Pre and post workout meals, basic principles (swimmers, triathletes, runners, volleyball players, martial arts athletes)
In this small text you will find tips on how to combine foods for pre and post workout meals as well as the reason for such combinations.
Why am I posting it? I’m a nutritionist and former high performance swimmer. I know very well the grueling practice schedule and the planning it takes to achieve a goal. The intent of this text is to be informative only (does not intend to diagnose or treat any condition and it doesn’t aim to give any medical advice or substitute a consultation with your doctor and/or nutritionist). With the very basic information presented hope you can get a better understanding on specific food combinations. Glad If it can be of any help!
Before going any further, it’s important to briefly talk about a hormone called insulin. There’s an organ in our body called pancreas that secretes this hormone. For the purpose of this text it’s only important to know that the thicker the blood gets with, for example, sugar the more of this hormone will be secreted. Why? Because high sugar concentrations in the blood may lead to a series of complications, one of them being poor circulation. This hormone takes the sugar excess to the muscles and the liver. If not used in a few days after it's stored, it can transform itself into fat (there are a few metabolic conditions that alter this metabolism but won’t be our focus to talk about it).
There are many concepts used in the past and today to help us better control/understand the correlation between certain foods and insulin, we can mention; Glycemic index, glycemic load. I personally like to use more frequently the insulin index.
With that being said let´s move foward..
There are foods with lower and greater insulin production potential, we are not going to talk about every one of them, just a few but at the end I will provide the link for an insulin index table, for example. Most of the time, when structuring our meals we have to be aware that most of the time we will be dealing with food interactions and not single foods.
Foods with greater insulin production potential (in other words, give us energy but that energy is not sustainable);
Included in this group are the majority of fruits (even among the fruits we have a few that instigate less insulin production than others) and sugar cane, honey, among other foods.
A few examples of high insulin production potential fruits are: bananas, grapes, mangos, oranges. Included in the group with less insulin production potential are: Strawberries, avocados, raspberries.
In the same way, we have other foods that instigate less the insulin production, this way they help to keep the blood sugar level stable (in other words, give us more sustainable energy). Included in this group are: Sweet potato, Yacon potato (actually Works even better than the sweet potato), oats, whole foods.
Having proper amounts of fiber is also good. Helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, healthy bowel function and also stabilize blood sugar.
Balance is the key. Excess fiber consumption just before practice as well as high raffinose foods (similar to lactose, found in beans, lentils, for example), make digestion harder, this way we will have a greater blood influx in the intestines and less in the muscles (correlates to less nutrients, less oxygen in the muscles). Too much protein just before practice is also not recommended (it’s good to have protein with meals, among other benefits they help slower the carbohydrate absorption and stabilize blood sugar). Usually the amount of protein per day ranges about (2g of pure protein per kg of body weight. Unless if you have a medical condition that restrains protein consumption).
Link for the insulin index page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insulin_index
Type of training, carbohydrate, protein
Another variable that needs to be taken into account is the type of training. During the training sessions our muscle fibers get micro tears and, according to the training intensity, the body produces more inflammatory substances.
Two of these substances are called lactic acid and ammonia. It’s very important to say that we gain performance, muscle mass during the rest period (in between workouts).
At this time the body tries to heal itself (from those micro tears, for example) and it gets stronger. An analogy would be someone that, for example, has a skin tear. When the body heals itself, the former wounded area gets thicker). The goal of having a proper nutrition, besides being healthy in general terms is to better recover from workouts (one is tied to the other).
We can help the body by ingesting the proper “building blocks” to replenish the body with, for example: vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrate, anti inflammatory types of fat.
This whole process is not an easy task because we can’t for example, increase protein intake indefinitely in the hopes to improve recovery between training sessions. Like has been said, the ideal ratio would be about 2g of protein for every Kg per day (requirements for protein intake may change for someone with certain medical conditions, check with your doctor) and about 25-30g of protein per meal. Examples: For a 110g chicken breast fillet we have about 32g of protein, for every regular egg about 6g of protein.
With that being said, it’s also important to say that the protein type, it’s possible combinations with different types of carbohydrates and the hour of the day of consumption are very important variables.
Example: The moment right after practice is ideal to have a rapid absorption type of protein (Example: whey protein or it’s equivalent of plant protein).
The rate of whey protein absorption is about 8g per hour. It’s also advisable to have a quick absorption type of carbohydrate along. It can be beneficial for many reasons.
One of those reasons is that, after a very hard workout (with only protein as a post workout meal) the body gets more propense to use the consumed protein to replenish the energy spent (less protein gets available for muscle recovery). The carbohydrate function (in this specific example) would be to spare the protein used for recovery.
Remember when we said in the beginning that the excess carbohydrate consumption gets stored in the muscles and liver by the insulin production? With protein is a little different because the body can’t store protein as much so the ideal scenario (again if you don’t have any related medical condition) would be to consume small amounts of protein along the day (many people think that it’s ok to try to compensate a less optimal protein intake during the day with an overload of protein at one specific meal. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way).
With that in mind, it’s also important to know that the sleep time is very important for recovery. So the time of the day and the type of protein consumed also play an important role.
Just before bed it’s advisable to consume a slow absorption protein. A good example of such proteins are eggs (albumin) which has an absorption rate of about 3g per hour and casein. Usually we also don’t make a carbohydrate rich meal at this time.
The slow absorption protein can be mixed with foods that have specific types of fats that serve as anti inflammatory (such as avocados. A few restrictions apply. One such example is if one happen to have any allergic or sensitivity reaction to this food. The same holds true for the other examples of foods given in this text).
The higher the training and race intensity, the less oxygen our cells get. When oxygen levels drop in the body tissues we tend to produce more lactic acid and ammonia – inflammatory substances (as discussed before). The higher the oxygen deficit, the more we will use our carbohydrate stored in the muscles as our energy source.
Quick note for the sports where concentration is more important than physical work. Excess carbohydrate intake just before practice or competition may make you feel more sleepy.
A few practical examples (Pre workout):
Less intensity training:
Sweet potato or yacon potato
Egg or low lactose ricotta or cottage cheese.
Higher intensity training:
Low lactose ricotta or cottage or egg
Post Workout example (low intensity):
whey protein or plant based protein + berries of choice
Whey protein or plant based protein + waxy maize or (fruits + granola + honey).
Thank you very much for your attention! This text is certainly very superficial (just the basics). Hope it could be of any help.
The text just provided is for general information only. It doesn’t aim to diagnose, treat any medical condition and it doesn’t substitute in the totality or in any part your diet made by your health care professional or by your own. Always seek the counseling of your doctor before making ANY changes to your diet routine. This text is not intended to be a medical advice and participation is voluntary. No claims have been made as far as specific results.