Fueling Your Passion: Ensuring Adequate Nutrition for the Athlete

Fueling Your Passion
Ensuring Adequate Nutrition for the Athlete
By Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

In this post, please note that another name for sugar is glucose.

Photo Credit: chuddlesworth via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: chuddlesworth via Compfight cc

Calling all athletes!

Whether you’re running the NYC marathon or your first triathlon, nutrition is an important key to performance excellence. Knowing the best foods to eat before, during, and after you compete is essential for a successful event and, of course, not “bonking out”! Here’s the lowdown for fueling your race.

 

2 to 3 days before the event:

Consume a meal consisting mostly of carbohydrates, moderate amounts of protein plus some amounts of fat; it’s the most favorable repast for athletes before entering a competition. Eat simple, easy to digest (lower in fiber) carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta approximately two to three days before you compete. Louis Burke, PhD, recommends this lower residue intake to minimize intestinal contents —and therefore prevent the need for bowel movements during the event.1 Eating this way is a key element of running free from bloat and gas during the competition.

 

This meal focuses on carbohydrates because they are digested faster than protein and fat, thus providing the muscles with adequate glucose (sugar) for glycogen stores (your body’s storage form of glucose). This gives athletes enough energy reserves to maintain higher and longer levels of intensity during the event.2 Adequate glucose storage in the muscles will prevent you from experiencing weakness and fatigue when participating in events requiring extra endurance.

 

Pre-competition meal:

Eating your pre-event meal three to four hours before the game or race is another key element to performing at your very best. A balanced meal will provide you with the maximum available energy you need for competition. Giving your body enough time to digest the meal is key.3

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Here are some good examples of pre-competition meals—to be consumed 3 to 4 hours before the event:

  • Cheerios with low-fat milk and fruit-flavored Greek yogurt with banana
  • Omelet with cheese and baked hash brown potatoes
  • White English muffin with avocado and hummus and an applesauce side
  • Bagel with natural peanut butter and jam
  • Turkey on white bread with a low-fat yogurt
  • White pasta with pesto and shrimp

 

 

Hydration: 2 cups 2 hours before—and 2 cups during!

Keeping yourself well hydrated both before and during exercise is essential to successful performance. Drinking two cups of fluid (8 oz. per cup) at least two hours before your event can be helpful in preventing dehydration. It’s also important to make sure that you drink another two cups of water for every hour you are competing.5 Preventing dehydration can keep you from feeling fatigued and can prevent your muscles from cramping during your competition. If you’re an athlete participating in an event lasting over an hour, you should also think about electrolyte depletion. Excessive sweating causes you to lose important electrolytes such as sodium and potassium—and can adversely affect your performance. To replace lost electrolytes, consider choosing a sports drink such as Gatorade which will aid in electrolyte repletion and rehydration. Sports drinks usually contain carbohydrates, sodium and potassium. Gatorade (and other sports drinks formulated especially for athletes include water, glucose/sugar and electrolytes) provides the ideal ratio for rehydration and repletion of electrolytes and glycogen stores.6

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Recovery foods:

Recovery foods to consume at your post-event meals are just as important as your pre-event meals. During exercise, your body breaks down its muscle glycogen stores. When your body uses the available glucose in your blood, it needs to switch to reserves. It can quickly break glycogen down into glucose which causes the glycogen stores to become depleted. Due to this breakdown, replenishing your body with carbohydrates is crucial for adequate recovery.7 Make sure you eat enough carbohydrates to restore the glycogen in the muscles that was depleted during the event. Protein will help to repair the muscles that were stressed. Antioxidants are also beneficial at this time; they aid in repairing any free radical damage that occurred during your intense exercise. In general, consuming carbs and proteins within thirty minutes of your workout is ideal for muscle recovery. This muscle recovery period will last for about 30 minutes to four hours post exercise.

 

Here are some post-event meal ideas to help you recover and prepare for your next workout:

  • Oat bagel toasted with almond butter and fresh strawberries
  • Whole grain wrap with grilled chicken, hummus and tricolor peppers
  • Whole-wheat burrito with white rice, beans and veggies
  • Grilled salmon and quinoa with steamed squash
  • Smoothie with low-fat milk, banana, peanut butter, protein powder and wheat germ
  • Spaghetti and meatballs with spinach

 

On average, it’s recommended that a female athlete (about 5’4” and 140 lbs.) consume approximately 500 grams of carbohydrates and 76 to 89 grams of protein per day. It’s recommended that a male athlete (about 6’0” and 180 lbs.) consume approximately 700 grams of carbohydrates and 98 to 113 grams of protein per day.7

 

Providing yourself with the proper energy foods both before and after your competition can make a huge difference in your performance. Eating a low residue, carbohydrate rich diet is important for your pre-event meal while eating within thirty minutes of a competition is crucial for your post-event recovery. What you feed your body both before and after competition can be the most important key for turning an adequate performance in your event into an excellent one!

