By Brooke Kugler, M.S., CISSN.
Fueling mind and muscle go hand in hand. What an athlete consumes is just as important as when it’s consumed. Regardless of your goals—if you’re looking to shed some pounds, gain some muscle mass, increase energy levels, amp up your workout, or tweak your competition prep—proper nutrient timing gives you that power! An intense, sweaty workout contributes only about 20% to your peak athletic success. Food holds the weight of the remaining 80 percent. Obtaining the full 80% is accomplished only through smart nutrition, which doesn’t just mean to simply pick out a variety of lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits and greens. The nutrient timing strategy– when you eat these certain foods– is the most efficient and effective “key” to reaching your performance goals and the degree to which your goals can be attained and become reality.
Here is the key to your athletic success– I call it: SNNT. This is short for Specific-Nutrient-Nourishment-Timing. The SNNT method optimizes body composition changes through amplifying the molecular mechanisms responsible for growth and recovery. There are three crucial time periods or metabolic “windows of opportunity” where you can use SNNT to obtain peak nutritional nourishment when you need it most. These three windows are pre-, during-, and post-workout. This is when the SNNT strategy is vital, significantly increasing your chances of attaining your goals.
The three metabolic “windows of opportunity”:
The pre-workout meal will determine the intensity of your workout. Exercise intensity, pace and work output decrease as glycogen levels diminish (Kerksick et al., 2008, p. 4); therefore, you want to make sure you have enough energy to fuel the demands of your workout. The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) (2008) recommends eating a meal about 2-4 hours before you train. This meal should consist of protein and low-glycemic index (GI) carbohydrate as well as water for hydration. Kerksick et al. (2008), explains that, “regular ingestion of various protein sources in conjunction with carbohydrate stimulates greater increases in strength and favorably impacts body composition when compared to carbohydrate alone.” It is also vital to eat close enough to a workout to provide energy without stomach distress. Therefore, these meals should consist of familiar foods and be low in fat to promote gastric emptying so you’re not stuck feeling full and uncomfortable.
During your workout, hydration is key. Your pre-workout meal has supplied you with the energy needed to fulfill your workout, and your glycogen stores are full; therefore, goals for nutrient consumption during exercise are to replace fluid losses and provide carbohydrates for maintenance of blood sugar (glucose) levels. Drinking about 8oz every 15 minutes should be sufficient to maintain proper hydration status and avoid dehydration. However, if you are exercising longer than 60 minutes, 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour should be consumed in order to maintain blood glucose and muscle glycogen stores (Kerksick et al., 2008, p. 7). The Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) dietetic practice group of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends drinking a 6-8% carbohydrate solution to replenish glycogen stores and electrolytes every 10-15 minutes.
Inadequate recovery can limit an athlete’s success. Now that you’ve finished your workout and burned off all of those calories, you must replenish those energy stores so your body can properly recover. Post-workout food is vital after a workout for the body to recover and muscles to rebuild. There is a golden, anabolic “window” of opportunity during the first 30 minutes after your workout. This “anabolic window” is when your body is most receptive to nutrients. It’s craving them! And, the body will use them to refuel, recover and rebuild. This is why waiting too long to eat can have profound negative effects on an athlete’s function.
The post-workout snack should consist of high-GI carbohydrates and highly absorbable protein (such as whey protein in powder form) in a 3:1 (Carbs:Protein) ratio (Kerksick et al., 2008, p. 9). These high-GI carbs will initiate a rapid rise in blood sugar and insulin that shuttles fluids and nutrients into muscle and body cells. So, this is the time to break out your favorite “white,” simple carbs! That doesn’t mean to pull over to the nearest Krispy Kreme, but it does give you more freedom to eat those more tasty carbs because they will immediately be used to replenish depleted glycogen stores.
After eating a post-workout snack within your 30-minute recovery window, a larger meal should be eaten about 2 hours later. This well-balanced meal should consist of a generous serving of lean protein, complex carbohydrate, a moderate amount of fat and as many vegetables as you wish.
Often times we focus so much on the food aspect of sports nutrition that we fail to address hydration strategies. Rehydration of any fluid lost during your workout should be replaced post-workout. A good technique is to weight yourself before and after your workout. Every pound of body weight lost should be replaced with 16oz of water.
Research is supporting the importance of sports nutrition and its positive effects on performance. Therefore, it is important to be able to use this science as practical knowledge that can be consumed, digested and utilized. We must fuel our minds and muscles through bridging the gap between sports nutrition research and sports nutrition practice because this is the sure-fire way to get results.
If you’ve never used a nutrient timing strategy in the past to supplement your training regimen, keep in mind that it takes focus, dedication and commitment to consistency. If you’re looking to make changes and you’re up for the challenge, your body will change!
Your body’s metabolism responds in certain ways dependent upon exposures to various stimuli (exercise, food, stress etc.). The proof is in the science, and science doesn’t lie. SNNT correlates with scientifically proven metabolic processes that respond in conjunction with your workouts. With the help of SNNT, you will be well on your way to peak performance. Smart, scientific supplementation reveals champions. So, maximize your potential. Get out there, and fuel it with SNNT!
Kerksick, C., Harvey, T., Stout, J., Campbell, B., Wilborn, C., Kreider, R., Kalman, D., Ziegenfuss, T., Lopez, H., Landis, J., Ivy, J., & Antonio, J. (2008). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 5(17).
Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition. (2012). Retrieved April 5, 2012, from http://www.scandpg.org/
About the Author
Brooke Kugler has devoted her life to research and the practical application of dietetics and sports nutrition. She has been involved in competitive sports throughout her entire life, including 14 years of professional figure skating. But, it wasn’t until she began competing in figure and fitness competitions where she realized her true passion for the field of sports nutrition, and that was the spark that set the stage for the rest of her life! She believes that there’s nothing better than helping someone achieve a successful and positive physical and mental—full-body–transformation. She will soon be a registered dietitian and plans on focusing her efforts on bridging the gap between sports nutrition research and sport nutrition practice.