Your 5 Top Sport Nutrition Questions Answered!
Jennifer Sygo, M.Sc., RD
1. WHAT SHOULD I EAT?
In general, cyclists benefit from eating a higher carbohydrate diet, though it is possible for those who cycle for shorter distances or times (90 minutes or less) to sustain their training on a lower carbohydrate diet. Carbohydrates provide fuel for your rides by breaking down into blood sugar (glucose), which provides immediate fuel for your working muscles, as well as via glycogen, the stored form of carbohydrates in our muscles and liver. Muscle glycogen serves as our main fuel source during intense physical activity, but the average individual only has enough stored glycogen to sustain about 2 hours of activity.
Aside from carbohydrates, protein is also vital for athletes as it helps to build and maintain lean muscle, as well as to recover after intense workouts. Since protein also helps us to feel full, including a source of protein at each meal and snack can help prevent overeating and support healthy weight control.
Carbohydrates: whole grains (whole wheat, quinoa, buckwheat, brown and wild rice, etc.), fruits, vegetables
Protein: lean meats and fish, milk/chocolate milk, yogurt/Greek yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, soy beverages and products, tofu, beans, chick
peas, lentils, and other legumes, nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc.), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, chia, hemp)
Fats: olive and other plant oils, avocadoes, oily fish, nuts, seeds, flaxseed
To sustain your energy through the day, and to support optimal muscle recovery, most athletes benefit from eating frequent, small meals and snacks, rather than eating irregularly though the day, which can make you more susceptible to cravings. A balanced snack should contain both a protein and a carbohydrate for lasting energy. Examples include yogurt (Greek yogurt is especially high in protein) with berries and granola, whole grain crackers with cheese or peanut/almond butter, a handful of almonds and a piece of fruit, mixed bean salads, or chopped veggies with hummus.
2. HOW MUCH SHOULD I DRINK?
The 2007 American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for hydration recommend that athletes drink enough fluids to lose less than 2% of their initial body weight (equal to 2 lbs. of weight loss per 100 lbs. of body weight). In other words, a 150 pound athlete should hydrate so that they lose less than 3 lbs. in any training session or race. Try weighing yourself before and after training or competition in different conditions, such as on both hot and cool days, or after workouts of different lengths. Ideally, use a digital scale, use the washroom before you step on the scale, and be in very light (or no) clothing. After your workout, remove all sweaty clothing, and go to the washroom. Weight gain during activity is also not recommended, as it can be a sign of over hydration, a dangerous and potentially deadly condition that has symptoms similar to dehydration.
3. DO I NEED TO USE A SPORTS DRINK?
If you are involved in very long rides (3 hours or more), you may need to add some protein and modest amounts of fats to help replenish your energy needs. Peanut butter sandwiches, Clif bars, and Power Bars are all reasonable choices, but be careful to experiment before race day to make sure you tolerate them well.
4. WHAT SHOULD I EAT BEFORE I TRAIN OR COMPETE?
3 hours before: chicken or turkey on whole wheat wrap; chicken, brown rice, and veggies; salmon and sweet potato; whole wheat pasta with meat sauce; oatmeal or whole grain cereal with berries, milk, and almonds; peanut butter and banana sandwich
1-2 hours before: yogurt with granola and berries; 1/2 sandwich or wrap; small bowl of cereal and milk; 1/2 bagel with sliced cheese; peanut butter and banana or apple
1 hour before: banana, 1/2 bagel, English muffin, granola bar, arrowroot cookies, etc.
5. WHAT SHOULD I EAT AFTER I TRAIN OR COMPETE?
Some examples of well-balanced post-exercise snacks include 2 cups of chocolate milk, 2 cups of milk and a banana, a sandwich or wrap made with grilled chicken or turkey, a bagel with low fat cheese, a cup of Greek yogurt with mixed fruit and granola, or a scoop of whey protein powder, along with a bagel or 1-2 cups of fruit. For best effect, make sure to get your recovery snack within 30 minutes after finishing your workout – this will help ensure you are fully recovered for tomorrow’s workout.
