Wellness Articles

Pre-Game and Post Game Nutrition

Nutrition tips offered by Vitality Clinic

In this final article on sports nutrition, pre and post game nutrition is discussed.

Pre-Game Nutrition
What you eat several days before endurance activities affects performance. Your food the morning of a sports competition can ward off hunger, keep blood sugar levels adequate and aid hydration. Avoid high protein or high fat foods on the day of an event, as these can stress the kidneys and take a long time to digest. Empty your upper bowel by competition time.

General guidelines
1. Eat a meal high in carbohydrates.
2. Eat solid foods 3-4 hours before events and liquids 2-3 hours before.
3. Choose easily digestible foods (i.e., not fried.)
4. Avoid sugary foods/drinks within one hour of event.
5. Drink enough fluids to ensure hydration (i.e., 500ml of water 1-2 hours before exercise, and an additional 250ml within 15-30 minutes of event.)

Replenishing fluids lost to sweat is the primary concern during an athletic event. Drink 125ml of water or dilute sports drink every 10-20 minutes throughout competition.

Carbohydrate Loading
To avoid running out of carbohydrates for energy, some endurance athletes like triathletes, long-distance runners, swimmers, and cyclists load their muscles with glycogen by eating extra carbohydrates in combination with doing depletion exercises several days before an event. First, exercise to exhaustion. Your workout must be identical to the upcoming event to deplete the right muscles.
Then eat a high-carbohydrate diet (70-80 percent carbs, 10-15 percent fat, 10-15 percent protein) and do little or no exercise starting three days prior to your event. Muscles loaded with unused glycogen will be available to work for longer periods of time.

Post-Exercise Meal (to replenish muscle glycogen)
All athletes know of the importance of the pre-exercise meal. However, what and when you eat following exercise can be just as important. While the pre-exercise meals can ensure that adequate glycogen stores are available for optimal performance, the post-exercise meal is critical to recovery and improves your ability to train consistently.

What and when to eat after exercise is a common topic among athletes. The general advice has been to focus on high carbohydrate foods in order to replenish depleted muscle glycogen stores. Research has shown that carbohydrate intake within two hours of endurance exercise is essential to building adequate glycogen stores for continued training. Waiting longer than two hours to eat results in 50 percent less glycogen stored in the muscle. The reason for this is carbohydrate consumption stimulates insulin production, which aids the production of muscle glycogen. However, the effect of carbohydrate on glycogen storage reaches a plateau. More recent research has shown that combining protein with carbohydrate in the two-hours post-exercise, nearly doubles the insulin response, which results in more stored glycogen. The optimal carbohydrate to protein ratio for this effect is four grams of carbohydrate for every one gram of protein. Eating more protein than that however, has a negative impact because it slows rehydration and glycogen replenishment. The study found that athletes who refuelled with carbohydrate and protein had 100 percent greater muscle glycogen stores than those who only had carbohydrate. Insulin was also highest in those who consumed the carbohydrate and protein drink.

Protein has other important post-exercise qualities. Protein provides the amino acids necessary to rebuild muscle tissue damaged during intense, prolonged exercise. It also increases the absorption of water from the intestines and improves muscle hydration. The amino acids in protein stimulate the immune system, providing you additional resistance to colds and other infections. If you are looking for the best way to refuel your body after long, strenuous endurance exercise, a 4:1 combo of carbohydrate and protein seems to be your best choice. While solid foods can work just as well as a sports drink, a drink may be easier to digest thus making it easier to get the right ratio and meet the 2-hour window. However, research of the ratio energy drink only yields results in the United States; Accelerade and Powerbar. If you prefer energy gels or other non-protein containing sports drinks, simply add 1 Tbsp of protein powder for every 25 grams of carbohydrate to create the 4:1 ratio.

Have a great day,
Dr. Crysta Serné
Vancouver Chiropractor and owner of Vitality Clinic

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