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15
February
2012

Nutrition & Hydration for Training

Want to find out what’s best to drink & what types of food to eat before, during and after training?
Eating and drinking the correct foods and fluids, in the right amount and at the right time plays an enormous part in how well you can train. Fuelling your body correctly can have great benefits to your training, you can:

  • Train at a higher intensity
  • Greatly improve your stamina and maintain it for longer at a high intensity
  • Aid muscle repair and muscle growth, increasing strength and endurance
  • Aid recovery
  • Reduce the risk of Injury
  • Reduce muscle soreness

Cardiovascular Training

What to Eat/Drink & When Before Training:

  • 2-3 Hours beforehand eat a medium sized portion of Complex Carbohydrates for gradual release of energy in the upcoming training session. The most commonly used examples are: Wholegrain/brown bread, Brown Pita Bread, Muesli, Brown rice, Whole Wheat Pasta, Ryvita, Potatoes and most other root vegetables, Porridge, Wheetabix, High fibre Breakfast cereals, Peas, Beans or Lentils and Bananas.
  • 15-20 Minutes beforehand eat a small amount of Simple Sugars to give you a good kickstart in the upcoming training session. For example: Fruit, Fruit Juice, Sports Gel pack, small amount of Sports Drink, a few Sweets, a small amount of Chocolate, Honey, a Biscuit or some jam

During Training:

In my experience when doing regular training for an hour or less, water is all that’s required during the training session. For training sessions, races or events that are very intense or last over an hour, I recommend consuming a small amount of simple sugars and electrolytes within every 45 minutes, to get the maximum benefits and maximum efficiency from your body when training. Obviously it is also important to rehydrate too and avoiding caffeine as much as possible when training for over an hour to prevent dips/troughs in performance.

Having cycled for 42 days across Australia, I learned over and over again, that the optimum time to refuel the body during prolonged exercise is 45minutes. If left for an hour or more my energy and electrolyte levels and therefore speed and concentration, dipped too low and took too long to recover back to my peak levels of performance.

Certain types of food can cause acid reflux so be careful in what you chose to eat and never try new foods, drinks or gels for the first time during an intense training session or race.

After Training:

  • 15-20 Minutes after training eat a small amount of Simple Sugars to aid recovery and promote muscle repair. Restoring energy quickly and effectively. You should also immediately start rehydrating to ensure water levels are returned to normal.
  • Within 2 Hours eat a medium sized portion of Complex Carbohydrates and a medium sized portion of Protein (Protein Shake, Meat, Dairy, Fish, Eggs, Tofu etc…), all to maximise muscle repair and growth. For vegetarians, please remember to combine your foods, to ensure all 8 essential amino acids required for muscle repair are present.
  • Aim to get 8 hours of good quality sleep that night, again to maximise muscle repair and growth

During prolonged cardiovascular exercise your body uses up large amounts of your energy and electrolyte reserves and if not managed correctly, can lead to some potentially dangerous problems and significantly reduce your performance.

Sugar / Energy Deficiencies

This is usually quite easy to identify. You feel sudden drops in your energy levels where your speed, strength, power or lap times drop noticeably. If this happens, refuelling immediately with simple sugars will help, but it can take up to 10 minutes to return to peak performance levels. Fuelling your body with simple sugars every 45 minutes during prolonged exercise should help prevent this.

Electrolyte Deficiencies

These deficiencies tend to occur gradually, are much harder to identify and can due to their very nature, be confused with energy deficiencies. When electrolyte levels significantly drop, brain functions slow down, causing confusion and you can make snap incorrect decisions. Your reaction times drop, your balance, coordination and proprioception worsen. Your muscles begin to cramp or strain, you may experience nausea or stomach cramps, your body temperature will raise causing you to overheat and in worst case scenarios collapse/faint. Depending on how low your electrolytes drop, you may experience some or all of these symptoms in varying levels of severity.

A great way I discovered in Australia to help identify this, was every 45 minutes, to do quick, simple maths equations or multiplication tables in your head, that you would normally find easy to do. If this becomes difficult, then you may have low electrolyte levels. An example of this would be when: long distance runners trip up, Triathletes/Cross country runners make simple mistakes and take wrong turns on courses, Cyclists lose concentration and don’t spot gravel or touch wheels on straights or when using gym equipment such as the spin bikes you find it hard to work out your gear and speed.

Once again ensuring you hydrate and replenish your electrolyte levels every 45 minutes should help prevent this. If it is too late, you might not recover your peak performance or may experience big peaks and troughs.

Eating & Drinking for Weight Training

This is very similar to cardiovascular exercise but has some important differences when it comes to diet after training. In my experience to get the most benefits from weight training, sessions should not last more than an hour. This is to reduce the likelihood that your body uses your existing muscle mass for fuel and to prevent muscles being overworked. I’ll cover the differences and benefits in Reps, Sets, Techniques and Supplements in a future article.

