Fuel for Training and Performance

Many of us have activities like running a marathon, a cross country race, hiking to the top of a mountain or some other physically intense goal in our bucket list. These goals are achievable though they require a period of disciplined conditioning to realize as working the body to near athlete levels is necessary to carry them out safely and enjoyably.

Diet plays an important role before and after the event to help the body build resilience and recover properly and even though each individual’s needs vary there are general guidelines that can be applied universally. These include eating balanced meals, avoiding fad diets geared to weight loss rather than performance and adding variety to meals.  Let’s first have a look at the three major food groups and how to make them work for us.

Carbohydrates for Training and Performance

Before and during endurance training, carbohydrates are your most important fuel food. They’re in a variety of foods, including grains (such as bread, rice, pasta, and cereal), fruits, starchy vegetables (such as beans, corn, peas, and potatoes), and dairy products (milk, yogurt, etc.).

Include carbs at each meal and, if needed, in additional snacks to meet your training needs. Some easy high-carbohydrate meals include a sandwich, fruit, and yogurt at lunch, and pasta or rice, chicken, side salad, fruit, and milk at dinner.

Carbohydrates are classified as simple (fast) or complex (slow). Simple carbs (fruit, juice, honey) break down quickly and often are the best right before or during training. Complex carbohydrates (starches and whole grains) take longer to break down, so incorporate them into your meals. A balance of simple and complex carbohydrates is best to help you stay focused and fuelled

Protein For Training and Performance

Both protein and fat take longer than carbs to break down, which is why they aren’t considered primary fuel foods for exercise. Protein is important for muscle repair and recovery. The recommended (minimum) daily amount (RDA) of protein is 0.8g/kg body weight, but most endurance athletes need 1.0–1.4 g/kg body weight of protein daily.

Some people eat too much protein and not enough carbs for endurance training. There is no benefit to eating extra protein when it comes to hitting goals. After hard workouts, you need a balanced mix of protein and carbs. For most people, 20–25g of protein and 60g of carbohydrate is sufficient

Fat and High-Performance Activity

Fat is an important part of a well-balanced diet, but you don’t need extra fat before, during, or after training or competition. It’s best to consume fats as part of balanced meals. Approximately 20–25% of your daily intake should be from fat.

Hydration and High-Performance Activity

Keeping yourself hydrated is essential for any high-performance activity and since the body works best within a regularized routine it is key to begin adjusting early. The best drinks are water, low-fat milk and 100% juices and they should be taken before and after activity. Sports drinks are better used during the event itself where quick electrolyte replacement is necessary.