Louise Wood provides an overview of the importance of nutrition for an athlete before, during, and after an event.
As an athlete, nutrition can be the difference between winning and losing in a competition, so you must be eating the right foods and drinking the right amount of fluids before, during, and after competing.
Preparing your body to compete is the first step, making sure that your glycogen stores are topped up, your energy levels are high, and you are fully hydrated. Your pre-event meal is the one that is going to set you up, so you must be sure that you are including an adequate amount of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins - eating around three hours before.
Carbohydrates are a vital player in your pre-event meal. Carbs are your body's primary source of energy, and they also digest faster than both fat and protein, which makes them ideal for exercise. Foods such as potatoes, pasta, bananas, and cereals are all excellent options when planning what to eat before you compete. It is advised to avoid too many high-fibre based carb-based foods as too much fibre can cause bloating and gas, thus making you uncomfortable.
Protein and fat are the two other macronutrients that you need to be consuming in your pre-event meal. You will more than likely get both of these via some of your carb choices, but if this is not the case then including a small serving of meat, fish, or dairy along with a little healthy fat should provide you with what you need.
Keeping hydrated is critical. If you are not hydrated your body cannot perform at its highest level and will cause you to fatigue faster, experience muscle cramps, dizziness, and other symptoms. Water regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints, so be sure to drink plenty of water.
During your event, you want to keep your energy levels up to maintain stamina - however you must not eat anything too heavy that is going to make you feel bloated as this will hinder your performance. Foods such as fruit or energy bars provide you with fast-acting energy and are easy for the body to digest.
Electrolytes are lost through sweating, so consuming sports drinks is a great way to replenish them as well as give your muscles they need to keep working hard.
Post-event is all about replenishing, refuelling, and recovering, so your post-event meal can be just as important as your pre-event meal. At this stage, your muscles are like a sponge, waiting to soak up carbs to refuel your body and protein to repair your lean muscle. Rehydrating is just as important as eating, so this needs to be just as much of a priority.
To aid optimal recovery, it is ideal to eat within 30-60 minutes after your workout. You want to make sure you are eating complex carbs which will refuel your muscles and protein which will rebuild your muscles. Higher fat foods such as avocado should be avoided as these will slow down the recovery process.
As an athlete, having a nutritionist is a great idea. It works wonders for keeping you on track and always performing as well as you possibly can, although all athletes need to have a clear understanding of what their body needs as opposed to just being told what they need. Nutritional courses are a great way to get a better overall understanding of your body and its needs.
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About the Author
Louise Wood is an experienced journalist and blogger with a thirst for knowledge and a passion for writing.