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Coach Emmett’s Nutrition Blog: Nutrient Timing for Athletes

In athletic performance, we need to rely on food for fuel to keep us at the top of our game. Having a proper understanding of nutrient intake is essential to keep our bodies physically prepared and ready to go for training and competition.

Student-athletes are always on the go rushing from school to the locker room to get ready for an afternoon game; during that time, they tend to get distracted from the fact that they haven’t eaten since their lunch period! Even adults rushing to get to the gym before or after work can often skip a meal or ignore their hunger in order to crank out a quick workout, however at times that does more harm than good. That window of time without consuming any snacks can seriously affect their energy at game time, as the body has little stored energy available for use. Here is a brief guide that breaks it all down:

  • Before:

    • A full meal 2-4 hours before training or competition that consists of high carbohydrate & protein content with very little fat.

    • A light snack with easy to digest carbohydrates that provides quick energy such as applesauce, bananas, crackers, toast, pretzels, etc.

    • Why?

      • Prevent muscles from breaking down

      • Prevent hunger, provide energy to the brain & working muscles

      • Sustain energy levels & prevent fatigue as long as possible

Each athlete has their own individual approach leading up to a game; what’s meant for one athlete isn’t meant for the other. The same applies to nutrition; you may be able to tolerate some foods differently than teammates so it’s best to take the time to find what’s right for you and won’t upset your stomach before or during competition.

  • During:

    • Have plenty of fluids available during breaks from training or competition

    • Water is preferred; however, in the case of high-intensity training, fluids can be replaced with a sports drink to replenish electrolytes lost from sweating.

    • Why?

      • Prevent dehydration

      • Prevent muscular cramping caused by dehydration

Foods such as a light carbohydrate snack should only be consumed during competition if chronic fatigue occurs. If fatigue, dizziness, heat exhaustion or dehydration occur, immediately sit out and consume fluids with electrolytes and a little sugar (to restore lost glucose) such as Gatorade or Powerade.

  • After:

    • Consume a snack or protein shake as soon as possible!

    • A full meal within 2 hours after training or competition that consists of whole grain carbohydrates, lean protein, fluids, & electrolytes.

    • Why?

      • Muscles have been fatigued and worn down from physical activity; immediate nutrient consumption stimulates muscle repair & growth. The sooner, the better; the window of opportunity for the best replenishment is small.

      • Stored energy is replenished.

Instead of finding time to eat, you should MAKE time to eat. Find healthy snacks that are easy to prepare and won’t cause jitters or crashing, and take 5-10 minutes out of your schedule to allow you to perform at your very best.


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