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Eating for Peak Performance

The body is like a well-oiled, mean machine and like a car, it needs fuel. And of course, the purer the fuel, the better the endurance and performance. By feeding the body at optimal times during the workout process, athletes and weekend warriors alike can help their bodies achieve their optimal goals in record time.

You will need quality carbs, lean protein, heart-healthy fats, and fluids.

Basically, your muscles rely on carbohydrate foods for quick energy, protein for your muscles and for your blood cells, which bring nutrients and oxygen to your muscles and fluids to ward off dehydration and inflammation.

There are three stages to any workout. The first is the pre-exercise period, which is defined as two to four hours before physical activity and considered the perfect time to fuel up. Research shows that having good quality carbohydrates two to four hours prior to exercise improves our muscle and glycogen stores and helps to maintain blood glucose levels. It is also well documented that protein or amino acid intake with or without carbs consumed prior to working out can enhance muscle protein synthesis, especially during resistance training.

The second stage is during exercise, where nutrition intake continues to be key, carbohydrate intake has been shown to have an ergogenic effect on the body by increasing performance in a number of ways, such as maintaining blood glucose levels.

The third stage is the post-workout stage where muscles are starving for nutrients, especially fast acting carbohydrates and quick absorbing protein. The carbohydrate to protein ratio should be 3:1 i.e. 60 grams of carbs mixed with 20 grams of protein. The window for this opens and shuts down pretty quickly though so you need to act fast. One hour after your workout, the window begins to close; after four hours, the window is shut.

Finally, never underestimate the importance of getting enough fluids before and after working out.

This is essential for cardiovascular function, body temperature regulation, injury prevention and recovery. It’s best to drink 10 to 20 ounces of fluid one hour before exercising and 14 to 40 ounces per hour of strenuous exercise. Water helps you feel satisfied, flushes your system and keeps you hydrated, but it’s not the only source you can use for hydration. While pure water is the most recommended for hydration, herbal teas and low sugar juices can count too.

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