Published: 10/08/2005 - Updated: 08/14/2019
Author: Dra. Loredana Lunadei2 Comments
Best food, better performance food for competing
Active individuals often wonder why, and even if you must eat before exercise – especially when hunger strikes just at the time of training – or when the race or tennis match begins very early to consider eating beforehand. Experienced athletes may recall having eaten the wrong food at the wrong time and wondering why they felt so bad or why they played poorly. Will the timing and type of food consumed before and during training make a difference in performance? Bringing a good diet with adequate amounts of energy, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals is critical for optimum performance. Nobody gives up to train with hunger or with low glycogen (carbohydrates) or after eating the type of food inadequacy. Also, failure to replenish carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals consumed can reduce the performance of subsequent days. Since the recommendations on the consumption of food and fluid before, during and after the training vary according to the sport, this article will cover the principles of nutrition for vegetarian athletes of all specialties and levels.
Loading Fuel before – the pre-event meal
The purpose of eating before training or competition is to provide the body fuel and fluids. The idea is to choose foods to prevent hunger, provide additional carbohydrates as fuel, and minimize the potential intestinal complications. Generally, the food must be taken sufficiently early to allow it to drain the stomach and is absorbed in the intestine. A good rule of thumb is to limit the event to local food around 800 calories, and given one hour before the event per 200 calories ingested. For example, 5 pancakes, syrup, a banana and would take 4 hours before training. A smaller meal of 200 calories as a bowl of cereal or a slice of bread and juice, would take between 1 and 2 hours before starting. The choice of time in which it takes the food is particularly important in activities such as athletics, swimming and aerobic dance, and is less critical in sports such as cycling. Athletes with "nervous stomach" before competition may find it easier to tolerate liquid foods such as fruit smoothies with tofu or soy. The pre-event meal should contain liquids and foods high in carbohydrates and low in fat, protein, salt, simple sugars and fiber concentrated. Some good examples are: cereal with banana and skim milk, pancakes with fresh fruit, oatmeal with fruit, a baked potato with vegetables and soy yogurt, tofu on bread with fruit. Excess protein, fiber and fat in food can cause heartburn after, nausea, diarrhea or constipation in some individuals. Taking
adequate fluid is the most important recommendation for any type of exercise.
Supplements – food during the event
Replenishment of fluids and carbohydrate during exercise is important. What and how much should be the replacement depends on the type, duration and intensity of exercise. Taking adequate fluid is the most important recommendation for any type of exercise. The general recommendation is to drink ½ to 1 cup of water every 10 or 20 minutes. In a warm climate, where sweating is greatest, you may need to take 2 cups of water every 15 minutes to replenish fluid loss. Adequate hydration allows the effective regulation of body temperature and a good circulation and proper muscle functioning.
Replenishment of carbohydrates is necessary for events lasting more than 90 minutes and can be beneficial even during high intensity exercise of shorter duration. This applies to both continuous activities such as cycling, running and hiking, and sports with intermittent activity like football and weightlifting. Under these conditions, the consumption of carbohydrates during exercise increases both the time and intensity of exercise that the athlete can perform before becoming exhausted. Some researchers believe the consumption of carbohydrates delays fatigue by providing additional fuel for muscle work in preventing and reducing the blood sugar. (1) The recommended carbohydrate takes approximately 30 to 80 grams per hour (2) (1 to 3 large bananas or half a liter to liter and a drink three quarts of fluid replacement in the 6-7%) to delay fatigue during prolonged strenuous exercise.
Refueling – food after event
The post-training meal is nutritionally the most important meal to help the recovery of exercise and maintain the ability to train the following days. Fluids, carbohydrates and protein after exercise are critical, especially after heavy exercise. We need a high amount of carbohydrates to replenish the depleted reserves of glycogen. The consumption of protein sources may also help in the repair and reconstruction of damaged muscle tissue and replenishing the reserves of amino acids. The collective evidence indicates that exercise significantly alters the metabolism of proteins, especially as the exercise becomes more prolonged and vigorous. (3) As the body begins to replenish its depleted reserves and repair microscopic damage to muscle fibers almost immediately after exercise, the depleted supply of these nutrients in the food after the event may accelerate recovery. Researchers think the role of carbohydrates in the performance during training suggest that consumption of foods high in carbohydrates 15 to 30 minutes after exercise, followed by additional consumption, optimize the replacement of muscle glycogen. (4) Postponing the consumption of carbohydrates several hours reduces the rate at which the body is capable of storing glycogen. For the individual who exercised occasionally, this involves carrying a fruit juice or fluid replacement drink as an aperitif after the exercise, and after taking a meal high in carbohydrates and proteins (such as pasta sauce with lentils or tofu, vegetables and rice) shortly thereafter. For the high performance athlete, it is recommended that a food provides a good source of protein and 100 grams of carbohydrates, followed by additional intake of carbohydrates every 2 to 4 hours.
