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Eating for Your Sport

Posted 8/26/2016 by UHBlog

Are your eating habits on the same level as your fitness game? We can help.

Eating for Your Sport

No matter what your sport is, the game starts in the kitchen.

According to registered dietitian nutritionist Amy Jamieson-Petonic, foods that are high in fat and fiber could leave you on the sideline at best – and in the bathroom at the worst.

“Fat and fiber take a lot of energy to digest, and your body can only do so much at one time,” she says.

Fatty foods tend to pull blood away from your muscles and send it toward your digestive track instead. Foods with fiber aren’t always completely broken down in the digestive track and pass through too quickly.

“When this happens, athletes tend to have gastrointestinal distress, such as stomach pain, cramping and diarrhea,” says Jamieson-Petonic.

Eating the “right” foods at the wrong time can also be detrimental. Jamieson-Petonic recommends timing your pre- and post-event meals to get the most out of your grub. Her strategies include:

Pre-Event Meals

Your goal is to top off glycogen stores and build and repair muscle tissues.

“When glycogen is depleted, you proverbially hit the wall," Jamieson-Petonic says. "That’s when you feel like there’s no gas in the tank.”

Pre-event meals should be low in fat and fiber and consumed three to four hours prior to the activity. In terms of what to eat, Jamieson-Petonic recommends:

3 to 4 hours before an event. Some options are:

  • Whole grain toast, peanut butter and honey, along with a glass of chocolate milk
  • Smoothie consisting of fresh fruit, Greek yogurt and low-fat granola
  • Oatmeal made with unsweetened milk, almonds, agave and banana
  • Low-fat cottage cheese, crackers and grapes
  • Turkey burger with bun, lettuce and tomato, a side salad and a yogurt-fruit parfait
  • Lean roast beef and Swiss cheese sandwich, fruit and a sports drink

30 to 60 minutes before the event. Ideas include:

  • Sports drink or water
  • Sports gel, sport beans/gummies or sports bar
  • Piece of fruit or all-natural fruit preserves sandwich

Post-Event Meals

The food you eat after exercise is also important, Jamieson-Petonic says, but it serves a different purpose. Your goal is to restore fluids and electrolytes and replace carbohydrates.

“Your nutrition recovery should begin within 15 to 60 minutes after exercise,” she says.

She recommends rehydrating and recovering in the following ways:

Rehydration fluids. Options include a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink to replenish the fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat.

Snacks. Ideas for recovery snacks are:

  • Sports drink and a sport bar
  • Graham crackers and peanut butter, plus low-fat chocolate milk and a banana

Meals. Suggestions for a recovery meal include:

  • Whole wheat pita with turkey and veggies, pretzels and low-fat milk
  • Rice bowl with beans, cheese, salsa and avocado, along with whole grain tortilla chips
  • Stir-fry made with lean steak, broccoli, peppers, carrots and brown rice

A good rule of thumb is two servings of carbohydrates to one serving of protein when planning meals.

“Protein helps your muscles recover, but carbohydrates are an athlete’s preferred energy source,” says Jamieson-Petonic. “The big takeaway is to make sure you get adequate carbohydrates to replenish glycogen, the stored form of carbs.”

For individualized advice to determine how to eat for your sport, contact a registered dietitian. To make an appointment with UH Medical Nutrition Service, call 216-844-1499.

Amy Jamieson-Petonic, M.Ed., RDN, CSSD, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Jamieson-Petonic or any other health care professional online.

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