Over the next few weeks, I will look at different macro nutrients, timing of ingestion and their effects on function.
What happens during exercise?
Our liver does store sugar as glycogen and can transfer this sugar anywhere, but it cannot store as much as a muscle can for exercise, making it ineffective as a serious source for athletes. When an athlete says that he hit "the wall", they are telling you that they ran out of muscle glycogen for an energy source and start to burn lean tissue to produce sugar which is very inefficient and counterproductive for muscle mass.
Carbohydrate loading pre exercise, post exercise and during exercise are all key.
Today we will talk about post workout pre match loading:
Data shows that 2 days prior to an endurance event like a marathon, soccer game, long swim, etc.., if an athlete works out really hard and depletes the muscles sugar stores(glycogen) while withholding sugars from the diet, they can enhance the storage of glycogen post exercise by carb/sugar loading. Therefore, 2 days later during an event they have maximal muscle glycogen stores to compete with.
In other words: 2 days before big events an athlete should have a hard workout and not eat flour or sugar based foods. Eat nuts, seeds, vegetables, protein like organic soy or meat. Then post workout eat whole grain pasta, brown rice, and other rapidly digesting carbohydrates. The key is to get the meal within the first 2 hours post workout.
Having a healthy life style bar immediately after the workout makes good sense to get the process started before a big meal. The data shows that high end sports supplements like Recoverite or other post workout drinks are as effective as a home cooked meal. However, I tend to think that a natural food meal is still preferable to a processed variety, because it also provides fiber and micro biome enhancing molecules that a drink cannot.
The day in between the carb load and the race or game should be a rest or light workout day with a diet that is whole foods based.
Remember that this is primarily for endurance athletes and not the weight lifter or golfer.