What should I eat before, after, and during races or training?
That's the first question I get when it comes to sports nutrition. Before covering that some other time, I want to create some awareness first.
The best pre and post-exercise fuel can not do what it is supposed to do when athletes are eating everything but healthy the rest of the time. I think that makes sense and because of that, let's have a quick look at the overall picture. This topic could fill a library, so let's stay with some basics.
I think it is clear, not just the drink, bar, or other pre-race food decides on your performance. It is important to be fueled propper before a race, but what can this little piece of the puzzle do if other elements are missing?
What do you need to train and compete to be your best? You got it - Energy!
As an athlete, you hear a lot, that we get our energy from carbohydrates and fat, and for recovery, we hear a lot about protein as well. That’s all right, but just a part of the whole picture. The energy we provide through those macronutrients needs to get converted into the energy we use to perform. This energy production is happening in our Mitochondria. Those live in our cells and need to function well to produce the energy we need to feel unbeatable.
Mitochondria are in every cell, and depending on the organ there are more or fewer of them in every single one. Cells in our heart have many more mitochondria than fat cells. You are probably most interested in the mitochondria in your muscle cells. This number can vary, depending on what you do, train, and eat. How many of those we are having in our muscles and how well they are functioning, is in our hands. Those mitochondria can only be powerful if they are healthy and have what they need, to create the wanted power.
When you want to cook a healthy meal but don´t have all the ingredients you need to take what’s available, and the result might not be as appealing or nourishing. How a bread needs flour of some kind, mitochondria need magnesium to produce energy. Of course, like a good bread needs more than flour, the mitochondria need more than magnesium. (Disclaimer: I am not saying, you need good bread, I just like the example)
Where do you find the magnesium for our energy production? Fast food, processed food, candy or are fresh greens, reds, yellows richer in minerals? You know, greens are a good choice, but understanding why this is the case makes them even taste better.
We are our cells and even when this sounds pretty obvious, we rarely think this way. When those cells are healthy, when they are functioning, producing energy, taking care of side products that need to get eliminated, and so much more, then we are healthy and can perform our best. That’s why we need next to carbohydrates, fatty acids, and protein, also vitamins and minerals.
Next time you eat, ask yourself, what are your cells thinking about that, are they excited to get real food, with lots of nutrients, or are they annoyed, because they need to deal with low quality. Everything we put into our bodies has an effect. What effect would you like?
And to make high processed food a little less tasty, I am happy to give you a short summary of the effect of that as well. It is not only poor in nutrients, but also causes inflammation, inflammation causes an immune reaction, and an active immune system takes up lots of energy you now don´t have for your training session.
Let's now get to your awareness steps:
- How often do you drink or eat? (I am a fan of not more than 3times a day - but this will be another post)
- What do you drink and eat? (Is it colorful)
- How much? (Is it enough of the good nutritious food - you do need energy, to get energy)
- How do you feel after certain foods?
- How good is the quality of what you are eating?
Just be aware. I know you are capable of making good decisions. Also, please don´t overthink this either and keep it simple. You want to enjoy every meal! Nutrition is important, but eating perfectly alone doesn't make you better, when not training well. I do believe the most high-performance puzzle pieces are still found in your training sessions. How to optimize those sessions, you find an example in my blog post What are you getting out of your session? No proper nutrition can replace that, but of course, you get even more out of every session when your body is nourished with quality nutrients - macro-and micronutrients. So don´t use up all your energy thinking about your nutrition all the time, leave a lot of your energy for training and racing as well.
Do you have a Dream? Let´s Take the Next Step! :)
WHAT DOES AN ATHLETE NEED TO SUCCEED?
Not just one thing makes successful athletes, but a few in combination. Get the list of THIRTEEN by signing up below.
If you are an athlete, please let your parents know you got this list.