Nutrition is a key part of successful training. It’s not just important for professional athletes. Whether you are just starting to hit the gym or are running your third marathon, fueling your workouts can mean better endurance and better performance.
Pre-Workout: Fuel-up with Carbs
Carbohydrates are known as the #1 fuel for exercise, whether a short gym session or a full race. Carbs provide energy to your working muscles to keep you going. An article for the Journal of Sports Medicine says as much as 10-12 grams per kilogram of body weight of carbs should be eaten 36-48 hours prior to an intense race. The goal is to replenish your glycogen stores in your muscles, which can be depleted during long periods of activity.
For an everyday workout, try having 30-60 grams of carbs an hour or so before your workout. While sports drinks and gels can be an easy fix, these can cause some stomach upset during your workout.
Some great examples of a pre-workout snack is a small handful of trailmix with dried fruit or a banana with 1 tsp peanut butter.
Refueling: Energy for Endurance
During an intense workout for greater than 1 hour or during a race, you should be refueling your body every 30-45 minutes with a carb source. Here is where gels, goos, and sports drinks are clutch. They’re easy to consume and have high carb loads, just be sure to chase with water to avoid stomach upset.
Post-Workout: Protein for Recovery
Refueling after a workout is huge to maintain muscle tone, build strength, and aid in recovery. Shoot for a meal or snack with 15-30 grams of protein coupled with 15-30 grams carbs. Protein shakes are a good option, but you may want to add fruit to your shake to add carbs.
A Word on Low-Carb and Training
Low-carb or fat-adapted training is on the rise, and the research is mixed. On one hand, it appears to have benefits for ultra-marathon runners, on the other, it can make athletes feel more sluggish and is associated with reduced race times. A diet high in fat, like the keto diet, can lead to electrolyte imbalances that can affect muscle action and recovery.
In particular, magnesium is a key electrolyte in muscle contraction, when its balance is changed it can lead to severe cramping and pain. A high-fat diet can also impact kidney function, but causational studies are limited. Listening to your body is key, but consult with your doctor if you plan to make radical changes to your diet.
SANFORD SPORTS SCIENCE INSTITUTE: Nutrition Strategies for Runners (63 downloads)
Caroline is a Clinical Registered Dietitian for MedStar Health and Hospital Systems in Baltimore, Maryland. She completed her Masters Degree in Dietetics from San Jose State University and moved back to Charm City to be with her fiancee. When she’s not providing medical nutrition therapy to her patients, Caroline enjoys cooking, waterfront walks and crab-anything (crab pizza is the best!).