One of the great doubts of athletes of all levels is what to eat before the effort? The meal before the action can affect the athlete’s performance in the race or training for the positive or the negative. It is intended to reinforce our energy reserves and final preparation for the effort ahead, and it is very important to know what works for us and what does not. This is not the time to experiment.
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The Energy Reserves
Our main energy reserves are in the muscle and the liver and will be continuously used during the effort. Normally their constitution takes 6 to 8 hours, so it is not the meal eaten 3 hours before that will determine if they have the necessary fuel for a prolonged effort. . Several athletes have specific strategies for this purpose and will be covered in an article soon.
The pre-exercise meal reinforces these reserves and aims to provide energy for the first moments of effort, promoting good blood sugar control and short-medium-term fuel. That’s why carbohydrates are essential in this meal.
Is Sugar Energetic?
One of the biggest mistakes you can make at this crucial time is betting too much on simple sugars. They will promote a massive spike in blood glucose and insulin, making the sugar enter all the cells and thus leave the athlete with hypoglycemia again.
The energetic effect of sugar, which you feel for the first few moments, was, therefore, a trap.
The various studies show that combining complex carbohydrate sources with simple ones is the best. In this sense, whole grains, wholemeal bread, pasta, or sweet potatoes should make up most of the meal but can be complemented with honey, jams, and nuts (raisins, dates, apricots).
Bearing that carbohydrates are still your fuel of choice, you get a good energy balance.
Foods To Avoid
You should test some of the most problematic foods to know their tolerance. The most important examples are:
- Milk and its derivatives
- Vegetables (especially when the test is in the afternoon and therefore you still have lunch)
- The meat or the fish
- Beans and other legumes
- Some fruits can cause heartburn; bananas are a good example.
Fat delays digestion, as does fiber, so they should be avoided. But almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and peanut butter have relatively easily absorbed fats and help to control blood sugar levels even better.
So you can always include a portion of these nuts in your pre-race meal and snack until the start line.
Quantities: What To Eat Before Exertion?
It may be the key to the issue for some, so I leave some guidance, and I am willing to provide the necessary clarifications about what to eat before the effort.
The day before the race (and can extend to two days before) – you should eat close to 5g of carbohydrates per kg of weight. In a man weighing 70 Kg, this is equivalent to 350g per day, which can be achieved with 23 servings of Bread, cereals, and derivatives or Fruit.
A portion in these two groups (15g of Carbohydrates) is equivalent to, for example, three tablespoons of cereal or one egg-sized potato, or three tablespoons of cooked rice or pasta; for fruit, you can choose one apple or half a banana or about ten grapes or two tablespoons of raisins. Multiply by the ones you need.
Meal before the race – 1 to 2g Carbohydrates/kg weight. It is unthinkable to ingest more than 2g/kg of weight. In a man weighing 70kg, 140g would be very difficult to digest, which is a threshold value for someone who feels a big energy deficit. You can always divide it in half (50% 3 hours before + 50% between the drink and the raisins until departure).
For workouts – 1-1.5g/Kg of weight, stick to this base amount. For the rest of the day, eat 4-5g/Kg of weight; if you prepare for a marathon, this value can rise to 6g/Kg.
Curiosity: elite athletes ingest 8 to 10g/kg of weight.
Fundamental Advice For What To Eat Before Exertion
1. Make a base meal and test it; we suggest four options; you can always mix several of the foods mentioned.
- Option 1: Lightly cooked cereal flakes, raisins, almonds, and yogurt if tolerated.
- Option 2: Cooked pasta with various nuts. If tolerated, you can also include a bowl of vegetable soup.
- Option 3: Wholemeal bread with jam or jam or honey, fruit juice or natural fruit, and some nuts.
- Option 4: Sweet potato with peanut butter and some raisins or natural fruit juice.
2. The meal should be eaten 3-3h30 before the match; if it is a workout, reduce the amount and eat about 1h30 to 2h before.
3. Do not drink water with the meal to improve the digestibility of carbohydrates; start drinking about 30 minutes later in small amounts. You can opt for water or a low-concentrated sports drink.
4. If you are hungry just before departure, reinforce with almonds and raisins, and if you tolerate pieces of banana or even sweet potato well.
5. Keep a routine, don’t change anything on the P day. If something goes wrong, you’ll know what happened faster.
Also Read: The Importance Of Having A Healthy Diet