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Fueling for high performance

After years of working with high performing, endurance, and tactical athletes, education on proper fueling and recovery has been a major point of interest and area of guidance needed with so much misinformation out there. This will be our first piece in a 3-part series talking all aspects of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. 

 

The macronutrients in protein, carbohydrates, and fat all have a different purpose when it comes to fueling and recovery. Performance during training or competition, and recovery following training or competition are two of the main reasons for proper nutrition and both are managed in a slightly different manner. 

 

Carbohydrates are one of our body’s main fuel source when it comes to athletic performance. Carbohydrates are critical throughout the day, fueling for training, and required to restore glycogen stores following training (since this is one source our body uses during training). Glycogen is the substance our body converts carbohydrates into and stores for energy for later use. Neglecting to incorporate carbohydrates into your diet (with the thought this is what is needed to lose weight or lean out) can lead to many issues with performance on both the physical and mental side of training and work. Lack of carbohydrates can lead to feeling foggy, tired, slow, lacking energy, difficulty paying attention etc. 

 

There are two types of carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates (or slow digesting) and simple carbohydrates (fast digesting) with very different characteristics and uses for performance. Complex carbohydrates should be most of your carbohydrate intake and are the best for glycogen storage and energy use. 

 

Complex Carbohydrates

Characteristics

  • Prolonged energy

  • Lowers insulin levels

  • Low glycemic index

  • Assist with weight loss

  • High energy stores

  • Longer feeling of “being full”

  • High fiber content

  • Digest more slowly

Types

  • Vegetables

  • Beans (black, pinto, navy, chick, etc)

  • Whole grain pasta

  • Whole grain bread

  • Brown rice 

  • Oats 

  • Fruit 

How should I fuel?

Depending on sport or activity, fueling will look much different. Sports with a longer duration or that require longer lasting energy (soccer, military, running, triathlon, fire fighters, rugby, etc.), need more complex carbohydrates incorporated into your diet each meal. Forget getting caught up in all the numbers and measuring, but rather aim to incorporate a good portion of different complex carbohydrates into each meal. Simple carbohydrates can be a good source of energy when we need something quick, such as 30-60 minutes before or during training for longer duration activity (such as running, triathlon, lifting), but keep simple carbohydrates to a minimum due to some of the poor qualities associated with these foods.

 

Simple Carbohydrates

Characteristics

  • Quick energy

  • Spikes blood sugar

  • High glycemic index

  • Converts to fat storage (weight gain)

  • Short feeling of “being full”

  • Low fiber content

  • Digest more quickly

  • Often processed or refined

Types

  • White rice

  • Pasta

  • Cereal

  • Potatoes

  • Refined sugars

  • White bread