Pre-training meal or snack
One of the first things clients see me after we alter their performance nutrition is how much of a difference pre-training meals and snacks make to their sessions!
In your pre-training snack try to have some form of carbohydrate containing food. Carbohydrates are your body’s favourite source of energy when it is active. Carbs are rapidly absorbed and will get you to those high intensities you need to train hard. The amount and type of carbohydrate, as well as the timing of the meal also matters.
For sessions shorter than 75mins you may not require a specific pre-training snack as long as you have a fairly high carb diet. If your diet is lower in carbohydrates I would include a carb-rich pre-training snack. Particular athletes, may benefit from ‘training low’ or restricting carbohydrate intake pre-endurance session to improve the body’s ability to metabolise fats. If you are an endurance runner, speak to a dietitian about this as there are a number of factors to consider before jumping in to fat adaptation.
Research supports having between 30-70g of carbs per hour of training. Pretty wide range? Yep! The amount you will need depends on your body size, the intensity of your training, how well trained you are and a bunch of other factors. It is best to speak to a sports dietitian for tailored advice.
Are you about to do a fast and intense HIIT session or a long endurance run (or maybe something in between)?
The type of carbohydrate needs to be matched to your style of training. Some carbohydrates take longer to digest and metabolise to give you a longer lasting energy source at a slightly lower intensity, these are referred to as having a low glycemic index (GI).
Other carbs are very rapidly digested and processed to give a short lived but intense hit of energy and are referred to as high glycaemic carbs (High GI). Think about the type of exercise you do and what kind of carbohydrate will best match your needs. Some training sessions may require a combination while others may target just carbohydrate type.
See our fuelling guide factsheet for specific foods!
You’re halfway through your training session and are starting to feel light headed, fatigued and its getting difficult to move your muscles. You’re considering calling it in early because you’ve got training on again tomorrow morning and need to be ready. This is a common scenario amongst my clients and I have definitely felt it myself too! Nutrition during training has been found to prolong the time it takes for fatigue to set in meaning that you can work harder for longer. It also improves recovery so that you are fresh for your next session.
So what should you eat during your sessions?
You need to stay hydrated. Your blood carries oxygen and nutrients to your brain and working muscles. Dehydration causes your blood to thicken and deprive your muscles of the nutrients it needs to perform or train hard.
Water is generally all you need. In some cases, on hot days and during long training sessions, sports drinks or electrolyte drinks can be helpful.
Sports drinks provide some added electrolytes to aid absorption but work largely on the principle that they taste good so you’ll drink more. They also contain sugars which can be a helpful way to get some carbs in during your session (more on that soon!). Similarly, coconut water contains some electrolytes but not in the specific ratios needed to make a big impact on absorption. It does, however, taste amazing so you’ll probably drink more of it.
Elecrolyte drinks (ie Hydralyte) contain a specific and calculatd amount of electrolytes to enhance water absorption through your small intestine (it’s usually only absorbed in your large intestine). These are most effective in extreme conditions, however, for the majority of the time, plain water will be adequate.
Carbs are your working muscle’s favourite source of energy. We do store carbs as glycogen in both liver and muscles. Your pretraining meal will help to top up your circulating glucose stores, however, in once your carbohydrate stores are used up, your body needs to use less efficient means of creating energy such as breaking down fats or proteins meaning that you can’t train as hard or it all just begins to hurt more! As mentioned, evidence supports ingestion of 30-70g of carbs per hour of training. It might be worth topping up if you are working hard for a long period of time. If you’re topping up on the go you are going to want something that is processed quickly in your gut and won’t leave you feeling sick.
During training carb options
Sultana snack pack = 30g carbs per 40g serve
Medjool dates: 32g in 3 dates (16g each)
Lollies = 30g carbs in 40g serve (eg Allen’s Lollies)
Banana = 22g 1 medium banana
Grapes = 20g in 20 grapes (120g serve)
Fruit juice = 25g carbs per 250mL
Flat coke = 63g in 600mL (+ caffeine!)
Gatorade = 36g carbs per 600mL bottle
Hydralyte sport = 13g per 600mL bottle
For more great examples of what to fuel with, check out our Fuelling Guide here!