Many of you are getting ready for D-day, the event that you wouldn’t want to miss for anything in the world. You train hard, putting in time and effort, and thus you deserve to reap the rewards. Nutrition plays a huge part both in your success and your health. It’s known that you are what you eat and this is true not only during exercise but between bouts of physical activity. Follow these 3R’s to keep going without running low on fuel or hitting any roadblocks!
- Rethink everyday meals and snacks to make sure they offer their fair share of nutritive carbohydrates (such as couscous, whole-wheat pasta, multigrain bread, fresh fruits with edible peels) and quality protein (lean meats and poultry, low-fat dairy or soy products, fish and seafood, eggs and legumes). Although carb-loading can be useful prior to race day, carb-depletion is never a good idea, causing fatigue and muscle wasting. As for protein, endurance athletes (meat-lovers and vegetarians alike) need to take in adequate amounts of precious amino acids for tissue repair and immune function.
- Reduce the oxidative stress and acidic burden caused by exertion (without meaning to take away from the benefits of working out…). Exercise increases the need for certain vitamins (C and the B family), minerals (iron and zinc particularly) and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium) as these nutrients are lost in sweat and urine. Also, levels of acidity rise (corresponding to a drop in pH…) with effort, which can cause bone loss and other minor ills in the long run. Checking labels and ingredient lists is a smart way to load up on antioxidants and alkaline foods, either in edible or supplement form.
- Refrain from consuming too much alcohol (a predictable statement!), fat and fiber (this one may come as a surprise?!), as these can become a nuisance to athletes. The first substance will not only blur physical and mental alertness but also slow lipolysis (the use and burning of body fat for energy) and contributes empty calories. A second possible offender is fat, especially if predominant in the diet, which slows digestion and affects weight management. Finally, too much fiber (although important for digestion/ elimination) overstimulates the intestinal tract and causes bloating, cramping and diarrhea.
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Many athletes swear by the added value of sports drinks, to supplement water intake during training. These liquid brews fuel physical effort and help maintain blood sugar and glycogen stores during exercise, and can provide precious calories and key nutrients before and after an intense workout. There are more than a few choices of sports drinks on the market, all trying to grab your attention and their place on your fitness grocery list. Here are the essential features you should look for in order to ensure that the sports drinks you buy are useful, nutritious and adapted to your endurance needs :
- The beverage in question should provide at least ½ litre (500 millilitres or 2 cups) of water for the suggested serving size to satisfy your thirst and ensure optimal hydration.
- If you are expecting your drink to provide an energy boost, it should contain carbohydrates in concentrations of 4 to 8%, which corresponds to about 20 to 40 grams of carbs per half-liter (500 millilitres or 2 cups) of brew. You can also use gels, chews, energy bars or tablets to get your carbs. Look for different kinds of carbohydrates, each with a specific speed of absorption and ease of digestion; there are simple sugars (the –ose family: glucose, fructose, dextrose…) or complex ones (maltodextrins or starches).
- The ideal product would also include electrolytes in sufficient quantities to allow you to take in 100 to 400 milligrams each of sodium and potassium in the offered format.
- Certain versions have caffeine (or guarana, maca, etc.) for increased alertness and performance, although its stimulating effects can cause a rise in blood pressure, an increase in heartbeat and some nervousness; be aware that individual tolerance may vary.
- A few kinds of sports drinks have glutamine, branched chain and other amino acids (they are the building blocks of protein) to nourish your muscles that undergo micro-tears during physical activity, this can be of added value when training lasts more than 2 hours.
Give sports drinks a chance, they may be the secret to assisting you in performance, fighting fatigue and preventing the infamous bonk! Once thirst and hunger set in, it is already too late… Better off planning ahead! Have fun training and cheers to your health!!!
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