Principles for planning the meal prior to the event
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2 servings of starch 6 ;30
1 serving of fruit 0-4 6-15
3 servings of starch 6 45
1 serving of fruit 0-2 5-15
1 cup of fruit juice 0-9 3-15
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4 servings of starch 8 60 – 2
Fruit or Vegetable 0-12 30
1 cup of fruit juice 0-9 3-15
1 teaspoon of syrup 0 13
5 servings of starch 10 75 – 3
Fruit or Vegetable 0-12 30-45
1 cup of fruit juice 0-9 3-15
1 teaspoon of syrup 0 13
A portion of starch:
- 1 / 3 cup of cooked rice, pulses, potatoes
- 1 / 2 cup of corn, potatoes, cooked cereal, pasta (cooked)
- 3 / 4 cup of ready-to-eat cereal
- 3 / 4 cup of pumpkin
- 1 slice bread, 1 small tortilla, 1 small pancake
- 1 / 2 slice of bread, bun, English muffin, pita bread
One serving of fruit:
- 1 medium size fruit
- 1 / 2 banana or mango
- 1 / 2 cup of fruit, canned fruit or fruit juice
- 2 tablespoons of raisins, 3 plum, 7 apricot halves
An exchange of plant:
- 1 / 2 cup of non-starchy vegetable
Note: The fat content of food prior to the event may vary according to the food. Choose foods that contain no more than 2 grams of fat per serving. A greater amount exceed the amount recommended
both calories and fat composition of the pre-exercise meal.
Fasting – an injury to performance
Research shows that skipping meals and fasting can be detrimental to performance. Fasting during the night empties the sugar stored in the liver (liver glycogen), which can cause dizziness and fatigue of an early attack. (5) A high carbohydrate meal before exercise increases the carbohydrate available to the exercising muscle, which provides benefits both endurance training and high intensity training. However, starting any exercise session with hunger or sickness prevents optimum performance. If lack of time or the calories are a factor, consume a high carbohydrate snack (banana, slice of bread, cereal, energy bar) about an hour and a half prior to exercise or take a drinking glass replacement liquid about 10 minutes before exercise.
Fiber – a help or a hindrance?
Vegetarian diets are generally high in both soluble and in insoluble fiber. A small amount of soluble fiber before or during exercise can help stabilize the amount of sugar in the blood. However, some athletes are sensitive to the fiber before exercise (6), especially in major competitions. If you experience stomach or intestinal cramps or diarrhea before exercise, the reduction of foods high in fiber such as legumes, whole grains, grain products and dried fruit in the meal after this can help eliminate discomfort. Sensitive athletes will have to reduce their consumption of fiber from 24 to 36 hours before the race. Feeding schedules and regular bowel habits also prevent intestinal complications caused by exercise.
It is also important to consider that the recommended consumption of fiber is commonly met and often exceeded, for vegetarian athletes with high intake of calories. At times, trying to eat a diet high in fiber with excess calories can cause discomfort. For example, a number of cyclists participating in a simulation of the Tour de France, had difficulty in maintaining an adequate energy from 8000 to 10000 calories by choosing foods and high in fiber. (7) Those athletes with high-calorie diets should not be worried more by the fiber and should select a variety of foods high in carbohydrates but also low in fiber (white bread, pasta, white rice, potatoes without skin and juice fruit).
Conclusions and practical implications
- Maintain a diet high in complex carbohydrates and low in fat. Eating a well-balanced diet with adequate amounts of calories, protein, vitamins and minerals is critical for optimum performance. Choose food prior to training that works for you, including complex carbohydrates and liquids. Limit fat, protein, salt and simple sugars. Before major competitions, no surprise your body to eat unfamiliar foods.
- Fasting or skipping meals before exercise may harm their development. Wait about 1 hour for every 200 calories consumed before exercise.
- Drink plenty of fluids during exercise. If the exercise lasts over 90 minutes, eat or drink from 30 to 80 grams of carbohydrates per hour of training.
- To help in the recovery of exercise, consume a high carbohydrate snack within 30 minutes after the exercise and continue with a mixed meal high in carbohydrates and proteins.
- If you experience stomach or intestinal complications during the exercise, it is likely that the food eaten before the training has been rich in fiber or fat.
- Craddock, J. C., Probst, Y. C., & Peoples, G. E. (2016). Vegetarian and Omnivorous Nutrition – Comparing Physical Performance. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 26(3), 212–220. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2015-0231
- Gallien, G., Bellar, D., & Davis, G. R. (2017). The Efficacy of a Pre-Workout Vegan Supplement on High-Intensity Cycling Performance in Healthy College-Aged Males. Journal of Dietary Supplements, 14(6), 697–705. https://doi.org/10.1080/19390211.2017.1310780
- Coyle, E. F. (1999). Physiological determinants of endurance exercise performance. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 2(3), 181-189.
- Hargreaves, M., Hawley, J. A., & Jeukendrup, A. (2004). Pre-exercise carbohydrate and fat ingestion: effects on metabolism and performance. Journal of sports sciences, 22(1), 31-38.
- Hawley, J. A., Dennis, S. C., & Noakes, T. D. (1992). Oxidation of carbohydrate ingested during prolonged endurance exercise. Sports Medicine, 14(1), 27-42.
- Burke, L. M., & Read, R. S. (1993). Dietary supplements in sport. Sports Medicine, 15(1), 43-65.
About the author
If you decide to keep a diet and improve your performance you can opt for worrying about the food, of course if you are full before the event this will prevent you from doing your best, well, you need to understand that all is related and needs to be considerer
Wow. This article was really impressive, and also very inspiring. I have been (nearly) vegetarian for quite some time, and I eat a very well-rounded, fresh diet. I have NEVER had a problem with my diet affecting my atletics. I run and bike competitively, and I have always found that I feel the best (and the lightest) on a vegetarian diet.