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31. 3. 2012.

Nutrition before and during sports activity

Most of the athletes think that quantity and quality of food intaked, before and after training or competition, is very important to give maximum performance possible. Very often athletes believe that only specific type of food is good for them and they are very often connected to “magic recipe”. There are physiological and psychological factors that influent food and drinks choice in this period of training or competition.
Food intake before and during training has following goals:
  • Enable sufficient amount of energy for muscular work, especially during activities that last longer than 90 minutes
  • Keep normal level of glucose in blood
  • Some amount of food in gastrointestinal tract(GI) will remove hunger feeling and lead to absorption of gastric juice and stops improper feeling during training
  • Knowledge that some amount of proper food is intaked leads to feeling of security

It is needed during preparation period to create the pattern of fluid and food intake for the period before training(competition), according to the features of physical activity, physiology aspects of absorption, metabolism of food intaked and wishes of the athlete. The biggest problems can be created at activity where running, or body moves upwards-downwards are extremely emphasized.
It is marked that in 30-50% percent of cases in sports where ability of endurance is especially emphasized, syndrome of gastrointestinal problems can be present, like spasms, pain in area of gastric, nausea, diarrhea…
There are more factors that can influent badly to gastrointestinal tract symptoms:
  • Type of sport. In these sports where activity is done in relatively stabile position; like swimming, cycling and similar there is the lowest rate of GI problems. However, in soccer GI problems rate is high, due to jumps, sprints, sudden direction changes…
  • Years of training. The beginners occur more GI problems than advanced athletes. It is needed to have planned activities ahead about food and energy intake, especially at the ones that just start with sport activities.
  • Growth. Young athletes have more GI problems than the older ones, which is explained by non-experience and insufficient info about nutrition.
  • Gender. Females occur more problems during menstruation cycle.
  • Training intensity. Training of very big intensity can cause GI problems anyway, which is explained by reduction of blood circulation through GI tract and redirecting to active muscles.
  • Emotional stress. Mental tension and stress leads to longer food keeping in GI tract and various problems.
  • Type of food intaked. Food intaked before competition should contain reduced amount of fats and proteins, that look for long term process of digestion to absorb. Easy digestive carbohydrates with low amount of diet fibers should be given advantage.
  • Caffeine and concentrated sugar solutions. Too big amount of caffeine can lead to GI problems. There is a wrong opinion that huge amount of carbs can lead positively to physical training. Effect can be opposite due to causing GI problems.
  • Hydratation level. Dehydration leads to GI distress. During period of competition preparation drinks that are the best to deal with should be chosen(water, sports drinks, juices or any other liquid). During training(especially long term) habbit for often fluid intake should be steady.
  • Chormonal changes during training. Training changes level of various chormones, and the ones that lead to food decomposition and resorption from GI tract. These changes can cause symptoms and signs of GI distress.

Basic principles during meal planning before and during the competition

One of basic principles is everyday intake of sufficient carbohydrates amount in small meals(baggings) about an hour before training, which will disable feeling of hunger and maintain glucose level in blood.
If training will last over 60 minutes, carbohydrates with moderate or low glycemic index should be chosen.
Groceries like bananas, oatmeal, lens, yoghurt, apples etc. , intaked one hour before competition, will be mostly digested and prepared for further use  during training.
If training lasts less than hour, light food easy for digestion should be chosen, like: bread and rolls, crackers and pasta, that is rich with carbs, and has low amount of fat.
As previously said, food rich with fats and proteins demands complex digestion and longer keeping in gastric and intestines, so intake before training is not recommended. However, sometimes food that is rich with proteins with lower amount of fats can be recommended, because it leads to longer satiety feeling:
  • 2-3 leaves of non-fat turkey or chicken(as a sandwich)
  • 1-2 pieces or cheese spoon from skimmed milk(with bread)
  • 1-2 baked eggs(on toaster)
  • Glass of skimmed milk(in combination with cereals and banana)
If food that contains high percent of simple carbohydrates with high glycemic index is intaked 15-20 minutes before training, some athletes can have huge problems due to sudden glucose level drop in blood. In these cases intake of “small, sweet” meal 5-10 minutes before training can be useful, cause training start will stop sudden increase in insuline secretion.
To avoid unwished effects of meal entered before training, time of food intake is very important. It is known that at most athletes 3-4 hours is needed for bigger meal digestion, 2-3 hours for smaller meal, 1-2 hours for fluid meal and less than 1 hour for bagging.

 “Athletes’ nutrition”, Marina Djordjevic Nikic

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