Pre & Post Exercise Nutrition (Covering Hydration, Protein, and Carbohydrates)


By Katherine MacPherson BS, ACSM HFS

Exercise nutrition should be just as regular as exercise itself.   Acquiring wholesome nutrition before and after you exercise will take your health progression even further.  Whether you’re training for a marathon or just for fitness food intake plays an important role in your health and in performance.  Everyone who engages in exercise will benefit from understanding and practicing the basic exercise nutrition recommendations. 
The first major pre, during, and post exercise essential nutrient is water.  As your core temperature increases during exercise, our body’s response to heat regulation is to sweat.   The replenishment of fluid is enormously important because dehydration can decrease performance by reducing strength, coordination, and endurance.  It can also increase the risk of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
Replacement recommendations:
·         2 Hours before exercise a person should drink 12 to 24 oz. of fluid water, and then 7 to 10 oz. of fluid water 10 to 20 minutes before starting exercise
·         During any moderate to vigorous exercise 6-12 oz. of fluid water should be consumed every 15 to 20 minutes.
·         After exercise, fluid should still be consumed (E. Howley, et al., 2007).
Protein intake for athletes who take part in high-intensity and/or high-volume resistance training, and endurance activity may benefit from increased amounts of protein intakes.  Adequate levels of protein can aid in damaged muscle tissue repair and development of new tissue (American Dietetic Association, 2009).  However, seeking levels that are higher than the recommended intake are unnecessary.  There is a threshold on increased muscle mass (E. Howley, et al., 2007).  Furthermore, athletes should not seek additional sources of protein through supplements because protein requirements can be met through food choices.   Athletes who partake in intense training should consume a higher caloric intake, thus increasing their distribution of vital macronutrients (protein, fats, and carbohydrates).
The breakdown of carbohydrates after digestion creates a major energy source called Glucose.  It is highly necessary for optimal athletic performance to intake sufficient levels of carbohydrates.  Carbohydrate loading is used before major athletic events to amplify glycogen storages. This has been found to increase bouts of exercise performance (E. Howley, et al., 2007). 
·         Physically active adult: 60% to 65% of diet should consist of Carbohydrates.
·         Athlete who trains heavily: 6 to 10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight.
·         Nutrition recovery should begin within 15-60 minutes following exercise (American Dietetic Association, 2009).
Pre & Post Exercise Fluid and Food Ideas:  (American Dietetic Association, 2009).
v  Peanut butter and honey on toast + instant breakfast drink
v  Oatmeal with brown sugar and almonds + skim milk + banana
v  Turkey and Swiss sandwich + fruit + sports drink
v  Whole wheat pita sandwich with turkey and veggies + low-fat milk
v  Stir fry with mean steak, broccoli, bell peppers, carrots + brown rice
v  Smoothie make with yogurt and frozen berries
v  Graham crackers with peanut butter + low fat chocolate milk + banana
(2009). Nutrition fact sheet: Eating for recovery. American Dietetic Association
(2009). Nutrition fact sheet: Eating Befor Exercise. American Dietetic Association
Dunford, M., & Doyle, A. (2008). Nutrition for sports and exercise. (pp. 141-149). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
Howard, E., & Franks, D. (2007). Fitness professional’s handbook. (5 ed., pp. 115-117). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
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