Q: How should I eat in preparation for workouts and sporting events? – Thomas M.
A: Nutrition before a strength training workout or sporting event can determine your level of performance. There is no difference in the nutrition needed for a workout or sporting event under an hour and a half, because the activities are very similar in their demands. Most sports and strength training activities rely on the anaerobic energy system, meaning short bouts of movement from 10-45 seconds. Having the right nutrients available during these bouts of exercise is going to be essential to your performance.
The secret to exercise energy
The nutrient that provides the energy that gets muscle moving is glycogen. The most efficient and fast way to get glycogen is by eating carbohydrates. If glycogen isn’t available from carbs, the body will pull from less efficient sources of energy – protein and fat. Relying on protein and fat to provide the glycogen will make you feel sluggish and tired during your activity. To have the maximum amount of glycogen available for your workout or sporting event – in order to perform at the highest level – glycogen needs to be stored from carbohydrate eaten before the activity.
How do you make sure that glycogen is available from carbohydrates when you workout? Eat them before your workout. A full meal three to four hours before your workout with carbs, protein and fat should help get the glucose into your system that will be converted to glycogen. Ideally, you’ll also drink a shake or smoothie 30 minutes before your workout with a 4:1 carb to protein ratio. The shake should contain somewhere between 200-300 calories. If you are working out in the morning just after waking up, you need to do a shake, meal replacement bar or small meal.
The importance of proper nutrition
The people who most often fail to practice proper nutrition before activity are those who need it most: children, young adults and people trying to achieve a healthy weight. Parents need to be more educated about nutrition and teach these principles to their children. Kids who are in sports need to understand how and when they should be eating to make their practices and games more productive.
People trying to achieve a healthy weight need to make sure they have eaten correctly to build lean muscle mass and have the calories they need when they workout. When you are trying to obtain a healthy weight, you are going to be in a calorie deficiency for the entire day. But be pro-active: put the right nutrients into your body before your workouts and immediately after. After a workout, you want to make sure you eat or supplement with a protein shake that has a 1:1 carb to protein mix.
We have a motto that we teach our clients: “Do the little things really well and you will be successful.” Proper nutrition before a workout is a little thing, but can create huge results.