With the arrival of warm weather, many Canadians take their workout outside. Whether you’re a recreational runner or an Ironman competitor, nutrition plays a vital role in your performance. Five-time Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser has said, “Good nutrition accounts for 50% of my performance, with 40% being mental and 10% being physical.”
For improving either endurance or strength training, carbohydrate is the key nutrient. Our bodies rely primarily on carbs to provide the fuel needed during aerobic, power and strength-based activities. If you are gluten-intolerant, like 12% of Canadians, it is important to find gluten-free carb sources.
Pre-workout: Eating prior to physical activity allows us to exercise harder and longer, and recover more quickly. Include a small low-fat, moderate-protein, high-carbohydrate meal or snack 30-60 minutes prior to activity, such as a fruit smoothie, toast (gluten-free breads are readily available) and nut butter, or cereal and yogurt. Wickenheiser’s favorite pre-game meal is chicken, quinoa and steamed vegetables.
During: If you’re working out for less than 60 minutes, there is no need to have anything but water during your workout. For longer workouts, choose an electrolyte-based beverage containing carbohydrates. Small portions of gluten-free bagels or cereal bars can also be quick and effective. Dehydration causes fatigue and cramping, and impairs performance, so drinking adequate fluid before, during and after exercise is important. While hydration needs vary from one person to the next, a good starting point is having one to two cups of fluid before, during and after activity.
Post-Workout: Within 30-60 minutes after physical activity, the goal is to replace the water lost in sweat, restore the muscle fuel (carbs) and promote muscle repair with protein. Great post-exercise meals and snacks include flavored dairy, soy or almond milk, stir fry with lean meat, rice and vegetables, a wrap with hummus and vegetables or trail mix.
Tristaca Curley is a registered dietitian in Kelowna. She is a member of the Sport Nutrition Advisory Committee of Canada and can be found at fuelingwithfood.com.