Poorly planned meals or snacks can interfere with quality training sessions or race day performance. Athletes should be educated on the basic goals of fueling guidelines for the before, during and after of their workouts. Many of these recommendations are similar to race day nutrition guidelines.
The goals of fueling before a training session are to ‘top off’ carbohydrate stores, optimize hydration, provide energy for the start of the workout and delay glycogen depletion.
• An athlete should ideally have a low fat, moderate protein, high carbohydrate (low to moderate gi) meal or snack within 1-4 hours prior to the training session.
• Carbohydrate content of the meal or snack should provide 0.25-0.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound for each hour prior to activity. A 150 pound athlete who trains 1 hour from now should aim for 75 grams of CHO (150 lbs x 0.5 g/lb = 75 x 1 hour = 75 grams).
• The session should begin with the athlete in an optimally hydrated state. Refer to Table 6.4 for guidelines.
• Solid foods are better consumed 1-4 hours before the session to allow adequate time for digestion. Liquid and semisolid foods (sports drinks, gels, yogurt) may be better tolerated if the workout is less than an hour away.
• Athletes may opt to select lower fiber carbohydrate choices prior to these sessions.
• If an athlete maintains a high carbohydrate diet and the session is less than 90 minutes, she should have sufficient fuel stored from a prior meal.
Each athlete differs in her ability to consume, digest and absorb both liquids and solids during training. This is what makes establishing a sound training nutrition plan a challenge.
The nutritional goal during training is to maintain blood glucose, which helps to conserve glycogen and minimize the risk of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance as well as gastrointestinal distress.
• Aim for 30-75 grams of carbohydrate (Cho) per hour.
• Divide the Cho into 2-4 doses every 15-30 minutes.
• For training sessions greater than 1 hour, use sports drinks instead of plain water.
• Every 15-20 grams of carbohydrate should be accompanied by 8-10 oz fluid. Sports drinks (deliver both CHO and fluid) should fall within the above range to ensure an optimal 6-8% CHO solution, which is suggested for optimal gastric emptying.
• Fluid intake should be matched with fluid (sweat) losses. The American College of Sports Medicine and National Athletic Trainer’s Association support the recommendation that athletes should try to closely match fluid replacement with fluid losses (sweat) and keep overall fluid loss to less than 2% of the athlete’s pre-training body weight.
During the training year, an athlete’s fluid needs change. Early in the season, sweat rate may be lower due to the state of fitness and the training environment. As the body becomes more fit, the sweat rate may increase. In addition, the body adapts to weather transitions from cool to hot conditions by increasing sweat production. The amount of fluid an athlete needs is dependent on the type of environmental conditions in which the athlete is training and racing.