The benefits of loading up on carbohydrates before participating in a physical workout have long been common knowledge, and it’s best to begin preparing at least three days prior to the competition, especially if you are an athlete who need to sustain their performance over time. Carbohydrates can, however, vary considerably; especially in how rapidly bodies digest and absorb them so you need to make sure you do your homework first.
The Right Carbohydrates
Nutritional science has found that athletes need to maximize their stock of carbohydrates and blood glucose by eating such foods with a low-to-medium glycemic index (GI) as whole-grain breads and rice, pasta, milk and milk products, porridge, and fruit other than bananas and dried fruit before competing. These enable the release of glucose into the blood to be relatively slow.
A typical pre-competition meal could include fettuccini in low-fat tomato-based sauce, scrambled eggs or beans on whole meal toast, fresh fruit, some vegetables, and baked fish or chicken. Other options include porridge, turkey or chicken sandwiches on whole meal bread, stir-fries with brown rice and tofu, and baked potatoes. It’s important that it be food with which the athletes are familiar and that they enjoy.
When to Eat
It is important that you plan an eating plan for the day. An early breakfast, a mid-morning snack, and a light midday lunch all need to be consumed before any big meals, while the “pre-competition meal” should be eaten at least three hours before the event to prevent the digestive process from taking energy away from performance. Drink special carbohydrate sports-energy drinks five to ten minutes before it’s time to compete. Drinking water on the day of the match in small but frequent quantities is also vitally important.
Athletes should consume a special nutrient replacement drink within fifteen minutes of the end of the competition, and then have a post-match snack, such as sandwiches on whole meal bread followed by grapes should be eaten. Breakfast cereal with yoghurt and bananas is also helpful for recovery. The dinner a few hours later should include plenty of pasta, bread, rice, or potatoes topped off with simple sugars as cakes or sweets.
Differences Among Sports
How much athletes eat on match days should vary with their sport and even with their position if it’s a team sport, such as football, a goalkeeper’s nutritional requirements will be different to those of a midfielder. The diet described here applies more to sustained-energy sports such as bicycle racing, and triathlon than to such sports based on intense bursts of activity such as sprinting and weightlifting.
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