Jan 29, 2015
Session Notes: Practical Sports Nutrition

At a session called “Nutrition Recommendations for Pre, During, and Post Exercise,” Jaqueline Berning, PhD, RD, CSSD, Chair of the Biology Department at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, brought up interesting points on a variety of topics. Here’s a sampling:

• Athletes are more aware than ever of the importance of recovery nutrition, and that’s great. But eating for recovery is not necessary for everyone, and some athletes don’t realize this. Berning noted that athletes who aren’t concerned about next-day performance (for instance, those who are in their off-season and not participating in an ongoing training program) won’t suffer a physical detriment by not eating immediately after exercise, as long as they make good choices at mealtimes and replace fluids/electrolytes as needed. Another example involves extreme endurance athletes–a marathon runner, for instance, doesn’t need to worry about eating for recovery within 30 minutes of crossing the finish line. They’re not likely to be active the next day, so physical rest, fluids, and balanced, healthy meals at mealtimes are all that’s needed to allow the body a full (albeit slower) recovery.

• Nutrient timing is sometimes especially difficult for student-athletes at large high schools, because these schools typically stagger their lunch schedules. As a result, some students eat lunch as early as 10:30 a.m., which is really more like a late breakfast. If they have practice after school at 3 p.m. and their class schedule doesn’t permit time to eat in the early afternoon, they’ll be in a serious energy deficit by mid-practice. For athletes in a situation like this, it may be worth trying to arrange with a teacher to allow them to eat a sandwich and a piece of fruit during an early afternoon class.

• Sometimes, it just doesn’t work to talk with an athlete about carbohydrate-protein ratios, glycemic index, and other nutritional specifics when planning a pre-game meal: They just want to know, “What should I eat?” Berning provides these athletes with simple answers, based on how soon before the activity they’ll be eating:

One Hour Pre-Competition: Stick to liquids, such as water and sports drinks. Avoid high-glycemic beverages such as soda or energy drinks, which have a very high carb ratio that will result in a short energy boost followed by a quick crash.

Two Hours Pre-Competition: Sports drinks along with cereal with low-fat milk, or toast, or a low-fat muffin, or a bagel, or yogurt and fruit.

Three Hours Pre-Competition: Sports drinks, a turkey sandwich with low-fat cheese, yogurt, fruit, and a granola bar.

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