You may need protein and carbs before exercise but the demands of each sport vary so here’s your game plan for creating the exact nutrition needed to excel.



Ingredients that help you excel:

Before: Large bowl of porridge/oats with milk

After: Protein recovery drink and a rye bread sandwich made with green salad and chicken

Why? Depending on the intensity and duration of the exercise session, it’s hard to beat a bowl of porridge with milk in order to provide sustained delivery of carbohydrate during the run. Additionally, the milk can help to provide some protein that can also help to promote muscle recovery whilst also being beneficial for hydration.

Carbohydrates ranked low on the glycemic index such as porridge mean you can use more fat as a fuel during exercise, thus “sparing” your muscles limited glycogen stores. You’ll still need to refuel afterwards which where the green salad and chicken sandwich offer a protein fix.


Interval training

Ingredients that help you excel:

Before: 2 slices of toast or rice with 2 poached eggs

After: Protein recovery drink straight after

Why? When exercise is harder and your muscles rely more on carbohydrate as a fuel, it’s often beneficial to provide higher glycemic carbohydrates such as breads, cereals, pasta or rice. What’s important to note is that these foods are also lower in fibre, which means your gut is lighter, you don’t feel bloated and more blood can be used to deliver oxygen to your muscles for where you really need it to excel. The recovery drink will refuel your muscles without contributing towards increasing your stored fat.



Ingredients that help you excel:

Before: Large bowl of porridge/oats with an omelet made with spinach and avocado. Also include a side of Greek yoghurt and mixed berries.

After: 1-2 cups of rice and 300g of grilled chicken and fruit based smoothie.

Why? Cycling can often involve 4-6 hours of moderate intensity exercise where both carbohydrate and fat are used as fuels. For this reason, the pre-exercise meal should contain both low glycemic carbohydrates such as porridge, but also a mix of fat and protein to provide further fuel that also helps reduce and muscle damage during the ride.

In this case, the omelet and Greek yoghurt can really provide both fats and protein simultaneously. At the end of a long ride, it’s likely both muscle and liver glycogen will be depleted. As such, the addition of fructose (i.e. sugars found in fruit) can help to recover liver stores whereas rice can help to recover muscle glycogen stores.



Ingredients that help you excel:

Before: 1-2 cups of rice and 200-300g salmon in a tomato based salad plus bread or potato as carbs.

After: Protein recovery drink straight after

Why? Similar to interval training, footballers also need to commence the game well fuelled without feeling bloated.. Rice provides the fuel whereas the salmon can provide a source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids, both of which are required for recovery.


Weight lifting

Ingredients that help you excel:

Before: Chicken and quinoa salad and sweet potato

After: Protein recovery drink

Why? You need plenty of energy is to fuel your training session and protein is needed to provide the building blocks for muscle growth. Chicken is an obvious source of lean protein that is readily digested while quinoa provides a low glycemic carbohydrate that also contains protein. Most athletes engaged in weight training are focused on improving body composition and hence low glycemic index carbohydrate sources are often considered better when compared to higher glycemic carbohydrates.

In contrast, the requirement for after weight training is to provide protein to help promote muscle growth, carbohydrate to provide the energy needed to build new muscle and of course, fluid to maintain hydration. Recovery drinks are gold for this as they do all this simultaneously.

Dr James Morton is the World-Class Knowledge Director at Science in Sport. James is a lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University and works with elite athletes as a nutritionist.

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