The basics of sports nutrition for optimal performance

For triathletes, cyclists or novice riders, it is sometimes amazing to see how useful it is to equip yourself with a well-stocked palette of "nutritional tools". Well, do not worry anymore. We will show you the recommended ingredients for optimal energy levels and maximum performance during your workouts and competitions.

1) Create a good stock of Carbohydrates

To put it simply, carbohydrates are sugars and starches that fuel our bodies as gasoline fuels a race car. Each gram of carbohydrates contains about 4 calories of fuel. Just like a race car stores its fuel in a tank, the human body stores carbohydrates as glycogen in our muscles and our liver. These glycogen stores are used to stabilize blood sugars and allow optimal muscle function. Runners who balance their meals with 45 to 65% carbohydrates while meeting daily energy needs can expect to store about 2 grams (8 calories) of glycogen per pound of muscle and about 100 to 125 grams (400-500 calories) in the liver. This amount of glycogen provides the energy needed to run the machine for about 2 hours at a moderate intensity, which makes adding carbohydrates necessary during long-term efforts to avoid fatigue and muscle fatigue. It's there that sports nutrition in terms of carbohydrate intake becomes interesting. It can help maintain glycogen stores and prevent fatigue.

How much carbohydrate do we need?

Race Week:

If you are preparing a run that lasts longer than 3 hours, increase the carbohydrate reserves before the test by incorporating 4 to 5 grams of easily digested (low fiber) natural carbohydrates per pound of body muscle each day the last 72 hours before the day of the race. A single day or 48 hour reserve protocol can be effective for shorter runs.

Examples of easy-to-digest carbohydrates are pretzels, bread rolls, bananas, white pasta, white rice, potatoes, rice cereals, sports drinks and energy bars.

Race day:

Aim for 100-150 grams of easily digestible carbohydrates (low fiber) in the 2-3 hours before the start of the race. Make sure you have 1 hour digestion time for every 200-300 calorie consumption. An ideal snack pre-race to consume in the 2 3 hours before the start would be for example a bread sandwich with a little peanut butter and honey and a few sips of sports drink.

During the race:

Aim for a carbohydrate intake (in grams) based on ¼ to 1 / 3 of your body weight. Feed yourself every hour of training or racing beyond 45 to 90 minutes.

For example, a runner of 80kg should aim for about 45 at 60 grams of carbohydrates every hour of training or running. To maximize carbohydrate absorption in the muscles and prolong endurance, choose products whose ingredient lists include different types of carbohydrates. Common carbohydrate sources used in sports foods include maltodextrin, glucose or dextrose, sucrose and fructose. Common products used on race day include sports drinks, energy gels, and energy bars.


Aim 50 at 100 grams of carbohydrates, preferably in liquid form, through recovery beverages, to promote rehydration as well as the reappearance of carbohydrates, as soon as possible after finishing a workout or race effort.

2) Consume proteins

In scientific terms, proteins are large, complex molecules that account for 20% of our body weight in the form of muscle, bone, cartilage, skin, as well as other tissues and body fluids. During digestion, proteins are broken down into at least 100 individual chemical blocks known as amino acids that form a small pelvis in our liver and are used to create muscle, skin, hair, nails , eyes, hormones, enzymes, antibodies and nerves. Some research has found that the inclusion of small amounts of protein during prolonged activity can help improve performance by sparing muscle glycogen and facilitating fluid absorption. Proteins can also help fill the hunger that arises during longer efforts. Watch out for excess protein because large amounts slow down gastric emptying and can precipitate nutrient delivery into the gut and cause stomach upset, muscle fatigue and cramps.

What proteins do athletes need?

In training, it is estimated that endurance athletes require about 0,5 to 0,75 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass per day. For example, a man of 80kg with 10% body fat carries a lean body mass of about 70kg and therefore requires more or less 80-120 grams of protein per day.

On race day, include 10-20 grams of protein in the 2-3 hours before the start of the run to help stabilize blood sugar levels. Common sources of pre-race protein include peanut butter, non-fat milk or yogurt, eggs and energy bars.

