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FROM THE VAULT: Diet tips from the Jackals (2004)

FROM THE VAULT: Diet tips from the Jackals (2004)

What is the proper diet I should follow prior to my workout & how far in advance should I eat?

The most important characteristics of a good pre-workout meal include maintenance of a constant level of blood sugar (no highs and subsequent lows), settling of your stomach and satisfaction of your hunger, adequate hydration, sufficient energy for the working muscles and a feeling of comfort.

In a nut shell, the major fuel source for your working muscles is muscle glycogen (sugar). The easiest way to increase glycogen stores within your muscles is to eat carbohydrates, a food source that we eat everyday. Now in keeping with proper nutrition, any meal should be balanced to also include protein and fat and water. The ratio you should try to adhere to is 70-75% carbohydrates (cereal, bread, bagels, crackers, potatoes, rice, pasta, starchy vegetables, fruits, and grains), 20-25% proteins (fish, chicken, low fat dairy foods, eggs and steak and a smaller amount from vegetables and grains), and 10-15% fats (fried foods, lunch meats, mayonnaise and salad dressings).

So in other words, your meal should be high carbohydrate, moderate protein and low in fat. Make sure that you are drinking water throughout the meal and before and during your workout. Carbohydrate drinks are also helpful, but be careful with the sugar and stimulant content of the ones that you choose.

Foods that should be avoided are those foods that are high in fat, foods high in simple sugars (candy, chocolate), foods high in salt (chips, pretzels, foods that are spicy and foods that are unfamiliar to you. These types of foods can cause indigestion, nausea vomiting, anxiety and feel uncomfortable in the stomach. The foods high in refined sugar salt or have high caffeine content promote dehydration, fatigue and headaches. If you are only 2% dehydrated, you have already reduced your working capacity to 90%.

The timing of your meal is also very important. The important thing to remember is that your stomach should be empty when you are exercising. If you exercise on a full stomach or partially digested stomach your body has to make a decision between supplying blood to the digesting stomach or blood to the exercising muscles. Timing depends on the size of the meal; 3-4 hours for a large meal, 2-3 hours for a small meal. 1-2 hours for a liquid meal (carbohydrate shakes, meal replacements) and 30-60 minutes for a light breakfast or snack.

Remember, there is no magic pre-workout meal of specific foods, just a meal of smart choices.

Brandon Dionne, L-ATC
Certified Athletic Trainer
Elmira Jackals