugar making it even more energy dense.
Some people find dried fruit too acidic to digest comfortably so avoid if you have any such issues.
5. Pre-workout drinks
Pre-workout drinks such as Twitch Faster and Beet Elite are ideal for the halftime break. Containing ingredients designed to energize you in minutes, they boost your energy by buffering lactic acid, increasing blood flow, and, in some cases, with caffeine. Some pre-workout drinks are carb and calorie free so do not help with glycogen replacement. That’s easily remedied by adding some glucose powder to your carb and calorie-free pre-workout supplement.
6. Snack cakes
Snack cakes like Twinkies, Jaffa Cakes, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, and cereal bars might seem like unlikely halftime fodder, but they can work quite well. High in fast acting sugar, they digest quickly and easily, most people like them, they are widely available, and are portable too. While they won’t help you to hydrate and don’t contain much in the way of electrolytes, that is easily remedied by consuming a hypotonic drink at the same time.
Naturally high in both carbs and electrolytes, specifically potassium, bananas are a good halftime food providing you choose ones that are very ripe. The riper the banana, the higher its glycemic index will be, and the more digestible it is. Ripe bananas have brown splotches on their skin and are much softer.
8. Non-alcoholic beer
No, not a joke entry – non-alcoholic beer can help replace lost electrolytes, water, and glycogen. If you are an old-school player who cannot imagine halftime without a brew or two, drinking non-alcohol beer could be a decent compromise. However, avoid unpleasant gas issues by opening your beer before kickoff so it’s flat by halftime (4).
9. Jelly beans
Jelly beans and other high sugar confectionery can provide a quick hit of glucose energy in a very easy to digest form. Weighing in at around 20 grams of carbs and 100 calories per one ounce serving, a small handful is all you need. Consume with plenty of water to replace lost fluids. Avoid confectionary with a high-fat content, such as chocolate, as fat inhibits digestion.
10. Energy bars
Energy bars such as Cliff Bars, Power Bars, and Quest Bars are all loaded with fast-acting carbohydrates that are ideal at halftime. Some are very chewy and can be hard work – especially if allowed to chill, while others are soft and taste just like candy bars. Look for bars that provide around 200 calories and at least 30 grams of carbs or consider eating two less substantial bars. Consume with plenty of water.
What if you can’t stomach much food or drink?
Not all rugby players can tolerate food or drink at halftime, finding that, if they try to force feed themselves, they end up feeling sick or bloated. If you find the idea of eating or drinking at halftime a major turn off, consider carbohydrate mouth rinsing.
Simply mix up a 10% concentration carb drink, with optionally added caffeine, and rinse it around your mouth for 30 seconds or so just before you return to the pitch. Studies reveal that this simple trick can help increase peak power output and performance during repeated sprint activities such as rugby although the exact mechanisms are, as yet, unconfirmed (5).
Halftime is not a time to switch off and recover passively. You need to make sure you stay warm, tune in to what your coach has to say and take care of your energy, water, and electrolyte requirements. With ten tried-and-tested strategies to try (plus carb rinsing), you should be able to find at least a couple of options that will work for you. Remember though; game day is NOT the time to try a new halftime recovery trick; experiment with these protocols during training first.
1 - Glycogen and Resistance Training
2 - The effects of fluid loss on physical performance: A critical review
3 - Influence of Hydration and Electrolyte Supplementation on Incidence and Time to Onset of Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps
4 - Effects of Beer, Non-Alcoholic Beer and Water Consumption before Exercise on Fluid and Electrolyte Homeostasis in Athletes
5 - Effects of caffeine and carbohydrate mouth rinses on repeated sprint performance