Fuel for training

Plan your nutritional preparation for the big day

Many thousands of training and nutrition dos and don’ts have been published over the years but there is one piece of nutrition advice that has sustained the test of time - carbohydrate! The fatigue during prolonged exercise is associated with a depletion of muscle glycogen (stores of carbohydrate) and insufficient muscle stores will hinder performance both for an even or competition itself and just for quality training.

During training and leading up to the event it is a top priority that a consistent energy status is established through increased muscle stores of glycogen, hydration, and replenishment, particularly as each training session will use up the stores quickly and need fast replenishment. A habitual high carbohydrate diet with 60-70% of your calories coming from foods such as bread, cereal, grains, pasta, vegetables and fruit will increase stores of muscle glycogen.

  • The first priority is to fuel the carbohydrate stores prior to training
  • The second priority is to hydrate fully
  • The third priority is to sustain both muscle glycogen stores and hydration through the longer distance training, and any event or competition
  • The fourth priority is to replenish optimally after training

Read on for further information about these four fuelling priorities…

Fuelling priorities

1. Day-to-day eating for training

  • Eat breakfast including carbohydrate, protein and fruit and vegetables
    For example: cereal, milk, fruit juice, fried fruit, toast/bagel
  • Mid morning snack – carbohydrate
    For example: cereal bar, flapjack, banana sandwich
  • Lunch including protein carbohydrate fruit and vegetables
    For example: baked potato, tuna fish, cheese, fruit salad
    or, vegetable and fish risotto
    or, pasta salad with vegetables, chicken
  • Mid afternoon snack – carbohydrate
    For example: fruit/dried fruit, cereal bar, yoghurt
  • Dinner including protein, carbohydrates, vegetables
    For example: meat or fish or grains, potato or pasta or rice with bread, 3-4 variations of vegetables
  • A before bed carbohydrate snack.
    For example: a bowl of cereal, yoghurt, toast with honey

Any of the snacks can be eaten as pre or post training snacks.

2. Hydration

  • Drink water with all meals and snacks
  • Carry a water bottle constantly
  • For two hours prior to a training session drink 2-3 (8 oz cups)
  • 15 minutes before the session 1-2 (8 oz cups)
  • Drink sips of water throughout the training session (½ an 8 oz cup every 15 minutes)
  • Re-hydrate immediately after training and there after until urine is clear. (If any body weight lost drink 2 litres of water to 1kg body weight lost)
  • (Remember that the most efficient time for restoring muscle glycogen is immediately between 15 minutes and two hours after the training session. Three grams of water is needed to repack 1 gram of glycogen – so drinking plenty of water during this window is important.

3. During training or the race

  • Follow the hydration guidelines above
  • Consume 25-30 grams of carbohydrate per hour after the first hour of training or the race. (No more that 6-8% glucose in a fluid mix, non carbonated or a fruit juice diluted 1:1, drinks that are tepid in temperature)

4. Replenishment

  • Follow the hydration guidelines above
  • Eat a high glycaemic carbohydrate food or a meal replacement drink, within 15 – 30 minutes of finishing i.e. fruit, vegetables, yoghurt, bagels, cereals, and milk, (or any of the snacks above)
  • The most important window for refuelling is immediately after training and continuing for 2-4 hours after