Nutrition and Training: Getting the Most out of Your Workouts

By Jimmy Page

“Therefore, get your minds ready for action…” – 1 Peter 1:13

Preparation is one of the most important aspects of our spiritual lives. In fact, knowing how you will respond when faced with various situations or temptations will often determine your ability to stand firm in your faith.

Preparation is also one of the most important aspects of training for competition on the athletic field. The quality of our nutrition before practice or training can have a profound effect on our ability to get the most out of our workouts and get ready for competition.

I can still remember as a young athlete eating candy bars and drinking sugary drinks to make sure I would have the energy to get through a workout, practice or game. But I also remember feeling jittery or running out of gas halfway through our workouts. At the time, I didn’t make the connection to what I was eating.

Our understanding of nutrition and performance has come a long way since then, but athletes often still do not get the nutrients they need to sustain training intensity and improve the strength and conditioning they need for peak game performances.

Preparing for training with proper nutrition is relatively simple. Here are some guidelines to get you on track:

1. If you train first thing in the morning, don’t do it on an empty stomach. During the night, your blood sugar tends to drop. When you start training with low blood sugar, you will fatigue earlier and won’t be able to sustain training intensity or duration.

Type of Meal Time to Digest
Large Meal . . . . . . . . 3 – 4 hours
Smaller Meal . . . . . . . 2 – 3 hours
Liquid Meal . . . . . . . . 1 – 2 hours
Small Snack . . . . . . . < 1 hour

2. Allow enough time for food to digest. And allow more time for digestion before intense exercise because the digestive process will be slowed. The table below is a good guide for digestion times.

3. Try a pre-workout sports supplement shake or bar that combines adequate carbohydrates and protein (1:1 or 2:1 ratio). This can be a convenient way to get you the energy you need and the protein and essential amino acids necessary to building and repairing muscles after training.

4. Choose foods with a low to moderate Glycemic Index. Yogurt, bananas, oatmeal, whole grains, strawberries and apples are good fuel choices that provide sustained energy during a long workout.

5. Avoid sugary foods with a high Glycemic Index before a workout. Although some athletes can perform well from a “sugar boost,” most will experience a drop in blood sugar levels and feel tired, lightheaded, shaky and fatigued before they finish training.

6. Drink plenty of water. Even slight levels of dehydration (like when you feel thirsty) can diminish your speed and strength by as much as 10%. Pre-training meals vary from athlete to athlete and from sport to sport. Your food choices also will vary based on intensity, training type and time of day. When making these choices, find foods that provide consistent energy and don’t upset your stomach. Having convenient, healthy snacks available will help you get the most out of your workouts. Remember, preparation is the key!