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Pre/Post-Training Snacks for Youth & Adult Athletes

On Thursday, October 9, 2008 by Registered Dietitian


Eat Right, Perform Better

In this article we will explore the importance of topping off the energy systems before the workout and the post workout refueling.

Pre- and post-training/event feedings make A BIG difference
You build more muscle and strength when incorporating pre- & post-activity feedings

Virtually all research studies show that proper pre- & “immediate” post-training/event carbohydrate and protein feedings reduce muscle damage, stimulate muscle growth and speed recovery to a far greater extent than following “normal meal patterns”. Even when all things are equal – overall daily calories, food types and amounts including carbohydrates, fats and protein – this phenomenon still takes place (see fig 1). This is known as the post training “metabolic window” and lasts for approximately 60 to 90 minutes after intense training. During this timeframe the body is highly receptive to nutrient uptake. In other words if you don’t supply the proper nutrition at this point, you will experience less training induced improvement in muscle size, strength and performance.

 

          

Figure 1: Cribb et al Nov 2006


Also, it was recently discovered that this short muscle-building “window” is most active the moment you cease exercise. From that time on, the muscle-building/recovery activities begin to decrease. Once this window is closed, there’s no making up for the potential gains in size even if you eat perfectly the rest of the day. This tells scientists that the immediate post-workout formula/feeding actually activates this unique muscle-building period, meaning gains are measurably less without consuming these pre- and post- snacks.

Beyond Traditional Food

Due to the two to three hours required to extract and then absorb the needed nutrients from whole foods, no traditional foods allow for the rapid absorption necessary to “hit the immediate post-training growth window”. This is why we have designer formulas. And although nutrition bars with the proper carbohydrate, protein and fat ratios can be effectively used as before and after feedings, liquid is generally better for the simple reason of speed to the muscles. Additionally by using a mix, you can make the drink as needed to match the ideal calories, carbohydrates, proteins and fats (see pre/post shake mix examples).

The proper pre/post formula

The formulas used in scientific studies are all much the same: within the range of 1.5-4 parts carbohydrate (CHO) to 1 part protein and low to no fat. The CHO range is based on the activity – the longer and more continuous (endurance-type activities) the workout the higher the carbohydrate/sugar content. The carbohydrate mixture must contain continuous releasing carbohydrates including the proper amounts of simple, fast-acting carbohydrate because the energy must enter the body quickly or the product loses effectiveness. This formula produces the desired results – i.e. quick, lasting energy, faster recovery and more muscle and strength gains from the workout.

By consuming the same ingredients (as the post-workout formula) before the workout, you not only improve training energy levels, but also enhance the recovery and muscle building process to a greater extent than only ingesting the post-workout formula (see fig 1). Although recovery primarily takes place after the workout, you can help speed and enhance the process before you start exercise by ingesting the formula 10-40 minutes before the workout (always make sure your pre-training, whole food meal is eaten 2-3 hours before exercise unless you train first thing in the morning and time does not permit; refer to the tables in last week’s article on loading energy systems). The same proper carbohydrate/sugar content is important because it stimulates insulin production. Insulin is our body’s most anabolic hormone thus “king” when it comes to building muscle. Not only does this hormone start and continue the entire muscle-building process, but insulin also helps minimize the damage caused by exercise.  Insulin blunts the exercise induced production of the catabolic hormone cortisol, which “tears down” muscle tissue. Increasing insulin levels at proper times allows the body to spend more incoming nutrients and time building muscles rather than using everything to simply repair muscle.

To summarize: the pre-drink (or appropriate bar) gives added training energy and minimizes muscle damage. The immediate post feeding increases all training outcomes that would otherwise not take place. Together these feedings have the potential to make you bigger, stronger faster following each workout when compared to without.
 
dotFIT Makes Your Life Easier

Until now, no one has taken the time or made the effort to develop the perfect athletic formula. And although dotFIT’s FirstString™ can be used by any athlete, it is formulated to truly target the needs of college and growing young athletes. This ideal formula contains a mix of protein, carbohydrates and fats that meets the NCAA guidelines for college athletes. It also satisfies the established criteria of a pre- and post-exercise or activity meal we have discussed here.

One serving (4-scoops) of FirstString contains 42 grams of the best quality proteins, and 86 grams of a perfect mixture of carbohydrates packed into 570 calories, making FirstString the perfect muscle gain/performance formula. FirstString can deliver exactly what’s needed to ensure the surplus calories are incorporated into muscle tissues rather than body fat when appropriate resistance exercise is included and total daily calories are appropriate (see pre/post shake mix examples below).Your personalized menus in your dotFIT Me Program will contain your ideal pre and post feedings. For shake recipe ideas click here and pick as desired but keep the amounts of protein, carbohydrates, as close as possible to the recommended numbers. Additionally if your venue makes using shakes difficult, feel free to substitute the dotFIT bars.

In summary, when you feed your muscles before and immediately after training (and the sooner the better) with a rapidly absorbed formula (not traditional foods), you build more muscle than if you don’t engage in the practice. This is true no matter how well you eat throughout the day.

 




 

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