Keep Your Motor Running: Fuel Before and After Competition

adapted from an article by Jacqueline Berning, Ph.D., R.D
Skipping meals or not eating before a workout can impair performance, and not eating after a workout or competition leaves you running on empty. Make nutrition a priority before, during and after exercise.
The Pre-Exercise Meal First it keeps you from feeling hungry and sluggish before and during exercise, and secondly it helps to maintain optimal levels of energy for the exercising muscles. A good recommendation is to eat a meal 2-4 hours before exercise. The ideal pre-exercise meal should be primarily carbohydrates, moderate in protein and low in fat. Carbohydrates are digested rapidly. Protein and fat take longer to digest. Pre-exercise meals high in fat can cause stomach upset, gas and bloating.
The Post-Exercise Meal Muscles are most receptive to recovery during the first 30 minutes after exercise. To completely restore muscle energy, eat within 30 minutes after exercise and then eat small meals at 2 hours and again at 4 hours. If you can't take solid foods 30 minutes after exercise, or they are not available, try drinking 2-4 cups of a sports drink or eating an energy bar, then eat more solid foods 2 and 4 hours later.
Be sure to hydrate after a workout or game. Weigh yourself and drink 3 cups of fluid for each pound lost during the competition.
The same kind of high-carbohydrate, power-packed foods are recommended for BOTH before and after exercise:
4 or more hours before AND 4 hours after
Grilled chicken/rice/fruit
Turkey sandwich/raw carrots
Spaghetti with meat sauce
String cheese/grapes/crackers
Energy bar/Sports drinks
2-3 hours before AND 2 hours after
Cereal/lowfat milk
Fresh fruit
Bagel with peanut butter
Sports drink
Energy bar
1 hour or less before AND 30 minutes after
Energy bar
Sports drink
To read the full article at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, click here.

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