It goes without saying that physically training for any sport or activity is essential to maintain performance levels and improve. Yet many athletes, amateur and elite, forget that eating well is an integral part of the training program.

The food we eat gives our bodies fuel to function. When we don’t give our bodies the right type and amount of foods, it is like trying to run a car on the wrong type of petrol. Eating the right type and amount of food improves our physical and mental function for everyday living as well as making it possible for elite and amateur athletes to perform at their very best.

Lets look at what fuels us

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Carbohydrate – this is stored in our liver and muscles as glycogen, is the fuel our bodies use for vigorous types of activity and exercise causes the glycogen stores in our muscles to run low.

That’s why eating carbohydrate-rich foods like: bread, pasta, potato and fruit, at each meal and – for athletes – particularly before and after training sessions, is critical to ensure a continuous supply of the right type of fuel.

Protein – It is also important to ensure your protein needs are looked after and good sources of protein are: lean meat, chicken and fish, legumes such as baked beans, dairy products, eggs and nuts.

Iron, calcium and fluid are also important nutrients that will aid a good training schedule.

Timing is everything!

Don’t forget to eat regularly and be vigilant about consuming some carbohydrate and protein within 15-30 minutes of finishing your training session, your muscles will thank you and your recovery will be vastly improved.

What foods should you eat the night before training and for breakfast the next morning?

The night before a training session is an opportunity to load up on some much needed carbohydrates. Try a pasta or rice based meal with some lean meat, chicken or fish with vegetables or salad on the side. Go for the tomato based sauces rather than the rich, heavy, fat laden cream based variety. Don’t forget to keep sipping on the water too.

Eating first thing in the morning is often the last thing you feel like doing before heading out to train, especially if it is dark and cold.

It is really important to eat breakfast before training and some good choices include:

 Cereal (Weetabix, porridge, natural muesli etc) with low fat milk and fresh fruit

 Wholegrain toast with baked beans, spaghetti, tomato or egg or just jam, honey or vegemite/marmite

 Pancakes with fresh fruit

 Fresh or tinned fruit and yoghurt

nutrition for athletes_2Do you have a hydration strategy?

Taking fluid on board during training and competition is one of the most effective ways of enhancing your performance. Fluids are lost in sweat and how much you sweat will depend on your size, temperature on the day, clothing you are wearing, and how hard you are exercising. Sweat rates vary a lot but when sweat loss is not matched by fluid intake, dehydration will occur.

Staying hydrated is key to your performance and here are some good fluid tips when out training?

 Begin your exercise session hydrated, drink well before you start

 Drink at regular intervals, around every 15 minutes and try to consume between 150-250 mls each time. You could set your watch timer at 15-minute intervals to remind yourself to drink.

 If participating for less than 60 minutes (this will depend on the distance you choose), water is the most practical and economical fluid. Cool water is better absorbed and is more refreshing and palatable.

 Fluid recovery is essential and you can check your fluid loss by monitoring your weight before and after training. The difference between the two is your fluid loss and you should aim to replace 125-150% of this loss over the next 2-6 hours. So, if you lost 1 kg in weight you will need to drink 1250-1500 ml to fully rehydrate.

 Always practice your race day fluid plan during training

 Sports drinks such as Gatorade may be a useful performance-enhancing fluid. Electrolytes such as sodium (salt) are lost in sweat and need to be replaced during and after prolonged exercise.

Sodium improves fluid intake as it stimulates thirst and promotes carbohydrate and fluid uptake. Sports drinks contain electrolytes like sodium, carbohydrates and water, making it a complete package. These drinks are most effective for exercise sessions lasting 1 hour or longer.

I hope you enjoyed reading tips of getting nutrition for athletes to mazimize performance.

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