Are you training for a triathlon, ½ marathon or long bike event? Are you confused about what to eat? Or interested to maximise your performance with the right timing? Let’s look at the basics of sports nutrition.
Eat like an athlete?
Even though the science of nutrient timing and specialised supplements is highly honed for elite athletes, it’s a different story for everyday exercisers or general training. To optimise performance and recovery, and get a weight-loss boost, it pays to time your nutritious meals and snacks around your sessions, not automatically add more food or specialised sports supplements in.
Basically, you want some nutritious carbohydrates on board before most sessions to make sure you have adequate blood glucose and glycogen stores to help you get through your workout.
As a rule of thumb, if you rise and shine early for activity, you don’t need to eat before you head out. Eating your regular oats or poached egg on wholegrain toast before your session isn’t a wise move because it might lead to stitches and digestion problems. However, if you find your energy levels regularly flagging at your 6am road cycle, try ½ -1 piece of fruit as you’re pulling on the lycra. For activity later in the day, try having your regular lunch or a substantial snack about two hours before exercising. In many cases, an appropriate-sized meal like the Dineamic salmon risotto with 57.5g carb and 18.4 g protein or snack eaten before training means you can work out harder and will most likely see better results.
After your workout
Professional sportspeople may go straight to the ice bath and sip a protein shake while their dietitian prepares a perfectly balanced recovery meal. But the rest of us just need to grab a nutritious snack or meal within 30 minutes of finishing exercise. It should include nutritious carbohydrates like fresh fruit, wholegrains, legumes or reduce fat dairy foods to replenish glycogen stores and energy levels, plus high-quality protein like a boiled egg, dairy foods, or lean red meat, fish or chicken in a Dineamic meal. High quality protein will help to repair muscles and minimise stiffness. That means you won’t be too sore to get up and go again tomorrow!
Practice makes perfect
As your training schedule continues and the big event day gets closer, aim to practice your food and drink strategy as part of your training. How many water bottles will you need? Will there be drinks stations? When will you stop? Are you packing portable foods like bananas? Can you eat while riding? Or running? Are you using sports gels or supplements? Trialling your food and fluids will help identify any issues like digestion problems and make everything smooth sailing on the day.
For more information visit www.sportsdietitians.com.au
By Karen Inge – Accredited Practising Dietitian