Now that we’ve covered training with sufficient hydration (see 5/9/14 blog post), this post is devoted to optimally fueling your body prior to exercise.
Goals of Nutrition Before Exercise
1. Top off crucial glycogen stores (glucose stored in your muscles that is of huge importance to avoid bonking during your event) by eating a carbohydrate-rich snack.
Tip: Liquid meal replacements may be better tolerated than whole food choices if you have a nervous stomach.
Tip: Strive for food items with 1 to 4 g/kg carbohydrates prior to exercise.
Ex. A 125 lb. person is 57 kg (divide weight in lbs. by 2.2 to convert to kg)
57 kg x 1 to 4 g carbohydrates = 57 to 228 g carbohydrates needed prior to the activity
2. Ensure small amounts of protein are incorporated into your pre-exercise meal because it can help to decrease post exercise muscle aches.
3. Avoid high fat/high fiber pre-exercise meals to prevent delays in stomach emptying time and promote optimal digestion.
Pre-exercise Food and Fluids
Tip: The longer you have prior to exercise, the more complex you can make your pre-exercise fuel because of a longer duration of time to ensure adequate digestion and
optimal performance. See suggestions for pre-exercise fuel below which will vary
depending on the amount of time consumed prior to your activity:
3 – 4 Hours Before Exercise
· Energy bar + sports drink
· Peanut butter and jam or honey on toast + instant breakfast drink
· Fruit and yogurt parfait with low fat granola
· Oatmeal with brown sugar and walnuts + low fat milk
· Low fat cottage cheese + fruit + crackers
· Lean burger on a bun with lettuce and tomato + fruit + yogurt
· Turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich + fruit + sports drink
· Tuna melt + fruit cup + low fat yogurt
30 – 60 Minutes Before Exercise
· Sports drink or water
· Sports gel, sports beans or gummies, sports bar
· Piece of fruit
· Graham crackers
Tip: Don’t wait until the day of your event to try out your pre-exercise fuel of choice. Make sure you’ve tried out your fuel several times while training for your event to determine how you’ll tolerate it on the day of your event.
You’re not alone! A sports dietitian can assist you in designing a personalized plan that considers food preferences and individualized energy needs.
Look for more to come in the weeks to follow from our healthcare experts at Saint Vincent!
Leslie Lawton, RD, CSSD, LDN, CDE
Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics
Saint Vincent Hospital