What’s Fuelling your Body?
by Crystal Watson, MA, BKin, CSCS
Have you ever considered how the food you eat makes you feel? Did you know your nutrition can effect (enhance or inhibit) your performance, physical and cognitive?!? Wondering what you should snack on post-workout to optimize your ‘gains’? Keep reading to find the answers to these questions and more!
Food is Fuel
When it comes to nutrition it is easy to get overwhelmed. There are many false claims about the ‘latest’ and ‘best’ fad diets. Despite how flashy these claims are, I recommend that you ignore them, as you will have the most success if you keep it simple and sustainable. Healthy food choices are ‘ideal’ when they become habits, as habits are sustainable, automatic, and something that we do with confidence. In order to form these sustainable nutrition habits, it can be helpful to gain some basic nutritional knowledge, so let’s start with the basics. The food we eat can be broken down into 3 main components. These main components of our food are referred to as macronutrients and include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
(Andrew & St. Pierre, n.d.)
Carbohydrates typically make up the largest proportion of our diet. It is recommended that 45-65% of our total caloric intake comes from carbohydrates (Muth, 2017). Carbohydrates are our body and brain’s preferred energy source. Insufficient carbohydrate intake and/or depletion of our carbohydrate stores (which can occur during prolonged exercise) can result in fatigue, reduced work rates, impaired cognitive function, and increased perceived effort. Carbohydrates can be found in many foods including fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, and pasta.
Carbohydrates are often categorized as simple vs. complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates typically have a high glycemic index, and are digested quickly. Examples include rice, corn flakes, potatoes, and dried fruit. Due to their fast digesting properties, simple carbs cause a quick spike in blood sugar, which makes energy readily available to our muscles. Complex carbohydrates have a low glycemic index, take longer to digest, and therefore provide a more sustainable source of energy. Examples of complex carbs include oatmeal, plain yogurt, apples, and chickpeas.
Protein, another macronutrient, is known for the important role it plays in muscle growth and repair. Did you know that proteins also help form our tendons and bones, play a role in brain, nervous system, blood, skin, and hair formation, and transport vitamins, minerals and fats throughout our bodies? It is recommended that 10-35% of our daily caloric intake is protein (Muth, 2017). Examples of protein sources include lean meats, eggs, legumes, hummus, and dairy (including yogurt, milk and cheese).
Fats, the third macronutrient, are a rich source of energy. Although fats often get a bad rap, fats are essential for hormone production, vitamin absorption, nerve transmission, and insulation. Therefore, 20-35% of our daily caloric intake should come from fats (Muth, 2017). Fats can be found in many foods including nuts, seeds, nut betters, avocados, and olive or canola oils. Fats are typically categorized as unsaturated, saturated, and trans fats. As much as possible, we should limit and/or avoid saturated and trans fats as they have been linked to a number of health problems and can clog our arteries (Muth, 2017).
Nutrition Tip #1: KNOW YOUR PORTIONS
(Andrew & St. Pierre, 2012)
Fueling for Performance
While it is recommended that 45-65% of our daily caloric consumption be comprised of carbohydrates, 10-35% from protein, and 20-35% from fats, the timing around our consumption these macronutrients can be manipulated to enhance our physical performance.
Since carbohydrates are our preferred energy source, consuming carbohydrates prior to training can maximize energy availability. More specifically, pre-training snacks should be high in carbohydrates, low in fats and fiber (to minimize gastrointestinal distress), and contain only a moderate amount of protein.
Some pre-training snack ideas include:
- Banana (23g carbs, 1 g protein, 0g fat, 3g fiber)
- Oatmeal (27g carbs, 5g protein, 3g fat, 4g fiber)
- Mini Whole Wheat Bagel w 1 cup raspberries (35g carbs, 6g protein, 2g fat, 3g fiber)
- 8 Whole Grain Crackers (22g Carbs, 4g protein, 8g fat, 2g fiber)
If your training bout lasts longer than 1 hour, it is recommended to consume 30-60g of carbohydrates.
