Nutrition buying guide
Sports nutrition explained
If you want to get the most out of any physical activity it’s essential to have a basic understanding of nutrition and nutritional products. Making sure that your body is properly fuelled both before and during a race or training session is key to maintaining your form and performing as well as you can.
Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source for exercise; they provide an easily released fuel source for your muscles. An effective pre-exercise meal should consist of complex slow-release carbohydrates, 3-4 hours before you undertake activities such as cycling, running or swimming.
It is also vital to ensure you are well hydrated before you exercise; using an isotonic drink mix pre-exercise will ensure that you have the correct balance of salts in your blood stream, helping you to perform at your best.
Your body is only able to store a limited amount of carbohydrates, so it is essential to replenish your energy stores to maintain a consistent level of exercise intensity. When your glycogen levels are low, your muscles will start to use fat as their main fuel source; when this happens you will notice a significant loss in energy coupled with a feeling of fatigue.
Energy drinks, bars and gels are the ideal solution to top your energy levels during exercise. They are designed to deliver quickly absorbed carbohydrates to your muscles to help you maintain and improve your performance levels during an event.
After an intense physical event, your body needs to rehydrate, repair and refuel. This is where nutritional recovery drinks and bars play an important role; these products come with a blend of nutrients such as carbohydrates for glycogen renewal, protein and glutamine for muscle repair, and electrolytes to aid hydration.
What are the advantages of nutritional products?
Energy food, drinks and gels offer some significant advantages over natural food sources:
Convenience: Energy food is optimized nutrition you can eat when you need it. No preparation or refrigeration is required.
Portability: Bottles, bars and gels are compact and easy to transport in a gym bag, saddle bag or jersey pocket.
Easily digestible: Energy foods are designed for fast absorption and digestion; giving you the fastest results.
Sports nutrition products
Energy bars and gels: Energy foods primarily deliver carbohydrates to your body, so you can maintain your performance during strenuous physical activity.
Carbohydrate gels are designed for instant sugar release into the blood stream, to get your levels topped up to their optimum. Energy bars contain slower release carbohydrates to keep you going for longer. A mix of both energy bars and gels is best for sustained good performance.
Carbohydrate drinks: Carbohydrate drinks provide a similar nutrient composition to energy gels; they contain a mix of fast-release carbohydrates that will quickly deliver fuel to your muscles. Taking carbohydrates in a drink format also has the benefit of aiding hydration; many carbohydrate drinks will also contain essential salts, to replenish those lost during perspiration and help avoid cramping.
Isotonic drink tablets: These are a great little addition to any kit bag or cycling jersey pocket. Pop an isotonic drinks tab in your bottle of water, and on shorter rides when you don’t want carbohydrate replenishing drink, you can still be assured that your body salts remain topped up when you are perspiring. Overcoming problems of dehydration and cramping.
Recovery drinks: The most convenient way to ensure you recover properly after exertion during a race or training session; a recovery drink contains the ideal mix of protein and carbohydrates that you require to kick-start your recovery process, and aid re-hydration. These are a refreshing and easy way to keep your muscles in peak condition.
Optimizing your nutritional strategy
With great value energy and recovery products on the market, there is no excuse to not get your nutritional strategy right.
Stocking up on bars, gels, drinks and recovery products will ensure that you are properly fueled to get the most out of your training and racing.
Your personal physique, the intensity of the sport your are undertaking, and the duration of the event, will all affect when and how you should use nutritional products. The general target though is to aim for 90 grams of carbohydrate for each hour of exercise; obtaining this from energy drinks, gels and bars. Post-activity, you should then be considering taking on 15-25 grams of protein and 50 grams of carbohydrate, to help replenish your body.
Getting your strategy right is a case of experimentation within these rough guidelines; it is often personal preference whether you use drinks and/or gels, bars and/or powders. Whatever your choice, get your nutrition right and you’ll be breaking personal bests and achieving more than you have ever done before in your sport.