Refuel for competition or training

The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports recently held its first sports conference and one of the many topics discussed was sports nutrition.

It has been pointed out that with strength and conditioning, adequate rest and optimal nutrition are some of the important facets that make an athlete an elite athlete.

But whether you are an elite or just a casual athlete, there are certain nutritional principles to follow when it comes to meals and when to eat. Pre-game, match or training meals are intended to fuel athletes’ energy and muscles during exercise, as well as to prevent hunger.

As a nutritionist, I tell athletes, my clients and my friends that the best fuel before a game or a long workout is high in carbohydrates, moderate to low in protein, and low in fat. I also advise them to avoid fiber as well, to avoid stomach discomfort or bloating. The closer the time to training, the more emphasis should be placed on fast digesting carbohydrates.

Some rules to follow are:

1. A full meal with around 80 grams of carbohydrate should be eaten three to four hours before the event.

2. As you get closer to the event or workout, the amount of carbohydrate decreases.

3. Using slow-release carbohydrates (highly branched cyclic dextrin) or adding protein to a meal can help slow the rate of carbohydrate absorption and increase the length of time you can use them.

4. Also be sure to consider electrolytes for hydration which aid in the absorption of carbohydrates.

5. If you have an early game or practice session, think about the meal you had the night before. This needs to be factored into the equation as it will also fuel your fuel for the next day.

6. The first matches or practices should be fueled with about 30 grams of carbohydrate five minutes before the event to maintain energy and blood flow to your muscles.

(Make sure it’s something you can keep: a powder in 6oz of water, or my favorite – Welch’s fruit snacks are ideal).

7. If you can’t eat before a game or practice, I highly recommend a liquid carbohydrate for training fuel.

8. Breathe deeply for a few minutes to allow your body to come out of the fight or flight and accept the food to be used as fuel.

The numbers are averages and you need to consider your body weight and activity level or hire a nutritionist to get an accurate nutrition plan for maximum performance.

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Richard V. Johnson

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