What to Eat and When

In a previous article, we discussed the basics of good nutrition for training and competition with a focus on carbohydrates, protein, and fluids. For today’s article, we are going to focus on what foods to actually eat, and when, to get the most out of your training and competition!
Before Exercise
As we reviewed, before exercise it is important to make sure you are adequately hydrated and have a source of carbohydrates to fuel your brain and muscles for exercise. During training, play around with the timing of your pre-exercise meal or snack in order to avoid gastrointestinal upset and cramping on competition day. For the pre-exercise meal or snack, focus on foods that are low in fibre, easy to digest, and familiar to you (competition day is not the day to try out a new pre-exercise meal!). 
Here are some examples of pre-exercise meals or snacks:
Small bowl of cereal with chopped fruit and yogurt
Crumpets with sliced banana and drizzle of honey
Small bowl of pasta with tomato based sauce
Fruit smoothie
Raisin toast with jam
Tub of creamed rice and canned fruit
During Exercise
For most athletes, staying adequately hydrated with plain water during exercise will be sufficient. However, for those training for longer events and/or athletes who are “salty sweaters”, you may also benefit from some carbohydrate and electrolytes such as a sports drink or gel – check with your dietitian!
After Exercise
After exercise it is important to rehydrate and have a source of carbohydrates and protein. Aim to have a snack or meal within 60-90 minutes after the completion of exercise, and focus on good nutrition for recovery for the next 24-48 hours! This might mean having a snack soon after completing exercise, followed by your next main meal, and then focusing on adequate nutrition for the rest of the day in order to maximize your recovery. 
Here are some examples of post-exercise meals or snacks:
Lean chicken and salad roll
Bowl of muesli with Greek yogurt and berries
Fresh fruit salad topped with Greek yogurt
Spaghetti with lean beef bolognese sauce
Chicken burrito with salad and cheese
Small tin of tuna on crackers with a banana
Fruit smoothie with milk and Greek yogurt
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