Login
Copyright

Foods to Optimize Athletic Performance Before, During & After Competition

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Nutrients to Support Physical Activity

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:03 Food for Athletes
  • 0:30 Carbohydrate Loading
  • 1:36 Pre-Competition
  • 2:50 During Competition
  • 3:55 Post-Competition
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Competitive athletes rely on good nutrition to give them an edge over their competition. Learn about carbohydrate loading as well as foods athletes use before, during and after competitions to enhance performance and endurance.

Foods for Athletes

If you would describe yourself as a weekend warrior who enjoys competing in backyard sports with a group of friends, then it is unlikely you require a special nutritional plan. But this is not the case for competitive athletes. For them, choosing the right type and amount of foods to eat before, during and after a competition might be just the edge they need to stay on top of the leaderboard.

Carbohydrate Loading

When it comes to fueling the body, glucose, which is a simple sugar obtained from dietary carbohydrates that is easily converted to energy, tops the list.

This simple sugar is stored in your liver and muscles as glycogen, which you can think of as a form of stored glucose. Competitive athletes want large stores of glycogen because this provides an easy source of glucose that helps them exercise for longer periods.

This is why competitive endurance athletes often use carbohydrate loading, which is an eating strategy used to boost glycogen stores before a competition. Carbohydrate loading, or simply carbo-loading, involves greatly increasing dietary carbohydrate intake for a few days before a high-intensity endurance competition, while at the same time, reducing activity or resting. For example, many marathon race organizers host spaghetti dinners the night before the race to allow racers one last chance to stock up on carbs and boost glycogen storage.

Pre-Competition

I mentioned that glycogen can be stored in both muscles and the liver. Muscle glycogen stays put until needed during exercise, but liver glycogen can be depleted before exercise begins. This can even happen while you are sleeping because liver glycogen is broken down to supply your blood with glucose if the level dips too low.

Therefore, even if an athlete is carbo-loading in the days leading up to the competition, they will still need a pre-competition meal eaten two to four hours before the event to maximize glycogen stores. A pre-competition meal should contain about 300 calories, with the majority of those calories (about 60-70%) coming from carbohydrates. This meal should also contain a fair amount of protein (about 10-20%), but be low in fat (about 10-25%) and fiber. This is because fats and fiber eaten before competition tend to cause digestive issues that can interfere with performance or create embarrassing consequences during the event. An example of a good pre-competition meal would be a bowl of cereal with milk and a small glass of orange juice eaten a few hours before competition.

During Competition

Fueling the body with calories during exercise is not typically needed unless the competition is scheduled to last more than an hour. However, the body may need some carbohydrates during competition lasting longer than an hour to keep performance high. Appropriate sources of carbs during competition include sports drinks, special carbohydrate gel packs designed for endurance athletes or solid foods, such as a banana or an energy bar. The athlete should aim to get about 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates every hour they are active. Considering that a banana has about 30 grams of carbs, this is not a hard requirement to meet. Most sports drinks and snacks also contain sodium, which is a mineral lost in sweat. By replenishing sodium during exercise, the athlete reduces the risk of hyponatremia, which is a condition in which blood sodium levels drop to abnormally low levels, creating symptoms such as disorientation, seizures, coma and even death.

Post-Competition

After you cross the finish line, your body must shift from finding fuel to replenishing lost stores of glycogen and repairing damaged tissues, such as your muscles. To restore glycogen stores, the post-competition meals eaten over the next few days should contain high-carbohydrate foods, with carbs making up about 65 percent of the athlete's total calorie intake. This means if an athlete consumes a total of 2,500 calories in a day, about 400 grams should come from carbohydrates. For example, the athlete could meet a third of this carbs requirement at lunch if he eats a 6-inch turkey sub sandwich, a banana and a snack-size bag of pretzels washed down with a 12-ounce glass of chocolate milk. By eating a post-competition meal like this, you are not only getting sufficient amounts of carbohydrates to restore glycogen stores, but you are also supplying your body with proteins from the meat and milk, which stimulate muscle protein synthesis and repair.

Lesson Summary

Let's review.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?
 Back

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support