The Athlete's Food Pyramid ... or is that a tower?
By Westy Bell
One of the questions I get asked most often as a personal trainer is, "What should I eat and drink before and after my training and racing to maximize performance?"
That's a pretty ... uh ... meaty topic. So let's break it up into a few parts. For today's tip, let's dig into the subject of what to eat before and after training, whether it be on skates, bikes or sneakers.
For starters, at least two hours before training eat a nutritious, square meal. By that I mean a meal consisting of protein, carbohydrates and fat.
An example would be chicken with whole wheat pasta or brown rice, broccoli and olive oil and/or cheese. For a convenient alternative try pizza or pasta with chicken, broccoli and Alfredo sauce. If it's breakfast you're after, try eggs and oatmeal fortified with peanut butter and syrup (yum! ... one of my all time favorites).
Any of these meals will provide you with enough energy to get you through your workout. The important thing to remember is that you should be finished with your meal at least two hours before you start training. If you aren't, the exertion of an intense workout could cause you to lose your cookies.
If you feel the need to munch on something right before you train, stick to low-fat carbohydrate snacks, such as bananas, Power Bars, granola bars and Fig Newtons. They are good sources of fast digesting (fast burning) carbs. But don't expect them to get you through a marathon. For that, eat slower-burning carbs, such as brown rice, oatmeal or sweet potatoes.
Don't eat fatty snacks like potato chips right before a workout. They take longer to digest (due to the fat) and will weigh you down like kryptonite.
After you finish your workout, your muscles are in a catabolic state. Their sugar (glycogen) reserves are depleted and in need of repair. So the sooner you replenish them, the better.
Studies have shown that our bodies synthesize twice as much muscle glycogen if we eat within 30 minutes of a workout instead of two hours later. Similarly, our bodies repair muscle tissue 3.5 times faster if we eat the right combination of macronutrients immediately after a workout rather than three hours later.
Macronutrients include proteins, carbohydrates and fats. The quickest digesting protein is the weightlifter's staple: the whey protein shake (which also happens to be the best source of protein, aside from eggs). These shakes come in a variety of flavors. Some taste nasty; others I could drink all day!
A protein shake gives your muscles the building blocks for protein synthesis. But it's not all you need. Once you gulp it down, it's time for some more of those quick-digesting carbs, like the ones you had before your workout. You need them to replenish your depleted muscle glycogen.
So have yourself another Power Bar, granola bar or even a candy bar. A banana is a wise choice because of its potassium, which prevents muscle cramps. Just make sure you eat something that will get to your muscles quick. The more sugary the food the better ... just don't over do it by eating a whole box of Oreos. Otherwise, you'll really be at risk of losing your cookies.
Westy Bell is an ACE certified personal trainer, speed skater, weightlifter and mom. A native of central Pennsylvania and former Air Force meteorologist, she came late to skating, starting at age 27. But she learned fast and became a national champion in 2002 when she and teammate Jane Carey won the classic (over 30) two woman relay at Indoor Nationals. A resident of Asheville, NC, she skates with the Rolling Warriors and is preparing for her first bodybuilding competition, June 9, in Savannah, GA.