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Do athletes pay enough attention to their nutrition needs?
In fact, a great diet cannot make an
average athlete elite, but a poor diet can make an elite athlete average.
This quote by Ron Maughan, a Scottish sport nutrition scientist, was
made as he stood at the start line of the World Cross Country running
championships in 1995:
Most people, athletes and non-athletes alike, tell me that they are aware of the importance of good nutrition, but when they sit down to eat, their eating patterns are often less than optimal.
One key problem is the lack of high quality carbohydrate in everyone’s diets. This is likely a result of the fascination with low carb dieting and the rapid weight loss that occurs. Unbeknownst to most is that the rapid weight loss initially seen on a low carb diet is water loss. For each gram of carbohydrate stored in the muscles another 3 grams of water are stored along with it. This “metabolic” water ensures that the muscle cells are well hydrated and can keep functioning optimally throughout your training sessions. One tough training session can use up a large chunk of your muscle carbohydrate (and muscle water) so it is not surprising that we see huge weight losses within a day or two of eating a low carb diet. But then comes the knockout punch – if you do not replace this muscle carbohydrate you lose the ability to train hard – so low carb eating is not for athletes or anyone trying to improve their fitness level.
Kenyan runners like to say, 'You must eat to train and race hard - not to get skinny'.
Low carb dieters remain convinced that carbs are responsible for weight gain – and this is confirmed when carbohydrate rich foods (usually breads) are eaten on a day off the diet and a 5 lbs weight gain in seen. The automatic assumption is that weight gain on the bathroom scale is body fat gain, which is actually physiologically impossible to do in one day. In fact the previously empty muscle carbohydrate stores have simply refueled – with carbohydrates and water. The associated weight gain is very transient in nature because the now ample supply of muscle carbohydrate re-energizes the body to be able to do higher-quality training and the muscle energy makes it easier to train for longer periods of time. Thee extra carbohydrates make you considerably fitter! Eating more – not less - is often a key way to improve performance.
Happy muscle cells are carbo-loaded!
Athletes who are “watching their carbs” may end up feeling tired and drained in no time. This disappears rather rapidly when they begin to stock up on carbohydrate rich foods. While carbohydrate rich foods are every athlete’s best energy foods this does not mean slurping away on soft drinks, stuffing in plates of pasta or wolfing down middle of the night brownies with ice cream. It means choosing just enough nutrient rich carbohydrate rich foods to meet training needs.
Follow these pre, during and post workout guidelines:
Pre-Workout Fluid & Food Guidelines:
Stick to your own tried and true favorites that fall within the guidelines suggested AND ensure that you are well hydrated BEFORE beginning your training/competition.
During Workout Fluid & Food Guidelines:
Post Workout Fluid & Food Guidelines:
The more glycogen you burn off the greater and more receptive your muscles will be to re-fueling. That means that the tougher a workout is (a function of intensity and duration), the more important it is for you to refuel...ASAP! To maximize muscle glycogen stores, carbohydrate rich foods should be consumed immediately after exercising. Timing is critical to restore muscle glycogen. Research shows that athletes who want to store maximal amounts of muscle glycogen for optimal training and peak performance should shift their intake of carbohydrate-rich foods to immediately after workouts. In fact the best way to rapidly replenish muscle glycogen is to eat or drink carbohydrate immediately after exercise. When carbohydrate is combined with protein, this muscle glycogen storage is enhanced post exercise. Skim milk, fruit yogurt or chocolate skim milk are ways to encourage post workout refueling with carbohydrate-protein combinations. Make your own power punch for recovery nutrition by combining fruit and/or fruit juices with milk or plant based beverages.