Jennifer Sygo’s nutrition expertise is regularly featured in the media, including CBC News and Radio, CanadaAM, and CTV NewsChannel. She is a regular contributor to Oxygen Magazine, and her nutrition column appears in the Health section of the National Post every Tuesday. We were very lucky to have Jennifer on our Ready to Ride Panel at our VIP Rally in April.
Every year, we hold a Ride Rally to celebrate our VIP riders. They can pick up their ride kits, meet fellow riders, and feel inspired by our panel of event experts and motivating speakers. This year, we were very lucky to have Dr. Bayley from the Toronto Rehab Centre take the podium, as well as VIP rider and survivor, Nikki Martyn-Capobianco. Cindy Taber, EMS Superintendent, survivor, and first-time rider speaks about her experience at the event.
When I arrived at the 2013 Ride for Heart Rally, it was like arriving at a movie premiere from the 40′s! What a great venue. I felt the energy as soon as I walked in. After receiving a warm welcome from volunteers, I walked up the stairs and was met by photographers (also dressed in a 40′s theme) ready to take my picture. Talk about a VIP experience.
From there I was sized for a cycling jersey and received an event bag filled with thoughtful items from our generous sponsors. Also interesting was an educational display on Atrial Fibrillation where volunteers checked my pulse and provided valuable information.
Next I made a stop at the Ready to Ride Panel. Nigel Gray gave me great advice on training for the ride. Jennifer Sygro, dietitian and sports nutritionist, provided her expertise on fuelling ours bodies. And Leonardo de Melo shared his tips on fundraising. (Thank you for sharing your story, Leonardo).
As the room filled with fellow riders, I thought about their stories and why they ride. There was a large timeline on the wall with milestones from the 1950′s to today. As I read each one, I thought about my family history, my own health journey, and about how so many lives had been changed by research. For example, my cousin was one of Dr. Mustard’s first patients in the early 60′s. I thought about my own mother’s open-heart surgery. And I reflected on the advancements in my field of work, paramedicine. I know that as everyone read the milestones, they reflected on their lives too.
Tom McAllister, COO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario welcomed everyone, and introduced stroke survivor, Nikki. Her story was very empowering. As I was listening and writing notes, I felt a connection because I was writing the very words and thoughts I had used and experienced as a survivor. Nikki’s story filled us with hope and courage.
She explained to us how the ride represented her journey and how far
As I ride I will think of our journeys. I will think about how our ride can bring us to the next milestone in research. I will remember my cousin Judy and my mother Colleen, as we all remember those we have lost.
As a survivor who has recently embraced a healthy lifestyle I will say, start where you are. We all contribute in our own way by changing and improving our own lives, and the lives around us. We are connected, we are community, we ride together.
I look forward to meeting you. I will be in the blue EMS/PAD challenge
James Sallis, Distinguished Professor of Family and Preventative Medicine at the University of California, is on a mission to convince governments to build healthier neighbourhoods. A mission that has recently earned him McGill University’s Bloomberg Manulife Prize.
Sallis believes that sticking to a fitness regimen takes more than just willpower; it takes an environment that is conducive to physical activity. And the hundreds of studies he has conducted have proven him right: people living in communities where schools, stores, offices and recreational facilities are accessible by foot or bicycle tend to be leaner than those who must travel by car to get to them.
Says Sallis, “In our sprawling suburban neighbourhoods, which have been designed to favour automobile traffic; sidewalks, safe bike paths, parks and playgrounds are often few and far between. It’s not surprising that people who live in these communities are far more likely to be overweight and prone to serious health problems related to inactivity.”
Beyond his research, Sallis works tirelessly to effect change. On his recent trip to Canada, he met with members of McGill’s academic community, and also presented his findings to a large group of City of Toronto officials, made up of those working for the departments of public health, urban planning, transportation and parks and recreation.
So what can we do? Sallis urges us to lobby our local governments for bike lanes, parks and sidewalks in neighbourhoods where they are lacking. Parents can become active in what types of physical activities their children are involved in at school. And while he stresses there is no one solution to the problem of inactivity, he does say, “by making our communities more accessible to exercise, people will once again be able to make physical activity part of their daily life.”
The Heart and Stroke Foundation is a proud partner of the Bloomberg Manulife Prize. This prestigious award, offered annually by McGill University, recognizes an academic whose research has made a significant impact of the health and well-being of a broad spectrum of the population.