For those involved in regular physical activity or competitive sports, proper nutrition is key in feeling energetic and performing at a high level. Here are 5 top sports nutrition tips your should be aware of and incorporate into your program daily. These tips hold true for both endurance and strength training activities and will allow you to excel, whatever your goal may be.
1) Proper hydration level is important prior to any exercise.
When you expect increased sweat rates, drink 2-3 cups (1oz per 10# of body weight) of fluid 4 hours before exercise. This allows the excess fluid to be lost in the urine.
If urine output remains decreased, drinking 5-12 oz. of water (.6 oz. per 10# body weight) 2 hours before exercise is recommended. However, don’t over hydrate or drink excessively as there is no benefit. One way to monitor hydration status is to monitor your weight before and after exercise and drink fluids to balance your weight if necessary.
Drinking during activity can be very helpful in maintaining fluid status; about every 10-20 minutes is a good rule of thumb. Replacing sodium during prolonged workouts can also be beneficial for maintaining electrolyte status. Sodium intake of 1 gram per hour is recommended based on length of activity and sweat loss.
This is when a sport drink can be better than plain water for hydrating purposes.
2) Carbohydrates are the main energy source to fuel working muscles during exercise.
Low carbohydrate diets make you feel weak and tired and will affect performance. High quality carbohydrate is the most important to include in the diet. Examples include whole grain breads and cereals, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, oats, fruits, legumes, and starchy vegetables like corn, peas, and potatoes.
3) Protein is an important macro nutrient with respect to physical activity both endurance and strength training.
Muscle breakdown occurs with high intensity and/or prolonged exercise and these muscles need to be repaired. High quality proteins are particularly important to help support strength and power.
The best sources include lean meats, eggs, yogurt and other low fat dairy, nuts, nut butters, and soy-tofu, tempeh, soymilk. Most research supports protein intake of 1.2-1.7 grams per kilogram body weight per day with emphasis on the timing of protein containing foods just before or after resistance exercise.
This can help improve protein balance. Some studies have found benefits to consuming some protein after a bout of exercise than just consuming carbohydrates alone for recovery purposes. 10-20 grams of protein seems to be the reasonable post workout goal.
4) A pre or post workout snack maybe beneficial for enhancing and maintaining energy levels and recovery.
If you have not eaten 3-4 hours prior to a workout, this is a good guideline for a pre-routine snack.
Easily digestible choices with some carbohydrate and protein is a good idea like peanut butter or string cheese and crackers or fruit, nuts and fruit or in a dry cereal mix, a small fruit smoothie, energy bar. Avoid too much fat or fiber as they take longer to digest and can cause gastro-intestinal distress.
For a post workout routine, protein with carbohydrate ensures proper muscle recovery. About 10 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbohydrates are reasonable and easy to obtain. After a high intensity training session it is beneficial to refuel within the first hour after the activity. This enhances the recovery process.
Examples of easy post workout foods include, turkey or nut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread or tortilla, apple or pear and nut butter, Greek yogurt with berries and nuts, or an energy bar.
5) Consume whole foods as much as possible versus relying on different supplements.
The foundation of a healthy diet for sport is nutrient dense foods in the proper balance for the best performance. Sports supplements are usually not necessary and can be expensive. However, a protein powder can be helpful to add to a smoothie especially if you need a particular type due to allergy or food sensitivity.
Energy bars can also be a quick portable snack pre or post workout. Choose ones low in fat and about 10 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbohydrates. It’s a good idea to test out new foods or supplements prior to competition. Make sure you tolerate them well without causing uncomfortable symptoms.