Nutrition for fitness: what;when;why

With so many messages out there about what to eat, why and when, here are some simple guidelines to include if you are exercising with intensity.

Try to eat a low glycaemic index snack about 1½ – 2 hours before exercising – a cereal based breakfast will serve this purpose if exercising in the morning, but also try to apply this if you exercise in the afternoon/evening.   Try to combine carbohydrate and protein (e.g. breakfasts such as porridge or Special K with milk, or baked beans/eggs on toast are fine) both before and after training as this replenishes glycogen stores more efficiently than taking carbs alone.

Try to eat a moderate to high glycaemic index snack within 30 minutes of finishing exercising (e.g. something like bread and honey, a banana, small box of raisins, etc – about 50g of carbohydrate is optimal in terms of your body’s ability to absorb it fully).  Your body is able to replenish its glycogen stores much more efficiently in the 30 minute window immediately following intensive exercise.   Even if you finish training late in the evening, you should begin the
refuelling process and not go to bed on an empty stomach.

Keep well hydrated before, during and after exercising.  Drinking 400-600ml of water or a sports drink in the two hours leading up to exercise will help
ensure you are sufficiently well hydrated.   The amount of fluid you take on during exercise depends on how hard you work, how long you exercise and the environmental conditions.  You should aim to drink enough fluid to offset that lost during exercise, but you may well need to experiment in order to find what suits you best.  Keep drinking water and/or an isotonic sports drink (e.g. like Lucozade Sport) immediately after training.  The sports drink will provide you with some carbohydrate to start replenishing your glycogen stores, but also try to eat something as suggested above.

Within a couple of hours of completing exercise, try to eat a lower glycaemic index carbohydrate meal, again trying to combine carbs and protein if possible (e.g. meat or fish with vegetables, rice or pasta).  The protein content is also essential for muscle repair which is necessary following intense exercise.

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