During the race, if you have a race course longer than 4 hours, aim for up to 5 grams of protein per hour. The main sources include sports drinks, energy bars, as well as complete food alternatives such as turkey and peanut butter sandwiches. (Very American, certainly, but not bad!)

Post-Course, an intake of 10-20 grams of protein ingested immediately after the race is sufficient to engage muscle repair and post-exercise immune function. The main sources include milk, protein recovery drinks (whey protein).

3) About electrolytes

Electrolyte replacement becomes a critical element in endurance racing lasting longer than 1 hours, especially during training and running in hot, humid conditions. The main electrolytes include sodium (usually chloride-bound), potassium, magnesium, and calcium. These electrolytes are involved in metabolic activities and are essential to the function of all cells, including muscle function. An electrolyte imbalance revealed symptoms similar to those of dehydration: nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, muscle cramps, muscle tremors, overall fatigue, labored breathing, "pins and needles" and confusion.

How many electrolytes do athletes need?

Pre-race, athletes vulnerable to muscular cramps and tiredness as well as those who compete can benefit from an increase in salt intake in the few days before the day of the race. Many food options, such as pretzels, sports drinks, bread and cereals have them. Likewise, on the morning of the race, choosing more salty carbohydrate sources, such as a salty loaf, while sipping a sports drink rather than plain water can be beneficial for the body. An extra salt intake is not recommended for athletes using blood pressure medications.

During the run, aim for 200-500 mg of sodium per bottle of water consumed as well as smaller amounts of potassium, magnesium and calcium. Note that too much sodium can lead to bloating. Make sure to consider all your sources, including sports drinks, energy bars energy bars (20-210 mg per 3 parts), salt packs (~ 200 mg per pack) and electrolyte capsules (~ 100-200 mg per capsule).

Post-race, consume a sports drink rather than regular water, after the race, it will facilitate optimal rehydration of muscles, including replacement of lost electrolytes.

4) Drink enough!
Because water supports all metabolic activity, helps lubricate our muscles and joints, and also keeps our core body temperature in check, failure to absorb enough fluids for a long time can have a negative impact. dramatic about health and performance. Therefore, determining the sweat rate and fluid requirements accordingly is extremely important for athletes. Practice weighing before and after training and drink fluids so that no more than 2% of your body weight is lost during training and running.

How much does it take to drink?

On a daily basis, a man of 70 kg requires approximately 3L of liquid per day.

In pre-race, it is not uncommon to lose 1-2% of your weight in water during the night. Unfortunately, this level of dehydration can have significant negative consequences on performance. Be sure to sip water in the 1 2 hours before the start of the race.

During the race, aim ½ to 1 liter per hour. It is important to note that over-hydration, also known as hyponatremia, can be just as dangerous as dehydration and is usually caused by fluid intake, especially water, beyond what the body can absorb. Cardiac symptoms of overhydration include clear urine, headache, nausea, vomiting, and confusion. To monitor hydration status, weigh yourself before and after the workout. The goal is to stay in the 2% of your pre-workout weight.

Post-race, if you lose more than 2% of your pre-workout weight during a workout or run, sip liquids until your urine is clear. It is estimated that approximately 1,5L of fluid is required to reconstitute 1 kg of body weight.

5) Additional useful ingredient: caffeine

Stimulating the nervous system, caffeine can help maintain blood sugar levels and reduce energy loss through its effects on active musculature and the nervous system. It reduces fatigue and increases the perception of effort. Specific aromas of energy gels are usually caffeinated (a dose of 25 to 50 mg). It is important to experiment with your personal tolerance to caffeine because some athletes do not respond favorably, with symptoms such as a fast heartbeat, muscle contractions, upset stomach ...

The recommended dose of caffeine:

Aim 100 at 300 mg caffeine (for example, 1 at 3 cups of coffee) in the 2-3 hours before the start of the race and other 25 takes at 50 mg of caffeine every hour during the race. Avoid consuming more than 500 mg of caffeine on the day of the race. For best results, consider eliminating caffeine from the diet by reducing doses gradually.

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