Are you a weekend warrior or competitive athlete? Do you want to run faster and longer? Or build stronger muscles? Optimal nutrition is essential for peak performance. Here are some general guidelines to consider.
In the early stages of moderate exercise athletes derive 40-50% of their energy requirements from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide more energy per unit of oxygen consumed than fats. As your workout intensity increases carbohydrate utilization increases. The body breaks down the carbohydrates to glucose and stores it in the muscles as glycogen. During exercise glycogen is converted back to glucose and used as fuel. The ability to sustain prolonged endurance exercise is related to the levels of glycogen in your muscles. The body stores only limited amounts of glucose in your muscles and liver. Generally there is enough energy to supply about 90 minutes of heavy exercise. Extra carbohydrates will not help. Your body cannot readily convert the extra carbohydrates to fuel fast enough.
For events lasting longer than 90 minutes, a high carbohydrate diet eaten 2-3 days before the event allows glycogen stores to be filled. Long distance runners, cyclists, swimmers, soccer players, etc. can benefit from a diet where 70% of calories come from carbohydrates. Athletes on a high carbohydrate diet can exercise longer than those on a low carbohydrate, high fat diet. However, it is not recommended to eat a high carb diet constantly as this conditions the body to use carbohydrates for fuel instead of from fat.
For continuous activity lasting 3-4 hours make sure your glycogen stores are full and consider taking a sports drink of 6 to 8% glucose solution. Experiment during training to find the best sports drink for you. There are a lot of options to choose from. Some sports drinks include electrolytes in their formula. It may not be necessary to include during exercise as it can be replaced afterwards. Each body is different so experimentation is optimal.
Water is a very important nutrient for the athlete. Athlete should replace as much lost fluids as possible during an event. A good way to find out how much water you should take in during a workout is to weigh yourself before the workout and after. If you have lost weight then you know that you should increase your water intake during your workout.
Fat also provides energy. For moderate exercise about half the energy expenditure is derived from fat metabolism. If the event lasts more than an hour the body may use mostly fats for energy. However, this mostly depends on the duration of exercise and the condition of the athlete. Trained athletes use fat more quickly than untrained athletes. Athletes should aim to consume at least 15% of their nutrients from fat. Fat restriction may hinder performance.
After carbohydrates and fat, protein provides energy to the body. Exercise may increase an athlete’s need for protein. According to the ADA protein intake of 10-12% of total calories is sufficient. Most experts agree eating 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day is recommended. Resistance and strength trained athletes may need as much as 1.6 to 1.7 grams of protein per kg of body weight. Taking extra protein however won’t necessarily help you build more muscle. A varied diet will provide more than enough protein as your calorie intake increases. Excess protein can deprive the athlete of more efficient fuel and can lead to dehydration. High-protein diets increase water requirements so that you can eliminate nitrogen through urine.
How to Calculate Your Protein Needs:
1. Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = weight in kg
2. Weight in kg x 0.8-1.8 gm/kg = protein gm
Use a lower number if you are in good health and are sedentary (i.e., 0.8). Use a higher number (between 1 and 1.8) if you are under stress, are pregnant, are recovering from an illness, or if you are involved in consistent and intense weight or endurance training.
Example: 154 lb male who is a regular exerciser and lifts weights
154 lbs/2.2 = 70kg
70kg x 1.5 = 105 gm protein/day
Sports nutrition does not have to be complicated. Follow a well balanced diet to provide quality energy to your working muscles. Shop and save on the finest quality nutritional supplements at Freddie’s Nutrition.