It’s easy to grab an energy bar or a sports drink, but many of nature’s own ‘products’ are as equally, if not more, effective. Rhiannon Lambert looks at what the greengrocers has to offer to optimise your pre and post workout snacking.
It’s well known that optimum hydration is crucial for endurance performance. But it’s perhaps less known that the electrolytes that keep you going and stop you cramping are also vital for your recovery too and numerous other body functions.
When our bodies get dehydrated, we aren’t only low on water, but we are also low on mineral salts, known as electrolytes. Electrolytes are charged particles – ions in our body that generate electricity. They are responsible for making the heart beat in rhythm, and making our muscular system work.
Electrolytes are the charge behind every nerve impulse in the body.
Sodium is perhaps the most well-known and important electrolyte and is a major ion in the body’s fluid balancing act. It’s an extracellular electrolyte. Sodium plays a key role in taking restorative and energy producing nutrients into the body’s cells.
It’s also vital for muscular functioning.
Potassium is an intracellular electrolyte and is stored in muscle fibres. It assists the delivery of glycogen (premium grade, carb fuel) into the muscles and with other electrolytes regulates nerve impulses.
Chloride works in partnership with sodium to regulate body-water balance, and the conduction of electrical impulses across the cell membranes. It’s a negative ion.
Calcium, although known for its role in building bones and teeth – is also an electrolyte. It’s needed for example, for muscle contraction, nerve conduction and hormone release, and equally crucially the production and synthesis of muscle glycogen.
Magnesium is mainly found in muscles and other soft tissue and bones. It’s crucial for healthy cell function and energy production and protein synthesis.
Potassium and phosphate help to regulate energy and pH balance.
We’ll often glug a sports drinks to keep our electrolytes topped up, however, from a nutritional perspective you can hydrate more naturally. A great way to replace lost electrolytes is with coconut water. Coconut water is often referred to as “Mother Nature’s sports drink”. It’s low in calories and naturally fat- and cholesterol free.
Coconut water contains more potassium than four bananas, so it’s no wonder its being used by many athletes as a tool to stay hydrated throughout training.
Pre-workout and post-workout natural food aid
Here’s more of what the greengrocers can offer by way of sports nutrition. The products aren’t wrapped in shiny, eye-catching packaging with elite athletes’ bodies adorning the products – but maybe they should be!
- Apples contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (the former two act as sparkplugs to optimally fire up your body, the latter will promote recovery).
- Bananas contain readily digestible carbohydrates and potassium. The riper they are the more quickly they will release their energy.
- High-glycaemic foods such as apricots, watermelon and mango with a few nuts or seeds, will provide an energy boost. Watermelon, for example is rich in the amino acid L-citrulline, and this can reduce the affects of ammonia production in the body, which negatively affects muscle contraction.
- Nuts and seeds, such as peanuts, almonds and sunflower seeds are rich in vit E, which is a great anti-oxidant.
- Tomato or vegetable juice contains slowly digestible carbohydrates as well as vitamin and mineral benefits.
It’s recommended you eat two to four hours before training; this will allow sufficient time for the food to settle in your stomach, and will assist liver and muscle glycogen levels. In terms of carbs aim for about 2.5g/kg of bodyweight.
- Fruit loaf/raisin bread
- Dried apricots, raisins, dates
- Home-made fruit shake
Start your refuel as soon as you can. Your glycogen stores are most ready to be filled, and absorption rates are much higher up to two hours post activity.
- Avocados contain high levels of vitamin C and B6 (the latter assists the energy release from food).
- Sweet potatoes will restore lost glycogen and are high in
potassium and vit A.
- Hummus – use it instead of mustard, mayo or butter as it’s high in fibre, and protein.
- Spinach – 100g supplies 15% of the daily value for a 2000 calorie/
day diet and 187% of vit A.
- Oranges are rich in antioxidant vitamin C, with one supplying around 50 calories. Vit C is also one of the key vitamins needed for repairing sort tissue.
- Bananas are high in fast-acting carbs, and aid the restoration of
glycogen. One contains around 90 calories. They’re also high in potassium and can supply 10% of daily requirements for a 2000 calorie/day diet.
- Blueberries are great
- Pineapples are high in vitamin C.
- Kiwis are rich in potassium, vitamin C and antioxidants.
Post-Workout fruit based options
- 1-2 portions of fresh fruit and a glass of milk
- Fruit Smoothie
- Handful of dried fruit and nuts
Carbs and protein = optimum recovery
Combining carbs and protein produces the best results – this is because the combination boosts the production of insulin, which ups the push of glucose and amino acids into muscle cells. The combo also prevents the rise of cortisol – the “stress” hormone, which reduces protein re-synthesis.
The ratio should a 4:1 protein to carb one. Skimmed milk is particularly high in it’s postworkout recovery abilities.
Higher GI foods are best in the initial stages of recovery.