Although I have specialized in sports nutrition for over a decade, this is my first blog post about it. I’ve always been overwhelmed at the idea of writing a short, general overview of the topic, when it is in fact such a complex one. When I work individually with recreational or professional athletes, our sports nutrition plan encompasses so many factors, including genetics, nutrient timing, carb cycling, body composition goals, periodization, supplements and the list goes on. However, I often get asked about my general sport nutrition principles. And so, here goes a quick overview of pre-, during, and post-activity nutrition.
Nutrition goals prior to activity are to provide quick-acting energy and to reduce post-exercise muscle soreness. In the 2-3 hours before activity, some carbs plus a little bit of protein will do the trick. If you have less time before working out, such as when activity happens first thing in the morning, you want to top up your body’s stores of carbs and save the protein for after the workout. Protein slows down digestion and having it too close to a workout may make you feel lethargic and nauseous. Here are some examples of meals and snacks to have, depending on how much time you have:
Meals (2+ hours)
- Cereal with milk and banana
- Sandwich with peanut butter + banana
- Stirfry with rice, meat, veggies
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Snacks (1-2 hrs)
- Fruit smoothie
- Cereal bar/energy balls with fruit
- Fruit with yogurt and granola
- Crackers and hummus
- Toast with jam
If your activity is lasting an hour or less, nothing more than water will need to be consumed during it. If you are working out for longer, or in the heat, you will likely need to add carbs and electrolytes to that water to decrease dehydration, fatigue, and cramping. Sports drinks, whether commercially- or home-made, can do the trick.
After activity, main nutrition goals are to replace the muscle energy (carbs) used during the activity and provide protein to aid in repair and growth of muscle. Recovery snack ideas include:
- Smoothie made with greek yogurt and fruit
- Chocolate milk
- Cereal with milk
- Crackers with hummus
- Protein bar and fruit
Remember that these are general examples of how to fuel activity. Individual needs will vary and if you are looking to optimize performance through nutrition, seeking out the services of a sports nutritionist will be in your best interest. If you are in the Okanagan and would like to get more individualized guidance from a dietitian, contact us today!