Fueling Tips Before & After Training
“Athletes don’t diet and exercise, they fuel and train” Author unknown.
This has always been one of my favorite quotes. This simple saying stresses the importance of proper fueling not just on game day but throughout an entire season. Athletes should routinely make their fuel choices a part of their before and after practice. Just as they would put shoes, socks they should be putting fuel in their bag as well. Here are some fueling tips to keep the athlete going strong all season long!
What function does my fuel serve?
It is important for athletes to know that pre/post fuel serves a different function than the snacks we consume. These planned out fueling opportunities give our body fuel for many purposes. The athlete’s fuel is used for maximizing their training, aid in helping their bodies recover from a tough training and get them ready to be able to do it all over again the next day.
Instilling this game plan as a consistent part of their routine ensures that they have valuable nutrients to help their brain stay focused and their muscles stay powerful.
The post training fuel is critical to help the body stop damage from training and start repairing so that they can become: faster, stronger and healthy athletes.
Recommendations for the amount of fuel needed varies according to: energy needs of the athlete. If their sport is endurance based requiring more energy or if the duration of practice/competition is over two hours they need more fuel. Generally speaking if a practice is less than one hour or an easier day like a walk through then an additional snack (pre-fuel) is not needed.
It is key to plan out and have on hand snacks/foods for both pre and post training/competition as again each serve important roles.
Pre- practice/competition fuel tips
Coaches and athletic trainers echo the words of “showing up to practice on empty is like showing up to practice with one shoe.”
The further out from practice or competition time the more you can consume.
If 3-4 hours the athlete should be consuming a meal.
If 1-2 hours out, then aim for 30-60 grams carbohydrate with 10 -20 grams protein. The carbohydrate provides readily available fuel for not only the muscles but the brain as well. By doing so you save the stored carbohydrates (glycogen) for the kick at the end when they need it the most. The protein is optional pre- practice/competition as it can helps provide nutrients already in the body to help with recovery. Generally, foods high in fiber and fat are not as well tolerated as they tend to slow digestion.
Be sure to encourage experimenting with the amount and type of food that helps sustain energy without leaving them heavy and bogged down. Once they feel like they have this down tell them to -Leave it alone and never change it on game day! This is why Lebron James go to his is PB&J Uncrustable.
Post-practice/competition- “Half an hour to repower”
While research supports that it is most important for those athletes that are training twice a day or will have a competition within 8 hours of the last training/competition. I firmly believe in keeping things simple and routine for your athletes. Therefore, I use a saying, “half an hour to repower”. This teaches them to get thinking recovery nutrition right away before becoming distracted, head home or waiting too long .The post fuel needs to include carbohydrate and protein both.
A general rule of thumb is to have 30-60 grams carbohydrate with 10-20 grams protein all dependent on energy needs of the athlete and length of time until the next meal.
Here are some suggestions for pre/post fuel:
- Gold standard for recovery: Chocolate milk
- Lebron James go to pre-fuel is Uncrustables.
- Personal favorites- fig bars, mini blueberry bagels with almond butter and energy bites (be sure to check out https://www.pinterest.com/beccamcconville/nutritious-yet-delicious-sports-nuts/)
- Laura Moretti sports RD & triathlete loves her peanut butter filled pretzels for recovery!
- Shawn Pitcher sports RD at Ole Miss likes to create a well-rounded snack bag
- Main: PBJ, PBJ banana, PBJ honey, or PBJ nutella
- Salty Snack: pretzels, goldfish, cheezitz, or PB crackers.
- Fruit: fresh bananas/grapes/peaches/pears or dried mango/kiwi/cranberries/dates/figs
- bar: nature valley, nutri-grain, fig newton
6.Meg Steffey Schrier sports RD 1-2 pieces of of whole wheat bread and peanut butter, new KIND protein bar (12 grams!) and a banana, and fruited Greek yogurt with whole grain cereal
Plan for all roadblocks
Help the athletes plan for all barriers that could keep them from consistently getting these in whether: time, money or habit.
Keep a snack everywhere: locker, backpack, or glove compartment in car.
Coaches and athletic trainer encourage the Booster club to sponsor training table or recovery table with snacks for the athletes.
Need more ideas on how to eat to make sure you’re getting in a balance of nutrients? You can find my Pair-It in the pantry download here!