DOES IT REALLY MATTER?
Tara Gidus Collingwood
When you eat is just as important as what you eat. Paying attention to what you eat before, during and after practices and matches can help you maintain energy levels, decrease injury risk and promote recovery.
- Stay true to you. Depending on activity level and body composition goals, athletes should eat every two to four hours to maintain proper energy balance. Low energy and nutrient intake over time can contribute to fatigue, poor recovery, and increase injury risk.
- Allow time for digestion. Consuming food too close to exercise can result in improperlyfueled muscles and an upset stomach. On the other hand, allowing too much digestion time doesn’t supply muscles with adequate energy and can lead to early fatigue.
- Don’t neglect hydration. It can take up to 90 minutes for fluid to clear the kidneys. ADVERTISEMENT As little as a 2 percent loss of body weight due to dehydration can adversely affect the body’s ability to cope with physical demands and impair performance, concentration, and precision.
What to eat before exercise
Eating before exercise is similar to filling up your gas tank—this fuel will give you energy and help prevent injury.
- Eat: meal = high carbs + moderate protein + low fat (three to four hours prior) snack = moderate carbs (15-60 minutes prior)
- Drink: adequate fluids and electrolytes to produce clear/light yellow urine
- Avoid: high fat (cream, excessive oil, fried foods); high fiber (beans, corn); gas-producing vegetables (cabbage, brussel sprouts); spicy foods; foods that are unfamiliar to digestive system; any known food sensitivities
What to eat during exercise
Depletion of muscle "energy" stores can impair athletic performance. If exercising for more than 60 minutes, supply your body with regular fuel and fluid to maintain performance.
- Eat: 30-60 grams of carbs per hour of activity
- Drink: water + sports drink
What to eat after exercise
Demanding practices and matches deplete glycogen, fluids and electrolytes. Begin replenishing these nutrients within 30 minutes of completing exercise; liquid protein shakes are a convenient snack to help hold you over until a full meal can be consumed.
- Eat: snack = high carbs + moderate protein (≤ 30 minutes after) meal = high carbs + moderate protein + moderate fat (≤ two hours after)
- Drink: adequate fluids to replace sweat loss
Tara Gidus Collingwood is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition, fitness and health promotion. She is currently the nutrition consultant to the USTA National Campus with Andrews Institute and Nemours, the team dietitian for the Orlando Magic NBA team, the nutrition consultant to University of Central Florida Athletic Department and a nutrition and exercise executive coach at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute.