It’s hardly any secret that for optimum sports/fitness performance you need the right nutrition.

Intense training for endurance sports in the gym or on the field must be supported by an optimal nutrition plan in order to go longer, lift heavier or preserve stamina. In fact, it is remarkably difficult to improve on athletic/fitness performance without the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and the all-important water.

Energy nutrients, like carbohydrates, proteins and fats, are responsible for providing not only the fuel needed for tissue repair, but also for speeding up recovery time and thus reducing the duration between training sessions or races. In short optimum nutrition will make you a better endurance athlete/fitness trainer.

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Nutrition for training

Essentially, when you train or compete, the rate at which your body uses energy dramatically increases so it is crucial this energy is replaced in order for you to continue training at such intensity. However, many fitness enthusiasts and athletes believe the only way they can achieve the required level of these essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins is through supplementation, but this is not true.

You can quite easily achieve your vitamin, mineral and nutritional goals in order to maintain energy and boost stamina through the consumption of a wide variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, lean, protein rich meats and complex carbohydrates.

There are now companies such as Musclefood.com, who specialise in providing lean meats and other foods for fitness, helping people to achieve their goals primarily through ‘real food’ nutrition, with added supplementation only when needed. This means that eating optimally is now much more achievable.

Pre-event nutrition

Whether preparing for a competition or workout, pre-event nourishment is vitally important, but it is so often forgotten! Not only will adequate nutrition before the event stop hunger pangs during the exercise, but it will also ensure the body has optimal energy levels for exercising muscles.

According to the U.S Anti Doping Agency’s report Optimal Dietary Intake, an athlete should never train on an empty stomach as this increases their risk of developing, “low blood glucose levels” and consequently, a sub-par performance. Rather, a pre-event meal should be high in complex carbohydrates and protein but low in fat.

This is not to say an athlete should eat mere minutes before their event, in fact doing so could be as detrimental to athletic performance as not eating at all.

Instead an athlete should fuel for up to four hours before taking on their athletic challenge. By consuming 2-3 small meals in the event lead up, an athlete will have plentiful glycogen (a form of carbohydrate stored primarily in muscles and the liver), which is critical for energy and prolonged exercise periods, but there are rules:

A substantial pre-event meal should be eaten four hours before exercise or competition. This meal should provide approx. 150-350g carbs. As the event draws near, the carb content  of each smaller meal should be reduced – this is to help stop any stomach upset. Each meal should have protein as this will help regulate energy levels. Keep electrolytes and fluid intake up!

During event nutrition

During event nutrition is essential. According to the National Strength & Conditioning Association of America, an athlete should consume approximately 160ml fluid per 15 minutes of intense training. It’s also recommended that if a training schedule is less than one hour, only water should be consumed. If the workout or race lasts for longer, an isotonic sports drink will have greater benefits in maintaining energy because of the sodium, electrolytes, carbs and on occasion protein content.

Post-event nutrition

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It’s easy to forget about post-event nutrition with all the adrenaline pumping, but it is essential you refuel after exercise or competition as this replenishes the glycogen stores in your muscles. Essentially, the faster you can get valuable nutrients back into your body the better, however, there is a 30-minute window post exercise when it is the optimimal time to fully refuel muscles.

Complex carbs and protein are must eats, not because only they give the body an allround energy boost, but because the protein will also help repair the muscles damaged during exercise making for a speedy recovery!

Example pre and post-event meal plan

4 or more hours before event –
Whole wheat pasta with grilled chicken breast
and seasonal vegetables

2-3 hours before –
1 baked potato with cottage cheese

1 hour before –
Chopped banana on 1 slice of whole wheat toast

Workout up to 30 minutes after –
Whole wheat pita bread and hummus

2 hours after –
Spaghetti Bolognese made with lean mince and whole wheat pasta

4 hours after –
Trail mix with raisins, almonds and brazil nuts

Remember to eat well, and manage your nutrition!

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