It is no secret that nutrition plays a vital role in performance no matter what you are training for. It is also no secret that knowing when to eat and what to eat can be tricky, but I am here to break it down and bring it back to basics with a few simple rules to train by:
RULE #1 – NO TRAINING ON A FULL STOMACH
There was a reason mom always said not to swim with a full stomach! Your exercising muscles need more blood (which carries oxygen and nutrients) to perform the increased amount of work you are asking of them. Your digestive system also needs increased blood flow to break down and digest your food. In this battle, your exercising muscles win the competition which means blood flow to the stomach is reduced and digestion is slowed. Exercising with partially digested food in your stomach is not only uncomfortable, but may cause cramping and nausea and overall discomfort, not to mention lower performance. Which brings us to the next rule.
RULE #2 – WHEN TO EAT
PM Training: I will usually recommend eating a mini meal at least 1-2 hours before strenuous activity – this will provide the body with enough food to be available as an energy source, but not so much that it will upset the stomach. Basically, if you are planning on training at 3 pm, start thinking about your meal at 2pm or even earlier.
AM Training: This gets a bit trickier, but can definitely be managed. If you can spare yourself an hour or more, have a smaller breakfast higher in carbohydrates. If you are up and out the door within 20 to 30 minutes, it is recommended to eat or drink something that will digest easily. The closer you are to your training time, the less you should eat, instead try a liquid meal as your stomach digests liquids faster.
RULE #3 – CUSTOMIZE YOUR FOOD TO YOUR TRAINING
Your pre-workout meals should accommodate the type and length of your training. It is also important to avoid high fat and high fibre foods, putting the focus on higher carbohydrate with moderate protein. Mountain biking requires both intense bouts of energy and endurance and can last anywhere from 1-3 hours – below are a few recommendations for pre-workout nibbles:
For intense workouts lasting less than an hour:
- Protein smoothie with fruit- choice of vegan (hemp, rice, pea) or whey isolate powder
- Energy bar – such as Cliff bar, Lara bar or Vega Sport bar
- Fruit – dates, apple, berries with some raw almonds or almond butter
For endurance training lasting 1-3 hours:
- Protein smoothie with berries– your choice of a vegan (hemp, rice, pea) or whey isolate powder
- Non-fat greek yogurt with fruit (banana or berries)
- Steel cut oats with egg whites
- Turkey or chicken breast with quinoa & sweet potato
Elizabeth Cardoso | Registered Holistic Nutritionist