Nutrition 101: Fluids, Carbs and Proteins

Nutrition plays a vital role in training, performance, and recovery for athletes from all sports.  Of course, what to eat and drink before, during, or after exercise can vary widely from athlete to athlete but it all boils down to fluids, carbohydrates, protein, fats, and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). In this article, we are going to focus on fluid, carbohydrates, and protein.
 
Fluid
 
Surprisingly, a major cause of fatigue in athletes is dehydration. Dehydration is also associated with a decrease in exercise performance, muscle strength, and muscle endurance. Adequate fluid intake helps our body restore our muscle glycogen (energy) stores. So staying hydrated is key for training, performance, and recovery! 
 
Ensure you are adequately hydrated before exercise, continue to drink fluids during exercise, and make sure you rehydrate after exercise. For most athletes, plain water is the best fluid choice. However, for those training for longer events and/or athletes who are “salty sweaters”, a fluid containing carbohydrates and/or electrolytes may be a better option – check with your dietitian!
 
Carbohydrates
 
Carbohydrates are our body’s preferred energy source, they are especially important for brain and muscle cells. Inadequate carbohydrate stores prior to exercise can decrease your exercise intensity and performance. After exercise, it’s important to ensure you refuel with carbohydrates in order to replenish glycogen (energy stores) and to help with muscle protein synthesis.
 
Depending on the length and intensity, you may also need to include some carbohydrates during exercise such as with a sports drink, gel, or dried fruit. Ask your dietitian if this would benefit you!
 
Some examples of food sources of carbohydrates are bread, pasta, grains (e.g. rice, oats, quinoa), fruit, fruit juice, starchy vegetables (e.g. potato, sweet potato), pulses (beans, peas, lentils), cereals, crackers, milk, and yogurt.
 
Protein
 
Protein is the main building blocks of muscle, hair, and nails. Adequate protein intake after exercise and throughout the day is essential for muscle growth and repair as well as fighting infections and carrying oxygen around the body – to name a few! 
 
When many people think of protein, they think of animal products like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products (e.g. Greek yogurt, cottage cheese). Although there are many plant-based protein options as well: soy products (e.g. tofu, tempeh), pulses (beans, peas, lentils), seitan, nuts and seeds (and their butters). Have a source of protein after exercise, and be sure to include protein at every meal, to optimize muscle growth and repair.
 
If you have any questions about your fluid, carbohydrate, or protein needs for exercise – book an appointment with a dietitian!
 
 
Alexandra Inman
Registered Dietitian at Vancouver Dietitians
Alexandra Inman, BSc, RD is a Registered Dietitian with the College of Dietitians of British Columbia and is currently working as a clinical dietitian with Fraser Health where she has experience in Medicine, Pediatrics, and Maternity (to name a few!). Alex graduated with honours from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Food, Nutrition, and Health, where she also completed her Dietetics degree, including her internship with Vancouver Coastal Health. Read full bio

Alexandra Inman
Registered Dietitian at Vancouver Dietitians
Alexandra Inman, BSc, RD is a Registered Dietitian with the College of Dietitians of British Columbia and is currently working as a clinical dietitian with Fraser Health where she has experience in Medicine, Pediatrics, and Maternity (to name a few!). Alex graduated with honours from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Food, Nutrition, and Health, where she also completed her Dietetics degree, including her internship with Vancouver Coastal Health. Read full bio
 

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