Fueling athletes properly is best way to optimize your performance in sport. The primary fuel source for any athlete is the almighty carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are the preferred premium source of fuel, it is the gas in the tank and with the correct intake, the right type, along with timing are vital to the athlete’s ability to perform, and can be the difference between losing and winning.
Hydration is a critical component to any athlete and the right type of carbohydrates will ensure adequate hydration before an event, competition or game day. It is important to hydrate well several days before the competition as well as drinking plenty of water before event to keep lower body temperature during competition.
When you consume the correct real food carbohydrates, they are converted into glycogen and stored in your muscles and liver to be used as fuel. Real food is the absolute key to success in any athlete’s diet, whole natural grains and vegetables, clean proteins, and smart fats.
Real food carbohydrates have the highest energy fuel source over any other macro nutrient especially during sports like Hockey, Football, Track events 100 M, Hurdles, High Jump, Ringette, Figure Skating, Gymnastics, etc. A well balanced nutritional program including the right type of fat will improve training sessions, prevent injury, promote recovery and increase performance. Training sessions for any sport are long, strenuous and taxing to the athlete’s body and some highly conditioned elite athletes will use the correct type of fat for fuel and as long as he/she has consumed adequate carbohydrates will have energy they need from glycogen or glucose and not bonk.
So how much, what type and what time do we eat these real food carbohydrates?
Every athlete in different sport with its own unique training schedule, training intensity, training duration along with the age of the athlete, sex and state of current health are all factors in determining the amount of carbohydrates they need to consume. An Iron man athlete will have very different needs than one of Track Athlete competing in the 100 M. A female hockey athlete weighing 130lbs training for 3 hours a day would need 500 grams of carbohydrates where as a male hockey player weighing 200lbs training for 3 hours a day would need 900 grams per day. An Iron Man male athlete training up to 6 hours a day weighing 160-175lbs would need up to 650 grams per day. There is a science behind how much an athlete needs and with planning a proper nutritional program you are going to see improvements in performance. It is recommended to consume carbohydrates before training sessions, during training sessions and again after training sessions.
Low glycemic carbohydrates such as oats, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, rice pasta, quinoa, buck wheat pancakes, sweet potatoes, apples, oranges, lentils, kidney beans are excellent sources before training sessions. As muscle glycogen stores decrease during strenuous exercise it is vital to fill up the gas tank before you get started.
During exercise it is important to refuel with energy drinks or gels consisting of glucose not fructose whether store bought or homemade when training session is longer than 90 mins to stay hydrated. Sipping coconut water or rehydration drinks every 15mins will sustain energy levels. Shortly after intense training session quickly replenish energy stores when your muscles are in high demand for glycogen replacement with real food carbohydrates such as banana, pineapple, watermelon, grapes, coconut water, fruit smoothie these foods will shunt glycogen back into the muscle cells immediately.
It is recommended athletes consume real food carbohydrates 6 times per day at every meal. Athletes often under eat the amount of carbohydrates they need and often will eat poorer quality food as they are not concerned with fat weight gain or blood sugar fluctuations. Eating small meals through-out the day is the best approach to ensure a full gas tank.
The best way to determine if you are not eating the right amount of carbohydrates is to observe how you feel after a training session. If you feel elated or experience a training high then you have been consuming the right amount, if you feel tired, sluggish, lack of motivation, or simply not giving your training session a 110% then you are running on an empty gas tank and eventually you will crash.
Don’t let this happen to you, design your nutrition program or hire a food coach one who can tailor your nutritional requirements to your sport, off season and in peak season. It will be the difference between winning and losing.
Naomi McBride is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist with a professional background in personal training, surpassing 15 years of experience. A Registered Sports Nutritionist offering individualized programming, nutritional coaching and team seminars, providing a connection to the 10 Weeks to Wow! Program as a licensee Practitioner. Naomi operates as a successful Business owner with entrepreneurial strengths, with a strong dedication to Clientele care.