Sports Nutrition

Whether you are preparing for a marathon or looking to improve your physical activity, it is essential to understand the ins and outs of sports nutrition. In order to put yourself in a position to succeed in your respective sport, you must take the necessary steps to train effectively. This includes understanding  your energy systems, the recovery process, hydration, and supplementation.

The end performance is the result of how you fuel yourself. Dr. Snell, an exercise physiologist and triple Olympic gold medal winner, said, “Athletic performance ultimately depends on the capacity to produce power for the duration of an event, and on the efficiency with which that energy is translated into movement. The aim of training is to improve the energy delivery systems according to the demands of the event.”

Carbohydrate Intake Before Event

When it comes to preparation, it is important to fuel before and after in order to maximize the recovery process. Carbohydrates (CHO) are the most abundant source of food energy in the human diet. CHO will increase glycogen levels and improve performance when consumed before exercise. Consuming CHO before an exercise may also help to improve the recovery process post exercise. Carbohydrates are key because they are your best friend for endurance.

How to Approach the Event: Leading into the week of the event you should exercise taper. The day before should include inactivity most of the day and a high CHO intake (generally 3-4/kg BW greater than their normal intake). Compared to fasting, consuming CHO before exercise increases glycogen levels and improves performance. Eating pre-exercise and during exercise may also improve performance. Here are the recommended guidelines on how you should be consuming the carbohydrates before the event:

Quantity: 2-4g/kg BW

Timing: 2-4 hours before event

Type: Familiar and appealing (low fibre)

It is important to trial this before using it on the day of the event.

Carbohydrate Intake During Event

It is not necessary to consume any CHO for the first 45 minutes of the exercise. During the sustained high intensity exercise (45-75 mins), it is recommended to take small amounts which can include mouth rinse. During the endurance and intermittent exercise (lasting 1-2 hrs), you should be taking 30-60g of CHO. During ultra endurance exercise (>2hrs), the recommended CHO intake is up to 90g/hr of multiple transportable sources. A recommended source of CHO intake is sports gel pouches. They are convenient as you are able to fit it in your pocket and consume the adequate amount of carbohydrates in between activities.

Carbohydrate Intake After Event

In order to enhance recovery, you need to ensure a rapid glycogen replenishment after exercise. For a passive recovery, your usual daily intake over 24 hours would be sufficient. For a rapid recovery (<8 hours between fuel demanding sessions), the recommendation is 1.2g/kg BW/hr for the first 4 hours after the event. If less CHO is consumed, co-ingestion of protein (0.2-0.4g/kg BW/hr) along with the CHO will replenish glycogen levels to a similar rate.

Protein is also critical for your energy system. The male daily protein intake for a moderate intensity endurance athlete should be 1.2 g x your body weight. The female daily protein intake for a moderate intensity endurance athlete should be 1.0 g x your body weight.   As far as timing goes, you should be consuming the protein 60 min before or straight after a workout. The protein per serving should not exceed 20g. Anything more will be oxidised and used as energy. Lastly, hydration is essential for your endurance. The daily water requirement is 35ml/kg.BW, PLUS: 0.5-1L/hr of exercise. In order to be hydrated, you must ensure the adequate consumption of minerals. These minerals include sodium (e.g. table salt), potassium (e.g. fruits and vegetables), magnesium (e.g. dark leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds), and calcium (e.g. dairy, dark leafy green vegetables, nuts, and seeds).

Overall, this is a general overview that does not go into specifics for a sport. The recommendations can vary on the intensity of the respective sport or type of training. It is important to do some research on your own, but if you follow these guidelines you should find success in the exercise and recovery process.

Written by Jason Nowak