Guest post by Anita Bean
Whether you are a competitive athlete looking for those ‘marginal gains’ or you simply enjoy working out for fitness, a great nutrition plan will help maximise your performance. It can help you train harder and longer, and speed your recovery between sessions. Here are a few tips to keep you well fuelled:
1. Fuel up
Of all the foods you could have before a workout, prioritize ones rich in carbohydrates, especially if you will be training for longer than one hour. Include some protein (chicken, fish, cheese, egg, beans) as well as a small amount of fat (olive oil, cheese, avocado) in the meal. Both help lower the overall glycaemic index (a measur
e of how rapidly the blood sugar levels rise) of the meal, provide sustained energy and improve performance. A meat and veg stew with potatoes; a pasta, tuna (or bean) and veg bake; or a chicken & veg stir-fry with rice would be ideal.
2. Eat 2 – 3 hours before exercising
The optimal time for your pre-exercise meal is 2 – 4 hours before training. If you work-out at 7pm, plan to eat between 3 and 5pm. No time to eat a meal? A granola bar; a slice of toast with peanut butter; a handful of nuts and dried fruit; or a banana 30 minutes before you train should give you enough of an energy boost.
3. Begin well-hydrated
It’s important to begin each workout properly hydrated if you want to put in a good performance. Aim to drink 5-7 ml of fluid per kilogram of body weight about 4 hours before exercise – equivalent to 350 – 490 ml for a 70kg person.
4. Avoid dehydration
If you’re exercising for less than an hour, there’s no need to consume anything other than water during your workout. For most conditions 400 – 800 ml per hour will prevent dehydration as well as over-hydration. Listen to your body and drink when you are thirsty.
5. Fuel on the go
If you’re working-out for longer than an hour, consuming carbohydrate either in the form of a drink or as food provides your muscles with a ready supply of blood glucose for immediate energy. This spares glycogen stores and helps you to train longer. Aim for 30–60 g of carbohydrate per hour – equivalent to 400 – 800 ml cordial (diluted 1 to 6), or an isotonic sports drink; 2 bananas or 50g dried fruit. If you’re exercising hard for longer than 2 – 3 hours, a dual energy source drink (glucose and fructose) may help increase your stamina.
6. Replace fluids
Weigh yourself before and after your session to get an idea of your fluid losses. The International Olympic Committee recommend drinking 600 – 750 ml of fluid for each 0.5 kg weight lost.
If you plan to exercise again within 24 hours, begin refuelling within two hours of your workout. Your recovery snack should contain carbohydrate to replenish depleted fuel (glycogen) stores, as well as 20 – 25g protein to repair and rebuild the muscles. Milk (all types), flavoured milk and low fat milk shakes are ideal, or make your own recovery shake from milk, fruit and yoghurt. If you don’t plan to exercise the next day, simply ensure you get enough protein and carbs over the next 24 hours.
Food for Fitness 4th ed by Anita Bean
The new edition of this book is the ultimate resource for anyone who is serious about sport or fitness. It has been updated to include the very latest nutrition research for exercise and performance. Food For Fitness dispels popular myths and gives you the tools you need to reach your maximum performance, as well as 65 easy, delicious recipes, and sport-specific menu plans.