Matchday nutrition series: pre-, during and post-competition eating strategies

Nutrition is the fuel of the human body. More specifically, fats and carbohydrates are the two energy reserves in your body. Optimizing these storages through specific eating strategies will help you perform at your best at decisive moments in sports. That’s where this three-episode series is all about.

The ‘Match Day Nutrition’ series will provide you with SCIENCE-based eating strategies for your match days. The series is split up in pre-, during and post-competition episodes. Every week we will provide you with directly applicable tips based on the latest research. To keep it accessible and applicable to anyone, the series is limited to nutrition strategies at the competition day itself. Strategies cover the fundamentals of eating for performance and optimal recovery. Next week, the first episode will be about pre-competition nutrition. However, this week, we’ll already kick-off the series by giving a short introduction about the importance of nutrition in sports and specifically: the importance of muscle glycogen storages (carbs are stored as glycogen in the body). This will help you understand the rationale behind the nutritional strategies. Hopefully, you are then more likely to use the tips as you understand the value of nutrition in sports.

As mentioned above, nutrition is of major importance to your performance. It provides you with the two most essential energy sources: carbohydrates (carbs) and fats. Energy is needed to allow your body to execute the movements required for your sport. Carbs are preferred by the body as they provide you with energy for higher intensity activities and are thus of specific interest for competitive events and the upcoming episodes 1. So let’s take a deeper look into carbs as they are the number 1 determinant of eating for performance.

Carbs are stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. After a night of sleep, liver glycogen stores are reduced by 80% 2. Through eating a high carb meal after a night of fasting, one can restore liver glycogen content. 20% of the ingested carbohydrates will be directly stored in the liver after a pre-exercise meal 3. This is especially useful as glycogen is released from the liver to the muscles when muscle stores are depleted of glycogen. Moreover, after a pre-exercise meal, muscle glycogen storage is increased by 42%.  Consumption of a high carb meal will thus increase the total glycogen storage in the body. This will prove to be especially useful in case of exercise of 90 minutes and greater as muscle glycogen is depleted after such a long duration 4. In case of long-lasting exercise, one would thus expect that greater glycogen storage = more high-quality energy = better performance through being able to sustain a higher pace. The NCSF indeed states that glycogen storage depletion in the muscles is strongly associated with fatigue and performance decline 5. Based on this glycogen restoring processes, researchers developed and tested specific strategies to optimize glycogen availability to the muscles and hence optimize performance.

You will now have enough background information to understand the rationale behind the nutritional strategies that will be discussed in the coming weeks. As you can see, nutrition is of major importance for optimizing performance. Optimizing glycogen storages combined with other strategies (such as water & caffeine intake) will help you perform at your best. In the coming weeks, every Wednesday, SCIENCE based best practices about ‘Match Day Nutrition’ will be discussed at train4performance.com. We will provide you with directly applicable nuggets on pre-, during and post-competition nutrition! Peace out 🙂

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