There’s a saying that rings true, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”. Now, I should know you said it first in history, but I must credit one of my tutors from Manchester Metropolitan University, Jim Barron, for drilling this mantra into our heads. You may wonder why I descended into reminiscing about my long lost college days, but this has a clear application to wanting to get the best out of your training. Your pre-exercise diet needs to be planned effectively.
Without a balanced diet, no other dietary changes will have the desired effect upon your performance. Once you have sorted the balance between Carbohydrate and Protein consumption, you should also fine tune carbohydrate and fluid intake. The human body contains approximately 2,500,000 sweat glands and for every litre of fluid lost your heart beats increases by 8 beats per minute in order to meet your body’s requirements.
It is important to know not only how much of these nutrients to consume, but also when to consume them. Looking at a very simple analogy using a car, when you are about to embark on a long journey, what is the more efficient and sensible strategy;
- Fuel tank is effectively empty, with the fuel gauge warning light showing, meaning you need to stop for fuel after a short space of time.
- Fuel tank is full with enough to safely complete the journey and enough to make a return journey.
Now I am sure you will say is it the second example, a no- brainer you may say but many of us will go to an exercise class or embark upon a training run or weights session with strategy A!! A recent study by a popular sports drinks manufacturer sample 300 gym users and nearly half of these users arrive at the gym dehydrated. Consuming the correct balance of carbohydrate and fluid before, during and after your exercise session will enhance your workout. Your stores of carbohydrate and fluid are limited and are drained during exercise, thus always ensure that you:
- Keep your carbohydrate and fluid stores as full as possible prior to starting your exercise session.
- Keep your carbohydrate and fluid stores are topped up during your exercise session.
- Once you have finished your session, try and eat within an hour (ideally within 30 minutes) as this is the time when your muscles will need re-fuelling to aid the recovery and re-building process.
Top Tips For Exercise Efficiency
Prior to starting exercise, eat a high carbohydrate meal at least 3 to 4 hours in advance to ensure your carbohydrate levels are well stocked. This may be as simple as a bowl of cereal e.g. porridge or a sports drink e.g. Powerade, Gatorade, For Goodness Shakes. Additionally, ensure that you are drinking plenty of fluids, drinking a diluted 50:50 fruit juice or cordial drink will satisfy this and help top up your carbohydrate levels. In normal ambient weather conditions aim for 500ml – 1000ml of fluid, increase this by at least 20% in the heat. The featured sports drinks also contain additional nutrients, though I will not express my favourite, these have their own merits and you will notice many professional teams using these. Maintaining your fluid intake is very important, especially as starting exercise in a dehydrated condition will impact upon your performance. In order to ensure your next session is reproducible, start your preparation as soon as your current session finishes by eating with the first 30 to 60 minutes. Drinking at least 500ml of either soya or dairy milk base will give approx 3.6g of protein per 100ml. During my personal training sessions, I will always have a complementary drink for my clients to ensure they may achieve their optimum performance.
Good to know and easy to consume (use soya alternative if lactose intolerant). Additionally, a handful of raisins or 60g of jelly sweets (try not to do this too often if you value your teeth, my dentist will chastise me if I do not say this!) will kick start your refuelling process and tide you over for an hour until you are able to prepare and consume your carbohydrate rich meal.