Fuelling For Training

Getting the right fuel in before, and sometimes during, your competition or key training sessions is critical for optimising your performance. Getting this right can delay the onset of fatigue, maintain optimal outputs in terms of strength, power, and endurance, while providing your brain with the fuel it needs to keep you focused, alert, and motivated throughout your sporting event. This can be especially important towards the end of a race, event, or game when it often matters most!

Let’s start with hydration, because it’s arguably the easiest aspect to address, and has such a significant impact on mood, reaction times, alertness, and performance in both endurance and power activities. In the 24 hours leading up to an event or key training session, try to ensure you drink generous amounts of fluid, to keep well hydrated. You can monitor your hydration status using your urine colour – it should be a pale-yellow colour.

Then, between two and four hours before exercise, consuming 5-10ml per kg of body weight of fluid can help you hydrate but will allow enough time for urine output to return to normal. So for an athlete weighing 80kg, aim to drink 400-800ml fluid (5-10 x 80) in the 2–4-hour window before the event.

During exercise, you ideally want to drink enough to maintain your body weight (nearly all weight lost during most exercise is water). This can usually be achieved by drinking small amounts every 15-20 minutes. With that being said, be careful not to overhydrate as this can cause serious health problems – you should not gain weight during exercise as this could indicate that you’re drinking too much fluid. Electrolytes might also be beneficial for maintaining fluid balance and blood pressure control during exercise lasting over two hours or in hot or humid conditions where you might sweat heavily. Vivo Life Sustain contains electrolyte-rich coconut water and Himalayan salt to replace the minerals lost through sweat and keep you hydrated, along with BCAAs to reduce muscle breakdown as you train.

Now on to carbohydrates. Your body converts the carbs we eat into glycogen for storage in the muscles and liver, and this glycogen is your body’s preferred energy source for the moderate-to-high level of activity required in most sports and athletic activities. When glycogen stores deplete, it leads to fatigue, reduced power output, and impaired motor skills and concentration.

But when nutrition is planned well and glycogen stores match the fuel demands of the training session or event, athletes often describe feeling energised, powerful, and focused – just what we want! Glycogen stores are used up each time we exercise, but these stores can be normalised within 24 hours of rest and adequate fuel intake (as long as there’s no severe muscle damage). So at least one day’s rest and plenty of carbs stand you in good stead for shorter-duration activities (under around 90 minutes).

Before endurance or high intensity training lasting over 90 minutes, a high-carb meal 3-4 hours before the training session or event has been shown to improve endurance, power output, interval-style performance (as is common in many team sports) and prolong the time to fatigue. A meal in this time window containing carbohydrates ranging from 3-4g per kg of body weight (e.g. 240-320g for an 80kg athlete) has been shown to be most effective. In general, this meal should be low fat, low fibre, and low-moderate protein in order to reduce the chances of gastrointestinal problems and to promote quicker absorption of the carbohydrates. Alternatively, eating a smaller amount of carbohydrate-rich foods just 30-90 minutes before exercise can also improve endurance performance. Results for this time frame aren’t quite as consistent as they are for the 3-4 hour pre-exercise meal, but if you’re training or competing in the morning, this may be the most practical option (rather than waking up at 4am to get a meal in 3-4 hours before a long 8am training session)! For this option, a smaller meal containing approximately 1-2g/kg is a good general guide (e.g. 80-160g carbs for an 80kg athlete).

In general, it’s not necessary or beneficial to consume carbohydrates during exercise that lasts around 60 minutes or less. The most significant benefits of nutrition during exercise are seen in longer duration endurance or high intensity ‘stop and start’ sports (e.g. many team and racquet sports) lasting more than 60-90 minutes. In this instance, an intake of 30-60g of simple carbohydrates per hour (e.g. 1-2 bananas, or a sports drink) during the exercise has been shown to significantly improve performance, especially in the latter stages of exercise when glycogen stores are placed under stress. For the best results, consume carbohydrates at regular intervals, along with plenty of water, beginning shortly after you start the exercise.