By Dr. Kaylee Alton, ND
When it comes to the day you’ll perform in your athletic event, the first rule of thumb is avoid doing anything out of your normal routine. The days leading up to your competition or performance are NOT the days you experiment with new foods, supplements or drinks. You’ll need to prepare and stock up on your fluids and foods ahead of time, either bringing them with you, or researching where you can buy them if you’re travelling to a new town or location.
In addition to training your mental and physical stamina for your goal, you’re also fueling your body to prevent cramping, decreased neurological function and reduced intracellular chemical reactions (energy production by the muscle).
Certain foods move slower through your system and should be avoided prior to exercise, so you don’t feel indigestion during your event. These foods are high in fat, fiber and protein. Prior to exercise is when you want to eat a higher carbohydrate meal, or foods with a high glycemic load that you can tolerate well. Don’t just think junk food and candy, these foods are too simple and can cause insulin instability which will inhibit your glucagon secretion (muscle fuel!). Instead, use a complex carbohydrate. Rice pasta is a great example. If you are using vegetables, be sure to steam them to activate naturally occurring enzymes making it easier on your digestive tract.
Also, pro-tip, avoid whey protein BEFORE your event. Whey protein has increased levels of glutamine, advantageous for recovery, but can contribute to ammonia production, which, during exercise, will limit performance. If needed, choose a rice or pea or hemp based protein.
Use this formula when calculating what you should eat before your event:
- 200-300 grams of complex carbohydrates are to be consumed greater than 2 hours before your competition.
- Drink at least 500mL of water 1-1.5 hours before an event. This will ensure hydration and support digestion.
INTAKE DURING EXERCISE
Not every event requires you to think about your fuel or fluid intake during an event. A general rule is if your perspiring greatly for more than 60min, you’ll need to replenish those electrolytes. Generally speaking, after the 60min mark, you’re body will need help to replenish the electrolytes which supports reducing muscular fatigue, ATP production and elimination or recycling of metabolic byproducts created during activity. Another way of saying it, is you’ll want to make sure your brain gets nutrition and you help delay the feeling of “hitting a wall” that means too much lactic acid build up has occurred in your muscles.
If your event is greater than 60min, consider sipping on a 6-8% electrolyte drink (comparable to pure water to avoid gastric upset) of 200-300ml every 20minutes. No more than 24 ounces (750 mL) of fluid per hour (to avoid dilutional hyponatremia, a state caused by an overly diluted fluid solution of electrolytes. Being over hydrated can create similar problems as being under hydrated in that the body’s electrolyte levels). Gatorade and Powerade are formulated for this, but, also contain dyes, additives and sugars that may be upsetting for your gastric system.
Some great electrolyte drinks options are:
- 1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice, 1/3 cup of honey, 1/8 tsp of salt, 1 tbsp of a Calcium – Magnesium powder, and 1 L of water.
- Hammer HEED – a fructose (honey) based fuel replacement
- Ultimate Replenisher – a fructose/sugar free electrolyte replacement
INTAKE AFTER EXERCISE:
After your event your primary goal is to replenish hydration, electrolytes and glucose (brain & muscle fuel) losses. The faster you replenish, the shorter the recovery time.
Follow the formula:
- Two servings of 10grams of protein, 1 hour apart.
- 110g of carbohydrates within 30min of completing exercise, or, 1.2 grams of carbohydrates
per kg of body weight, at the 30min and 60min mark post exercise (whichever your body can
- A high quality multi-vitamin, anti-oxidant and essential fatty acid.
- As much as can be tolerated of a large volume of fluid, preferably with the 23-32%
electrolyte content. Since most sport drinks and gel/electrolyte solutions are 6-8%, eat
salted snacks or add salt to your drink.
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
See your naturopathic doctor if you are exercising intensely and experiencing a combination of the following symptoms:
- flu-like symptoms
- blood-shot and/or yellow, cloudy eyes
- excessive fatigue, needing to nap after doing daily activities
Going for an extensive amount of activity? Iron Man? Super Iron Man? or Multi-Day Stage Races?
Don’t just pop Advil or NSAIDs daily, they can lead to trouble swallowing or digesting your foods and fluids. Speak to your naturopathic doctor on ways to reduce the excess inflammation and damage on your body each night, and get the right amount of caloric intake and electrolytes, for your body chemistry.
Learn more about Dr. Kaylee Alton, ND and how she can help support your health.
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