When you exercise hard for 90 minutes or more, you need a diet that can help you perform at your best and thereafter, recover quickly.
These five guidelines will help you.
1. Load up on carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the main fuel for an athlete. Your body converts them into glucose, a form of sugar, and stores it in your muscles as glycogen.
During exercise, your body changes glycogen into energy. If you exercise for less than 90 minutes, you have adequate glycogen in your muscles for doing high intensity activities. But if your workout is longer than 90 minutes, use these strategies:
- Sports dietitian Joy Dubost, PhD says, “Carbohydrate loading for 3 or 4 days before an event can help regenerate your glycogen stores.”
- Eat a diet that gets about 70% of your calories from carbohydrates, including bread, cereals, fruits, pasta, and vegetables, for maximum carbohydrate storage.
- On the day of a big event, eat your last meal 3-4 hours before exercise, to give your stomach time to empty.
- Stop eating starchy or sugary foods within 30 minutes of starting an activity; they can enhance dehydration.
- Replenish carbohydrates, minerals, and water during long workouts. Have a snack and drink fluids every 15 to 20 minutes. Refined carbohydrates (with sugar or flour) transfer quickly into the bloodstream, where they fuel the working muscles. Many athletes prefer sports bars, sports drinks or gels because they are so convenient. But fruit and fruit juices are also great choices.
- Also recharge with carbohydrates after intensive exercise. Dubost explains, “Since you don’t need quick energy, it’s good to choose less refined carbohydrates” such as whole grain bagel or carrot sticks.
2. Get enough protein, but not too much
Protein does not provide much fuel for energy. But you need it to maintain your muscles.
- Know what you need. An average person needs 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per day per kilogram of body weight. That’s about 88 grams of protein for a person of 150-pound. A strength athlete may need 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight. This works out to about 150 grams of protein for a 200-pound athlete.
- Focus on food. Taking too much protein can strain your kidneys. Instead of protein supplements, eat high quality protein, such as beans, eggs, fish, lean meats, milk, nuts, or poultry.
- Drink. “One of the best foods for post-event recovery is milk because it provides a good balance of carbohydrate and protein,” explains Dubost. Milk also contains casein and whey protein. The combination can be particularly useful for athletes. Research shows that whey protein is soaked quickly, which can help speed recovery immediately after an event. Casein is digested more slowly, which helps ensure long-term muscle recovery after a strenuous event. Milk also contains calcium, which is essential for maintenance of strong bones.
3. Go easy on the fat
For long events, like marathons, your body needs fat for energy when carbohydrate sources are less.
Most athletes get all the fat they need by following basic dietary guidelines to eat mostly unsaturated fats from foods such as nuts, avocados, olives, vegetable oils, and oily fish such as salmon. and tuna.
Avoid fatty foods on the day of an event, as they can upset your stomach.
4. Drink fluids early and often
Strenuous exercise, especially in hot weather, can quickly dehydrate you. Dehydration, in turn, can adversely affect your performance and, in extreme cases, threaten your life.
“All high power athletes must drink fluids early,” Dubost says. “And don’t wait until you’re thirsty. By the time you feel burned, you could be seriously dehydrated.”
Joshua Evans, MD, a doctor at Michigan Children’s Hospital in Detroit and an expert on dehydration says, “One way to track hydration is to keep an eye on your urine color.”
A pale yellow color means you are getting right amount of fluid. Bright yellow or dark urine means you’re not up to the job.
Because intense exercise causes you to lose fluid quickly, it’s a good idea to drink fluids before and during an event, Dubost says.
Endurance athletes like long distance cyclists or marathon runners, during an event should drink 8 to 12 ounces of fluid every 10 to 15 minutes. When possible, drink refrigerated liquids, which are more easily absorbed than water at room temperature. Refrigerated liquids also help cool your body.
5. Replace lost electrolytes
Sweating removes both fluids and electrolytes. Electrolytes help transmit nerve signals in your body. To replenish them, opt for sports drinks. If you also lose a lot of fluid while sweating, dilute sports drinks with equal amounts of water to get the best fluid-electrolyte balance.
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