 

What do you eat before and after an event? What foods work for your body? Do you have any secrets to your success that you can share with our readers?

 

Don’t miss out on our giveaway! Click here to enter for your chance to win some great fitness prizes!

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Looking for some great ways to stay active this Spring? Check out House of Jai’s fundraising event this Mother’s Day weekend benefiting Saving Mothers!

 

References:

1. “Conference Highlights.” Scan’s Pulse. Spring 2014; 33(2):16-18. 06 Apr. 2014.

2. “Pre-Event Meals.” American College of Sports Medicine. www.acsm.org. Accessed April 13, 2014.

3. Berning J, Neville K. “From The Sandlot to the Olympics Fueling Athletes A Key To Success.” Dry Bean Quarterly. Beaninstitute.com. 2014. Accessed April 6, 2014.

4. Berning J, Manroe M, Meyer NL. “Recommendations for Fitness Athletes on Food and Fluid Consumption.” Gatorade Sports Science Institute. Accessed April 13, 2014.

5. Jeffrey, K. “How to Hydrate Before, During, and After a Workout.” Active.com. N.p.n.d. Web. Accessed April 6, 2014.

6. Caldwell J. “Sports Drinks: Are they effective in improving Athletic Performance?”  Vanderbilt University Psychology Department. http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/psychology/health_psychology/gatorade.htm. Accessed April 13, 2014.

7. The Position Statement from the Dietitians of Canada, the American Dietetic Association, and the American College of Sports Medicine, Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research in the Winter of 2000, 61(4):176-192. Accessed April 13, 2014.

Is Vitamin Water the New Soda?

Is Vitamin Water the New Soda?

By Katherine Kaczor, Nutrition Assistant

We all know that sodas and other sugar beverages are not ideal for our health and should be consumed in moderation. As an alternative to these drinks, many Americans are now turning to vitamin-fortified waters as their beverage of choice.

These beverages, at first glance, appear to be wonder drinks. Water is key for survival and we need vitamins to help our bodies run efficiently; coming the two seems to be an ingenious way to get both needs at once.

But are these beverages really as good as they appear?

Most vitamin-fortified beverages such as Vitamin Water, Propel, and LifeWater as well as the new vitamin gums and lip balm are largely fortified with water-soluble vitamins. These include the B-complex vitamins and Vitamin C. While these vitamins are vital for several metabolic processes needed for growth, development, and immunity, most Americans are not deficient in these vitamins. Water soluble vitamins taken in excess are typically excreted through the urine. The human body is not capable of storing any excess amounts of these vitamins so supplementing the diet with one of these fortified beverages is not beneficial for most healthy individuals.

Fat soluble vitamins, Vitamins A, D, E, and K, on the other hand, can be stored for longer periods of time in the body. However, most Americans are not deficient in these vitamins either. Recent research has shown that only Vitamin E has been of concern in the average American. Very few vitamin-fortified waters supplement with Vitamin E, however. Additionally, fat soluble vitamins, as their name suggests, need a fat source to be absorbed and utilized in the body. This means that merely drinking them in a fat-free beverage such as a vitamin-fortified water, will be of little use in the body because the fat needed to use the vitamins is missing. One could potentially drink their vitamin-fortified beverage with a meal and the fat soluble vitamins could then be absorbed, but it would be likely that the meal would have a better supply of the nutrients than the vitamin beverage.

Additionally, the vitamin content of vitamin-fortified beverages, gums, and lip balm is typically not high enough to be a replacement for a standard vitamin supplement such as Centrum or One a Day. For the majority of these products, the vitamin content is around 10% of the RDA. If you have been placed on a vitamin-regimen by your physician, switching to vitamin-fortified water will not be an adequate replacement.

You also need to look at the other ingredients and nutritional content of these products. Many supply over 150 calories per bottle and are packed with sugar. You could easily just have a well-balanced snack for similar calories and have a better absorbance of nutrients and feel more satisfied. Lower-calorie or calorie-free products are now available as well they are filled with artificial ingredients and the vitamins in the product are not used well without an energy source.

That being said, most people would not benefit from using these products. Most Americans do not experience significant vitamin deficiencies if they are consuming a well-rounded diet. If some deficiencies exist many of the vitamins from these fortified products are not well-absorbed nor are they a good substitute for a traditional vitamin supplement. If you really enjoy the taste of vitamin-fortified beverages, there is little harm in having them on occasion (except for their outrageous price!) and they are a better alternative to sodas and will help hydrate you, but don’t expect to reap any health benefits from starting a vitamin-water regimen.

So, get your vitamins from food. Consume a balanced intake of whole grains, lean meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables and drink your water plain. If you dislike the taste of water, try adding a lemon or lime to bring out a new flavor.

References:

http://scienceline.org/2007/12/ask-intagliata-vitaminwater/

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=126087&page=1