Many athletes wonder: what should I eat before training? And during the exercise? And after training?
To answer all these questions you will have to analyze case by case, but ... good news! There are general patterns that you can follow without fear of being wrong.
Keep in mind that many factors can influence what is better to eat, such as the sport you practice or your health and physical situation. So, don't take this text to the letter! In any case, reading this article will allow you to have several basic ideas about what to eat, when and how.
Once this is clarified, let's start.
What and how to eat before training?
Before doing sports we will need to have a nourished body, in a situation where our cells and muscles can perform well and thus minimize the risk of injury. For this purpose, the nutrients we eat (carbohydrates or sugars, fats, and proteins) must be in optimal amounts and proportions.
We must know that lipids are the last element of obtaining energy, very effective but very slow energy: it takes longer to get underway to nourish our muscle cells. The oxidation of fatty acids is activated 20-40 minutes after starting sports and ... it is almost impossible to deplete our body's lipid stores.
On the one hand, we already have fats spread throughout the body, and this means that we have virtually inexhaustible stores. If we eat fat before training we will only have to put the stomach to work and decrease the mobilization of blood to where we want it to be transported: the muscles. Therefore, the intake of fats before exercising is not recommended since it will slow down our digestion. Apart from that, our lipid stores already provide us with this nutrient constantly, so you should not have any fear of it running out.
Speaking of sugars, the truth is that we have small reserves in the liver and muscle level. However, these glucose stores are not large enough to meet the needs of our body on a day of training or physical, so we should eat a slow-absorbed carbohydrate to charge our cells with energy and not feel tired or have a lipoma during exercise
There are many examples of slow absorption sugars, but the most recommended are pasta, rice, and bread. If they are integral, much better! Because whole foods are absorbed more slowly by our digestive system, therefore our energy reserves will cover our needs more and better during (and after) sports, thanks in part to their fiber content.
About fiber, we must know that it has two basic functions: lower the glycemic index of food (this is related to the speed of absorption of food and the activation of insulin in our body) and clean our intestines.
Last but not least, we have proteins. These play a fundamental role during exercise to prevent or slow down the processes of muscle destruction. In the protein section, we must take into account that the reserves only last from 3 to 4 hours, regardless of whether we talk about vegetable proteins (lentils, for example) or animals (a beefsteak).
The only thing we will look at when deciding if we are committed to vegetable or animal proteins will be in our blood group since depending on the blood types we will be more tolerant or less of one protein type or another, so digestion will occur more quickly or less. This point of blood groups and protein assimilation I will explain in another article in more detail, I do not want to entertain in this.
Once we have seen what and how we should eat before exercise, let's move on to the next phase: during the sports activity.
What and how to eat during physical exercise?
At this point in the training in which we begin to sweat and notice how our muscles pump blood, we will need to ingest certain nutrients that allow us to maintain a good level of hydration and energy. It is during sweating that our body expels water and mineral components. This loss can be easily remedied by ingesting an isotonic drink. The bottles of isotonic water contain sugars of rapid absorption necessary to restore the levels of water and glucose that our body demands when exercising. If it is the case that the isotonic drink does not carry sugars, do not worry: you can add a couple of tablespoons of white sugar.
When it comes to proteins during training, our body can only assimilate protein already broken down into amino acids. The amino acid is the smallest unit in which a protein can break down, an amino acid chain forms a protein. Two types of amino acids are responsible for repairing the microscopic muscle fibers of our body that are degraded when we do sports. On the one hand, we have glutamine (which is the most important amino acid for the topic at hand) and which has a fundamental role in the repair processes of muscle fibers.
On the other hand, we find the amino acids BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acids), formed by valine, leucine and isoleucine, three essential components in muscle metabolism. You can buy these amino acids in specialized stores, and they come in a shake, which you can prepare at home and take it easy during training. Important!: We have to monitor the origin of these products since not all of them have the same quality.
Low-quality products can be dangerous to our health, be very careful !: This will also be a topic that I keep for another article because it deserves to be explained well. In any case, be very careful when choosing nutritional supplements: it is better not to take them than to take any that may harm your health.
Once explained what and how to eat during training, let's continue: we will know how to nourish after sweating the fat drop.
What and how to eat after training?
Immediately after exercise, we have a period of between 90 and 120 minutes during which our body is highly receptive to all the nutrients we eat. This special time is called an anabolic window, and it also happens in the morning when we wake up. Therefore, pay attention to what follows because it is very important.
The best option for after exercise will be to take a fast-absorbed carbohydrate shake, to cut the process of muscle destruction. This is caused by continued stress on the muscle, which slowly damages the fibers during physical exercise to create micro muscle tears. For us to achieve an improvement in muscle quality (and therefore, in sports performance), we must necessarily go through this process of destruction. Of course, it is not convenient that the muscle fibers remain degraded and without food to be repaired for a long time, hence the need for this first shake that I recommend.
Shortly after this first shake and before the end of the anabolic window time, it is ideal to drink a second shake, this time of protein, to recover the muscular structure. You should keep in mind that it will depend on the quality of the protein that the absorption occurs faster and that feels better at the digestive level. This is because at the moment just after exercise we do not have much blood in the organs involved in the digestion process.
The blood is kept in the muscles to oxygenate them and repair the fibers, leaving the rest of the body a little shortened, as with the stomach, which must make overexertion to properly assimilate the food it receives and thus be able to repair the muscle fibers. As a result of this whole process, the quality of our muscles increases, which leads to progress in our general physical condition.
Later, before the anabolic window ends, we must ingest a quick carbohydrates to refill the muscle stores of glucose. My recommendation is the one that contains the boiled potato or sweet potato. As a protein source, we will follow the same pattern as before, looking at food that suits us according to our blood group.
Food and training: conclusions
As we have seen, feeding before, during and after sports training is key to optimizing physical performance, and muscle recovery and overcompensation. I hope this mini-guide will help you to improve the quality of your workouts so you can achieve your personal goals.
Now, the most important thing: to train!