Weight trainers don’t usually expend the amount of energy that a an endurance athlete does in training, so one doesn’t have to be as acutely aware of the intake of carbohydrate required to fuel such effort. For example, a heavy-training marathoner or triathlete may require 7-10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight per day (3-5 grams/pound/bw/day). Take it from me that this is a lot of carbohydrate – more than 32 slices of bread equivalent for a 150 pound (70 kilos) athlete minimum.
Even so, here are some principles for meals prior to exercise as generally supported by sports nutritionists and modified for the strength athlete. Remember, this is for eating before you train or compete:
1: Experiment and find your tolerance for various foods before and during exercise. This is important because many of us react differently to fiber, foods like beans, milk, various fruits and so on.
2: Eat meals low in fat and fiber with some protein and carbohydrate. Fiber can and should be part of a healthy diet in other meals.
3:A main meal should be eaten 3-4 hours before exercise.
4: A smaller meal can be taken 1-2 hours before exercise.
5: Within an hour of activity, liquids such as sports drinks and gels, or protein shakes or foods that are not too heavy may be best.
A very small percentage of people get a reactive blood glucose drop if they eat a high carbohydrate meal, so this may not be suitable for some people near to exercise. The number of athletes that suffer from this condition, called hypoglycemia, is much lower than once thought. Adding protein to the meal can prevent this.
Running type sports seem to churn the gut up and produce discomfort more than stationary or supported sports like weight training, swimming or cycling; so the pre-meal variety can be greater if you’re not a runner. (I still wouldn’t have the goose liver pate followed by the fried chicken and rice though.)
Consume around 10-20 grams of quality protein within 30-60 minutes of the weights session. Research has shown that an intake of 6-12 grams of essential amino acids, which is equivalent to 10-20 grams of a complete protein, promotes enhanced muscle protein recovery and rebuilding after the workout. One gram per kilogram body weight (about 0.5 grams/pound) of carbohydrate taken with the protein may assist this anabolic boost. Some trainers call this a protein ‘shooter’.
Here are some foods and combinations that provide at least 10 grams of protein and 50 grams of carbohydrate.
1: Flavored low-fat milk, 17 fl. ounces (500 ml)
2: 1 cup fruit salad with 7 ounces or 200 grams flavored yoghurt
3; A large glass of skim milk and two slices of bread and honey or jam (no butter)
4: Various protein bars and protein shakes and powders – check the labels for percentages and quantities.