Get Up to Speed! on … Eating to Perform
We all know that putting low-grade fuel into a Formula 1 race car results in slower speeds, lower performance results and possibly even damage to the engine. The same can happen to your body when you don’t fuel it properly. Eating properly is the best way to perform and achieve the goals you want – both on and off the ice!
We’re NOT dieticians but we ARE coaches who have worked with Elite athletes for many years. We have tips to share, or “food for thought", on the appropriate nutrition to support you, the Quantum Speed athlete.
Let’s start with what you need to consider about EATING as an athlete.
1. WHY am I eating?
Obviously, you’re eating because everyone needs to eat and you get hungry. You can have specific goals for eating though. In the short term, you want to consider things like: Am I in school all day and then going straight to dryland or my Quantum Speed™ Q3 or Q3i Session? How do I want to feel at the end of a training session? Am I going to be active or sedentary all day? Am I eating to sustain energy during a game? In the long term, you want to consider things like: Am I eating to gain muscle? Am I eating to lose or gain weight? Am I eating to gain strength and improve performance? Ultimately, as an athlete, your eating needs to support your physical activity and your goals.
2. WHAT do I eat?
First, do your nutrition homework to make sure that your body is fuelled for optimum performance because skating and training require lots of energy and fluids. For example,
- investigate the difference between a simple carbohydrate and a complex carbohydrate and what they do for your body.
- investigate the difference between a high glycemic index, or GI, food (one that releases sugars quickly into your bloodstream for quick but short bursts of energy) and a low GI food (one that release sugars slowly into your bloodstream for more sustained distribution of energy) and what each does for your body.
Complex carbohydrate-rich foods are your best bet for fuelling your body. In general, try to pick complex carbs which have a low glycemic index (GI).
Second, fill your plate to support your nutrition. Fill half of your plate with vegetables or salads (not pasta or potato salad!). Fill one quarter of your place with a complex carbohydrate such as brown rice. Fill the last quarter of your plate with your protein (preferably a lean choice such as chicken, bison or fish, or a meat alternative like beans or lentils).
3. WHEN do I eat?
Planning your meals – eating the right things at the right time - is critical to giving you the energy you need to see success! As an athlete, you need a constant stream of energy to perform at your peak. If you are hungry, you lose focus, your training or intensity decreases, and your performance suffers.
In general, you want to eat 5 to 7 small meals or snacks a day or, in other words, eat every 2 to 3 hours. Eat larger meals 3 to 4 hours before practices, games or intense training. Proteins and dairy are harder to digest so eat those in quantity at the 3 to 4 hour mark (your meal should be around 75% carbohydrates and 25% protein). Eat a snack that is higher in complex carbohydrates and lighter on protein about 1 to 2 hours before your activity to keep your energy sustained. If your activity is going to last more than 60 minutes, eat a small snack 15 to 30 minutes before the activity starts, again going light on the protein.
If you need a fuel boost between periods, have a small piece of fruit or a small granola bar.
Remember to fuel up after your activity too. Within 30 minutes afterwards, your body is at a heightened state to recover and that is when you should start rehydrating and refueling. Now is when you can have that simple carbohydrate or high GI food because it has the simple sugars that will start replenishing your energy stores right away. Make sure you throw in a little protein too. (Chocolate milk has the right balance of protein and simple sugars to start the body repair process.)
Ideally, you don’t want to eat ‘on the run’ but we know how busy you are. Pack portable snacks, in an insulated bag, and add a freezer pack (to keep cold foods cold) or a thermos (to keep warm foods warm). Remember to add a fork or a spoon!
But wait, what about HYDRATION?
4. Hydrating is just as important as eating!
If you feel thirsty, dehydration may already be setting in. Hydrating throughout the day helps you stay focused, curbs hunger, and helps your body maintain its fluid levels.
Water is the number one choice for hydrating! If you’re looking for extra flavour or energy, try putting some orange slices in your water bottle. That hit of concentrated energy you get from a Sport Drink is not necessarily needed BEFORE your activity, especially if your activity is only 60 minutes long or less. A Sport Drink may actually result in your performance dropping off in the middle of your activity. Because of their added electrolytes (e.g., sodium and potassium), though, Sport Drinks can help you recover AFTER exertion. Or, if your activity is intense and over 60 minutes in duration, you can supplement your water with a Sport Drink throughout the activity.
Every body is different and has unique needs and tolerances. Do your nutrition homework, find the right combination and timing of nutrient-dense foods that work for you to support your performance goals, and keep hydrated. The better the quality of fuel you put into your body, the better quality of performance your body will put out. That’s what Eating to Perform is all about!
Posted June 2013