Some snack ideas for during training include:
- Orange (9g carbs, 0.5g protein, 0g fat)
- Cliff Kid Z Bar (25g carbs, 2g protein, 4g fat)
- 16 Pretzels (41g carbs, 4g protein, 2g fat)
- ½ cup Raisins (57g carbs, 2g protein, 0g fat)
TRAINING TIP #2:
Hydration is important! It’s best to be proactive when it comes to hydration, as even a 2% decline in hydration levels will noticeably effect performance (Andrews & St. Pierre, n.d.). It is recommended that we consume 17-20oz fluid two hours prior to exercise, 7-10oz every 10-20mins during, and 16-24oz for ever pound of body weight lost (Muth, 2017).
Our post-training snack should reflect the intensity and duration of our training session. After a higher intensity and/or longer duration session, it is recommended that we consume 30-35g of carbohydrates within the first 30 mins (Feit, 2017). This is ideal timing to replenish our muscle energy stores, helping us recover for our next session.
It has also been found that consuming protein can enhance our muscles ability build, repair themselves and to store carbohydrates. The recommended amount of protein, post-training, ranges from 10-30g within 2 hours post-exercise (Dietitians of Canada, 2016; Feit, 2017).
A simpler recommendation would be to aim for a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein. This is a good, easy to remember ratio. However, a lower ratio of carbohydrates (perhaps 1:1 or 2:1) is sufficient for lower intensity training days.
Post Training Snack ideas include:
- Whole Wheat Crackers and Light Cheese (15g carbs, 8g protein, 8.5g fat -OR- 2:1)
- Banana and Prestige Vanilla Ice Cream Protein Powder (29g Carbs, 17g protein, 2g fat -OR- 2:1)
- 200ml Chocolate Milk (20g carbs, 7g protein, 2g fat -OR- 3:1)
- Orange and Unsalted Almond Snack Pack (13g carbs, 4.5 g protein, 9g fat -OR- 3:1)
- ¾ Cup Greek Yogurt and 1 Cup Strawberries (44g carbs, 15g protein, 1g fat -OR- 3:1)
Nutrition is Individual
Carbohydrates, protein, and fats are the main components of our diet. These macronutrients are sources of fuel that allow for movement, development, maintenance, and repair of our bodies. When nutrition is optimized it helps us stay healthy, maintain our body composition, remain injury free, and maximizes our adaptation to exercise. Overall, our daily eating plan should complement our specific activities, training, and recovery needs for that day.
Furthermore, it is important to recognize that nutritional demands are individual. Therefore, what works for one individual may not work for others. This is due to the vast difference in our body sizes, shapes, compositions, sex, age, DNA, and our activity-specific nutrition demands. The information presented in this blog includes general guidelines from reputable sources. This may serve as a great starting point in terms of nutritional awareness and education. However, when it comes to your specific nutritional needs, it is always best to speak with a nutritional professional.
Andrews, R., & St. Pierre, B. (2012, Sept 25). Forget calorie counting: Try this calorie control guide for men and women. Retrieved from https://www.precisionnutrition.com/calorie-control-guide
Dietitians of Canada. (2016, Feb). Nutrition and Athletic performance: Position of dietitians of Canada, the academy of nutrition and dietetics and the American college of sports medicine. Retrieved from https://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Public/noap-position-paper.aspx
Feit, A. (2017, July). A strength coach’s approach to athlete centered nutrition coaching [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.nsca.com/education/videos/a-strength-coachs-approach-to-athlete-centered-nutrition-coaching/
Muth, N. D. (2017). Nutrition. In Bryant, C, Jo, S., Green, D. (Eds.), American Council on Exercise personal trainer manual fifth edition(pp. 149-260).
University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. (2019, April 3). Health and wellness: Eating for peak athletic performance. Retrieved from https://www.uwhealth.org/health-wellness/eating-for-peak-performance/45232