Pre-activity nutrition can make or break your workout, practice or game performance. If your body doesn’t have the energy, fluids or nutrients it needs to perform, your strength, speed, endurance and mental focus will suffer. Follow these five guidelines for pre-activity fueling to ensure your body is charged and ready to go before intense activity.
1. Fuel Up 15 Minutes Before Activity
It's the last chance you have to top off your energy system and nutrient levels. “It’s really important for athletes to properly fuel before training or competing,” says Kim White, Gatorade Sports Science Institute senior scientist. The time element allows your body to digest and have immediate access to energy and nutrients, so you'll be ready to go the moment you step on the field or in the weight room.
2. Energize With Fast-Acting Carbs
Fuel up with 100 calories of fast-acting carbs, either from fresh fruit or a pre-activity sports drink, and do it 15 minutes before activity to provide an immediate energy boost. This carb dose delivers performance benefits throughout activity. “Taking in a small amount of carbohydrate before you get started will help your body more effectively use additional fuel that you take in during exercise,” White adds.
3. Top Off Electrolyte Levels
The moment you step on the field, you begin to lose sodium and potassium via sweat. This can result in a performance-degrading electrolyte imbalance, which reduces your muscles’ ability to contract and can contribute to cramping and dehydration. Get on top of your electrolyte intake by consuming a pre-activity sports drink or food rich in these valuable minerals.
4. Stock Up on B Vitamins
It’s important to satisfy your vitamin requirements with a well-balanced diet. “Athletes should get the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals through their daily diets,” says White. However, 15 minutes before a workout or game is a perfect time to ensure you have enough B vitamins to help your body use stored energy during training or competition.
5. Avoid a Full Stomach
The last thing you want when you are training or competing is heavy foods or liquid sloshing around in your stomach. Avoid slow-digesting foods, such as protein-rich, fatty or greasy foods, in your pre-activity consumption. Also, limit the amount of fluid you take in immediately beforehand to a max of eight ounces.