For health and performance reasons, choosing carbohydrate-rich foods for both your daily training diet and pre-competition meals is a wise decision. There is no one type of food that will help you feel stronger, train harder and compete better. Instead, a combination of foods can affect your athletic performance.
The best fuels for your muscles are carbohydrates. Both simple sugars and complex carbohydrates provide not only energy but also important vitamins and minerals. Filling up on too many carbohydrates fuels your muscles but neglects the "spark plugs" that help your energy run smoothly.
Carbohydrates are stored in the muscles in the form of glycogen. Glycogen is burned during hard exercise and high carbohydrates help prevent early exhaustion.
For all you out there who believes that eating sugary foods for "quick energy" is helpful to your performance, you are wrong and here's why. Eating sugary foods may cause hypoglycemia which occurs when the combined effect of insulin with exercise causes your blood sugar to drop abnormally low. Some symptoms of hypoglycemia are feeling light-headed, shaky, tired, and uncoordinated. If you're craving an energy boost prior to exercise a snack of crackers, fruit, or bread can boost your energy without risking the negative hypoglycemic effects.
The best solution to the quick energy problem is to prevent the need for an energy boost! Simply eat a bigger meal three to four hours before the competition.
Recovery foods play a major role in your athletic performance as well. Eating carbohydrate-rich foods within one to four hours after hard exercise is suggested in order to replace the lost glycogen. Remember, that carbohydrates quickly refuel your muscles and prepare you for tomorrow's workout. So, when you're tempted to devour a greasy hamburger with large fries as a recovery food, think twice and consider a dinner that focuses on potato, bread, vegetables, juices, and other carbohydrates. t
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.