For most people, nutrition timing isn’t all that important and in order to prevent disordered eating I am all about eating when your hungry and stopping when you’re full. It is important to remember that for most people, food isn’t about managing micro or even macro nutrients. We are humans and humans eat food.
However with training season approaching, eating takes on a completely different meaning for endurance athletes and learning how to eat for becomes important for performance and endurance but more so for recovery.
If you are going into training you have probably heard all sorts of suggestions for what to eat but not too much about why. So let’s break it down.
Three house before exercise you will want to eat something that hydrates, preserves muscle mass and gives you sustained energy. A mixed meal is the best way to do this though some like to do a few smaller meals closer to training.
- Protein Before Exercise: Can help you preserve or build muscle mass, reduce muscle damage, Boosts amino acids to help increase muscle repair.
- Carbs Before Exercise: Fuels hour plus training and aids with recovery, aids muscle and liver glycogen., naturally stimulates the release of insulin.
- Fats Before Exercise: Helps slow digestion for you can maintain insulin levels, provides vitamins and minerals.
This is where things can get a bit more technical based on what kind of exercise you’re doing. Pretty much though, your goals are almost the same as pre exercise.
The main goal is to stay hydrated if you are working out for less than two hours with the exception being if it is over 90 degrees or if you sweat a lot.
For longer than that consult the list below. Most of us get these from gels, chews or liquids.
- 1-2 hours: 15 grams of proteins/ 30-45 grams of carbs. Per hour.
- 2 hours +: 5 grams of protein/ 45-60 grams carbs. Per hour.
Also if you are exercising for this long or in the heat make sure that you are adding to your hydration with sodium. This is where sports drinks are appropriate. For distance runs I tend to move towards Generation Ucan and salt packets, most of all in the heat as I sweat a lot.
This is where our goals start to change. The main purpose of eating after exercise is recovery which means rehydrating, refueling, building muscle and improving future performances.
- Proteins post exercise: The goal is to prevent muscle break down and stimulate new muscle growth/ repair. Some people go for a protein shake but more current research indicates that these might be too quickly digested and be in and out too fast. 20-30 grams of protein (1 palm) normally does the trick.
- Carbs post exercise: Unless you are preforming two two hours plus of endurance sessions within 8 hours of each other it is not necessary to spike your insulin by stuffing yourself with carbs. Instead its better to eat whole slow digesting carbs. This will leave to a better next day performance and is better tolerated.
- Fats post exercise: While there aren’t right up there benefits like there are with protein and carbs, fats will do you no harm. They will slow down digestion, but this isn’t as bad as you think post training session. In fact in some cases it can be good. Careful not to demonize fats.
Long story short, what you eat and when you eat it matters during training season. There is no diet that I would percribe everyone because everyones body is different. Pay attention to what you eat and how you feel.