With New Year’s resolutions about 60 days away, now is a great time to give some thought to properly fueling your body for optimal performance. Filling the body with the right fuel can help improve the workout performance of busy adults, as well as the millions of young athletes who play organized sports. While overlooking pre-workout nutrition is easy to do, it may come at a cost in performance. Taking the time to fuel your body the right way will help lead to optimal performance for both adults and young athletes alike.
“We wouldn’t jump into the car to take off for a drive without making sure it was properly fueled with gas and oil, and it’s the same concept for the human body,” explains Coach Sarah Walls, personal trainer and owner of SAPT Strength & Performance Training, Inc., who is also the strength and conditioning coach for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. “In order to get the best performance from our bodies, we have to be properly fueled, which comes from eating and drinking the right things.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, nutrition can enhance athletic performance and provide you with the energy to enjoy physical activity. They also report that you are more likely to be tired and perform poorly during sports when you don’t get enough proper nutrition. They note that the amount of fuel needed is going to vary by person, the type of activity they are engaging in, and how long they are doing the exercise.
Getting the right foods before a workout can make a big difference in overall performance. After all, the body simply cannot perform at an optimal level if the fuel to do so isn’t accessible. The body uses glycogen when exercising, which is carbohydrates that are stored in the muscles. When the body has used up the carbohydrates that were readily available and has depleted the storage of them, maintaining performance becomes difficult. Many endurance athletes who are not properly fueled can experience this, known as “hitting the wall.”
Here are Coach Walls’ tips for being properly fueled for working out, which will help your body have a better performance:
- Know your body. Get to know how your body tolerates food before exercise. That way you can calculate how far in advance you need to fuel up. Ideally, you want to fuel your body 1-3 hours before exercise, so that it has the fuel it needs to perform, but isn’t focused on digesting as you are trying to engage in activity. This will help you avoid discomfort.
- Before a workout. Prior to a workout, your body needs two main things, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, which are carbohydrates and protein. The carbohydrates are going to be the fuel that the body burns in order to keep you moving. The protein is what will keep you from getting hungry during the activity. Good sources of carbohydrates before the activity include apples, dried fruit, lean protein sources, yogurt, bananas, pretzels, rice, or low-fat granola. It’s a good idea to skip foods high in fat and fiber, which may cause some distress while exercising.
- During the workout. Those working out for a short period may not need additional nutrition during a workout. Athletes who are engaging in long runs or who will be playing sports where they are physically active an hour or more at a time may need some additional fuel. They can get this by drinking sports drinks, eating fruit, or having low-fiber cereal bars or granola handy.
- Hydration matters. Being properly hydrated before, during, and after a workout is also important. Many people opt for sports drinks, which offer a good combination of carbohydrates and electrolytes for exercising. Drinking water is also a good choice. Ideally, urine should be clear, which will provide indication that the body is getting enough fluids and is not dehydrated. It’s important to drink fluids even if you are not feeling thirsty, in order to avoid becoming dehydrated.
- After a workout. Once your workout is over, it’s important to replenish the glycogen that was used. Grabbing a piece of fruit and ensuring you drink fluids is ideal. When you eat a healthy diet on a regular basis, you will help to keep your body fueled right all the time.
“For optimal performance, our bodies need carbohydrates, lean sources of protein, and good fluids,” added Coach Walls. “Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet will give you the nutrition you need to be a strong athlete. It will help you give your best performance every time.”
Located in Fairfax, Virginia, SAPT Strength & Performance Training, Inc. is a high-performance training club that specializes in helping to develop athletes of all ages. They offer athletic training programs for youth, college students, and amateurs. The company was founded in 2007 by Sarah Walls, a professional strength and conditioning coach and personal trainer with NCAA D1 experience, who is the strength and conditioning coach for the WNBA Washington Mystics team. To learn more, visit the site: www.saptstrength.com.