Jun 10, 2013

Junk in equals Junk out, sports drinks, carbo loading and marketing traps

Final in the series on nutritionally sound alternatives to Gu's, energy drinks and junk food for endurance athletes and open water swimmers.

Fuel correctly post-exercise EVERY SINGLE TIME

As an athlete, recovery is an integral part of your program. Make it your goal to eat in the 30-minute window post-exercise, when your body is primed for nutrient uptake and carbohydrates consumed can be used to begin the recovery process. 
The right kind pf Carbohydrates are essential post-exercise to replace muscle glycogen and ensure you begin your next session with maximal stores.
If fat loss is your goal, start with 30g and assess your recovery and subsequent performance.  If you didn’t feel well fueled or found you did not recover as well as usual, simply increase by 10g following your next session. A little trial and error goes a long way.
Otherwise, aim to consume your body weight in grams (i.e. 1g/kg BW) of carbohydrate in your post-exercise meal. A quick example is a banana and a glass of coconut water or a fruit based smoothie.
What can I eat?
Sweet potato is the perfect post-exercise carbohydrate. Full of relatively fast-acting carbohydrates, plus vitamin A, B and C, one cup contains approximately 50 grams of carbohydrate.
If bread is your thing, eat it post-exercise. I prefer to eat gluten-free, but that’s a another topic. Two pieces of bread contains on average, 20-25g of carbohydrate.
Fruit fits in nicely post-exercise too. A medium banana contains 30g of carbohydrate, so pop one in your training bag or car, so you never miss the “window”! It is important to note however, that fructose alone takes longer to resynthesize muscle and liver glycogen than does glucose or sucrose. The solution is to combine carbohydrate sources; so accelerated synthesis can take place. Eat a banana and a muesli bar, both of which are perfect portable snacks. These are ideal if you have an hour or so between races and/or travel time to take into consideration.
If you are finding it hard to quit sugar, choose starchy vegetables that do not provide the sweet craving you are trying so hard to avoid. You can even eat white potato post-exercise! Remember it’s all about nutrient timing.
What about sports drinks?The short answer is no. They are full of artificial sugar, preservatives and colours, and there are much better options:
  1. Coconut water: the natural sugars and electrolytes are great during, or after, an intense exercise session. One serve contains 15g of carbohydrates, so it is not to be treated like water. A couple of times a week is sufficient.
  2. Juice: yes, if you like, you can drink juice. It’s far cheaper than expensive sports drinks and all natural, but please save it for during exercise and in the “window” only. Ideally, make it fresh and keep it to two pieces of fruit, with the rest vegetables.
  3. Make your own: 750ml of water, 1 tablespoon of rice malt syrup, the juice of one lemon and a pinch of sea salt. This is perfect for on the bike or recovery from your longer sessions. Lemon is the highest electrolyte containing citrus fruit, so why not also had some to your juice.
What about carbohydrate loading?To put it simply, increasing and maximizing muscle glycogen stores takes weeks of consistent training and focused post-training nutrition. Carbohydrate loading only acts to increase your weight in race week and/or your potential for GI upset on race morning or even during the race. No thank you! It is your post-exercise recovery that is essential for optimal glycogen stores.
In summary, base your carbohydrate intake on exercise duration and personal goals. Make your post-exercise nutrition as important as the training session it follows. Fuel naturally and your performance will speak for itself. You really are what you eat.
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1 comment:

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