Eating to Fuel Your Workout

Whether a student, pro, or recreational athlete, are you struggling to figure out what to eat pre, during, or post exercise? What about on competition days? You know you need to fuel, but you don’t want to get sick when the competition starts. You’ve heard carbs are bad, but what to do instead?

As with your training, nutrition does not start on race day, or when the workout begins. It begins now, wherever you are, and it is continuous. Start with a well-nourished, well-hydrated body. How do you do that?

First, carbohydrate, protein, and fat are ALL essential nutrients for your body. Carbohydrate has gotten a bad rap, but here are the facts. Carbohydrate is the preferred fuel choice for your brain, the only viable fuel source for certain types of exercise (all types of exercise require your body to work in different ways, so this isn’t just endurance versus strength training), and a requirement for efficiency in using other fuel sources.

At this moment, what you should eat depends on 1) when and what you last ate, and 2) when you last exercised, 3) when you will exercise next, and 4) your unique needs.

Your unique needs can’t be adequately addressed in any blog. Remember that any article you read doesn’t know you as an individual. Think of this as a starting point that must be tailored to your fitness and performance condition and goals, your health condition, your lifestyle, and other factors. However, there is one critical truth for athletes that often gets lost:

How you eat all day long, day after day, helps you to build up glycogen in your muscles that your body can use during exercise.

There is no short-term substitute for eating an appropriate balance of carbohydrate, protein, and fat, and staying hydrated over time. So ask yourself- Is my energy swinging high and low throughout the day? Do I bonk during a long, intense training session? Am I able to turn on the heat at critical points in competition– at the end of a match, to climb a hill, to move the ball down the court? Am I training hard but not making progress? We all have genetic limitations and advantages, but nutrition is often the obvious answer to gaining a competitive edge that is hiding right in front of us.



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