Healthy Habits

Performance Nutrition

Content provided by the GBS Health & Wellness Team

From the Dietitian’s Desk
With Becca Rick, MS, RD

The food and drink we use to fuel our sports and activities is an important and often overlooked part of training, particularly for those with athletic goals. Food is energy, and staying adequately and consistently fueled allows the body to function at its best and makes exercise much more enjoyable. At a high-level, carbohydrates give energy, especially during longer activities, and protein helps repair and build muscle. Drinking water regularly and adding electrolytes when sweat loss is high or activity is long is necessary for staying hydrated.

Whether training for an endurance race, playing a favorite sport, or testing the waters with a new form of exercise, consider using the following guide to fuel your next adventure:

Pre-Workout Fuel

Eat a filling, well-balanced meal two to three hours before the event or activity. Pre-workout recommendations focus on carbohydrates (breads, oats, pasta, rice, fruit), include a moderate amount of protein, and suggest low fiber and low fat as those substances tend to take longer to digest. If it has been longer than two to three hours since your last meal, try having a snack an hour before you exercise. Check out the overnight oats recipe this month for some tasty inspiration!

Mid-Workout Fuel

Our bodies use up energy and fluids quickly during endurance activities like running or biking. Sip on water or an electrolyte drink throughout, and have a small, easy snack that will provide fast energy like a banana, energy bar, or pretzels if the activity lasts more than an hour. Skip fiber-rich foods like vegetables or nuts as they may cause gastrointestinal discomfort if consumed while exercising at a moderate to high intensity. If out for a long hike or more casual bike ride, for example, pack a sandwich or snack on trail mix as more mixed foods are typically easier to digest during lower intensity exercise.

Post-Workout Fuel

Refueling is a key factor in recovery and is how muscles repair and get stronger. Refueling with a meal similar to the pre-workout meal structure is appropriate, though limiting fiber and fat is not necessary post-exercise. Carbohydrates replenish the energy used during exercise, and protein repairs and builds muscle. Be sure that whatever meal is chosen is both nourishing and satisfying. It may be tempting to reduce calories, but remember calories are fuel for the body. Consuming regular meals and snacks is the best way to keep your body ready for all kinds of activities and fun.

Adequately fueling performance will allow for the activity to be more enjoyable and for athletic goals to become more attainable. If you need more personalized support, consider making an appointment with a registered dietitian.

References
https://www.brooklynayso.org/pdfs/Sports-Nutrition.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5753973/

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