Timing and Options for Meals and Snacks During Competition and Training

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BY FAITH ALICEA

We make sure our horses’ have a well-balanced diet with all the nutrients they need, but what about ourselves? Registered dietician, Laura Hall, offers her insight on how to fuel our bodies.  

As athletes, proper fuel for the body is crucial for athletic performance. All athletes should start any practice, training session, game or competitive event well fueled with carbohydrates and fluids for optimal athletic performance. It is also important to remain fueled throughout exercise. 

When it comes to what to eat and why, here are some tips from Laura Hall RD:

Carbohydrates

  • Main fuel for the body during exercise
  • Breaks down into glucose (sugar)
    • Sugar is then utilized as energy in the body
  • Carbohydrate consumption required for brain function
  • Carbohydrates stored in the body as:
    • Muscle glycogen
    • Liver glycogen
    • Blood glucose
  • Stored carbohydrates are essential for athletic performance
  • Carbohydrates found in 4 foods
    • Grains- bread, pasta, rice, cereal
    • Fruits
    • Vegetables- corn, peas, squash
    • Dairy Products- milk, yogurt, cheese
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Carbohydrates During Exercise

As the athlete exercises, glycogen is constantly being used to fuel the body. Carbohydrates work by breaking down into sugars in the body that can replenish glycogen stores. This allows for continuation of work and performance at an optimal level. Here are some tips from Laura for carbohydrate intakes during exercise depending on the type and duration of exercise. 

Type of ExerciseCarbohydrate Recommendations
Exercise that lasts less than 45 minutesNot required
High-intensity exercise that lasts 45-75 minutesSmall amount of sports drink or food
Endurance and intermittent, high-intensity exercise for 1-2.5 hrs30-60 grams carbohydrates per hour
Endurance and ultra-endurance exercise for 2.5-3 hrs or longer≥ 80-90 grams carbohydrates per hour

More Tips:

  • Experiment with different foods during training to assess for any stomach upset or issues
  • Practice eating during training or practice sessions so that you learn what type of foods, amount and timing of foods and fluids works best for you and your body

Carbohydrate Content in Foods

The following foods listed contain approximately 15 grams of carbohydrate:

Grains/Starches

  • ¼ deli-style bagel
  • 1 slice bread (any variety)
  • ½ English muffin
  • ½ hot dog bun or hamburger bun
  • 1 pancake (4 inches across)
  • Pita (6 inches across)
  • 1 small roll
  • 1 tortilla (6 inches across)
  • Waffle (4 inches across)
  • ½ cup cereal
  • 1/3 cup couscous
  • ¼ cup granola
  • 1/3 cup cooked pasta, quinoa, rice
  • ½ cup corn
  • ½ cup peas
  • ¼ large baked potato
  • ½ cup sweet potato
  • 5-6 crackers (most varieties)
  • 3 cups popcorn
  • ¾ oz pretzels
  • 2 rice cakes
  • 9-13 potato or tortilla chips
  • ½ cup beans (all varieties)

Fruit

  • 1 small piece of fruit (size of a baseball)
  • ¾-1 cup berries (all varieties)
  • 1 extra small banana
  • 2 tbsp dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, etc)
  • ½ cup fruit cocktail
  • 17 grapes
  • 1 cup melon (cubed)
  • ½ cup apple, orange, grapefruit, or pineapple juice
  • 1/3 cup fruit juice blends, grape or prune juice

Milk/Dairy

  • 1 cup milk (skim, 1%, 2%, Whole)
  • 2/3 cup yogurt, plain
  • 1/3 cup yogurt, flavored
  • ½ cup chocolate milk
  • 1 cup soy milk

Sports Drinks, Bars, Gels

  • 1 cup sport drink
  • ½ energy bar
  • ½ carbohydrate gel pack
  • 4 oz Boost, Ensure, or SlimFast

Faith McKay-Alicea former Director of Healthcare Service at The MDA. Now a mom, small business owner of Title Boxing Club in Trexlertown, PA, an Amateur and USEF R Steward, Schooling Supervisor And Measurement Field Examiner. Never stop learning!