Before Training:

  • 2-3 Hours beforehand eat a medium sized portion of Complex Carbohydrates for gradual release of energy in the upcoming training session.
  • 30 Minutes before a training session you may benefit from some Caffeine, to maximise your strength and performance. However avoid this if late in the day as it may affect your sleep.
  • 15-20 Minutes beforehand eat a small amount of Simple Sugars to give you a good kickstart in the upcoming training session

During Training:

In my experience when doing weight training for increased strength or growth, but not for toning or when weight loss is a goal, some simple sugars are required throughout the training session.

After Training:

  • 15-20 Minutes after training eat a small amount of Simple Sugars to aid recovery and promote muscle repair. Restoring energy quickly and effectively. You should also immediately start rehydrating to ensure water levels are returned to normal.
  • As soon as possible and within 2 Hours, eat a medium sized portion of Complex Carbohydrates and a large sized portion of Protein (Protein Shake, Meat, Dairy, Fish, Eggs, Tofu, protein shake etc…), all to maximise muscle repair and growth. For vegetarians, please remember to combine your foods, to ensure all 8 essential amino acids required for muscle repair are present. In my experience to maximise muscle growth and strength, aim to consume at least 70g of Protein in this meal.
  • Aim to get 8 hours of good quality sleep that night, again to maximise muscle repair and growth.

Hydration

Being just 2-3% Dehydrated has been shown to cause the body to be 20% less efficient when exercising. That’s a very high percentage to lose just from being slightly dehydrated, so it is vital that you always pre-hydrate before exercising. Being thirsty is a sign that you are mildly dehydrated and is your bodies’ emergency response to tell you to drink water. For most people, your urine should only be mildly coloured if you are hydrated enough. Being dehydrated also causes higher risk of cramp and muscle strain. For those that exercise regularly I would recommend that you aim to drink at the very least 2 litres of water every day and even more on days that you exercise, to replace fluid lost through sweating and through your breath.

The Difference Between Sports Drinks & Energy Drinks

Brands and different products vary but for the most part, a sports drink contains various mixtures of water, sugars and electrolytes (salts & minerals) for example Powerade, Gaterade or Lucozade Sport. Most gel packs would contain a concentrated amount of the same ingredients as a sports drink. In my experience, some sports drinks can be beneficial when training at a high intensity for over an hour, taking part in a race, playing sports or when looking to do a short but high intensity exercise. They are not usually needed for regular exercising under an hour, especially for those looking to lose body fat.

An energy drink contains water, sugar and high amounts of caffeine, for example Redbull, Coffee, Lucozade Original or Coca Cola. You may be surprised to see Coca Cola described as an energy drink but it is, it’s just not marketed that way. Energy drinks in my experience do work, but also cause a crash or sudden loss of energy when exercising for prolonged periods, so do not recommend their use when training for long periods. The high caffeine content also causes dehydration. Never try out a new sports or energy drink for the first time at an important training session, race or event as some people have adverse reactions in the gut to some of the ingredients.

Products I Recommend

  • For Intense Exercise under an hour, electrolytes should be enough without sugar.  High 5’s Zero tabs are perfect for this.  RRP is €8, my price just €6.50.
  • For Intense Exercise under 2 Hours, sugar & electrolytes are needed.  High 5’s Energy Source are perfect for this.  Large tubs RRP is €40, my price just €30.
  • For Intense Exercise under 2 Hours in Hot Conditions.  High 5’s Isotonic is ideal and has extra electrolytes for quicker absorption.  Large tubs RRP is €40, my price just €30.
  • For Intense Exercise over 2 Hours, to help reduce your body cannibalising your muscle for energy a carbohydrate, protein & electrolyte mix is needed and High 5’s 4:1 is perfect.  Also good for recovery.  Large tubs RRP is €40, my price just €30.


Low Fat/Carb/Sugar or Diet Products

Just because something is marketed as low fat/carb/sugar etc… doesn’t mean it is going to be good for you. Be very careful when it comes to these products as by law they only have to be 20% lower in fat/carb/sugar etc… than the original product to be labelled as this. There are 2 main ways they do this:

1 – Make the product smaller! Look at the weight of a regular Chocolate bar, it on average weighs 2.2oz and the “lite” bar weighs 1.4oz, see for yourself! Yes they’ve slightly reduced the fat and changed the ingredients but to do this properly would make it taste completely different.
2 – The original product was crammed full of fat and the resulting low fat version, was lower than the original but another brands full fat version has less fat than their so-called low fat one! Digestives are one example. Remember a “low fat/carb/sugar” product only has to be 20% lower than the original product!

This is why it is always vital that you read the labels on any product you buy and don’t be caught out by clever advertising!

Should you have any questions or wish to avail of my Free 1 Hour Personal Training Assessment and Training Session then you can simply
email me at andy@andykennyifitness.com or Phone +353 85 7282551


Book your Free Training Session

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author: Andy Kenny

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