Roxanne E. Moore: Hi! I am Roxanne Moore, Registered Dietitian and Director of Wellness for Sodexo Schools. Maintaining hydration and preventing glycogen depletion are two reasons why athletes need nourishment during activity.
Glycogen is how the body stores carbohydrates in the liver and the muscles. As athletes exercise they use sugar in their bloodstream for energy. Then they start breaking down the glycogen in their muscles and liver for more energy. Eventually, all the energy sources will be gone if the athlete did not consume some carbohydrates via what they eat or drink.
An athlete's performance will begin to fail or possibly cease at the point when their glycogen stores become severely low or depleted. This is more typical of someone exercising really hard for more than 90 minutes. An endurance athlete's body can only be fully ready for the next workout or game if glycogen as well their fluid stores are completely replenished.
Endurance athletes or those who exercise for more than 90 minutes should take in about 30-60 grams of carbs every hour. This equates to roughly 120-240 calories. This amount could be obtained either from carbohydrate rich foods such as fruits, grains, and liquid meals or even sports bars, drinks and jells.
A few examples of food that provide about 30 grams of carbohydrate include a large banana, 4 Graham crackers, 10 crackers, 2 large pretzels, half of a large bagel, a cereal bar, a cup of sports drink, or even a cup of dry low fiber cereal as well even half of a carbohydrate rich sports bar.
During daylong events snack on high carb low fat foods such as crackers, bagels, rice cakes, orange slices, apples, bananas, dry fruits, cereal bars, dry cereals, granola, or even fig newtons.
Athlete should eat before they feel tired or hungry, usually within 30-60 minutes into exercise. Consuming small amount at frequent intervals will help keep the carbohydrates store stopped and help prevent stomach upset.
Some athletes tend to take a break and consume volumes of food before restarting their exercise. You tend to feel less weighted down and your body stays ready to move if you can take shorter breaks and consume smaller volumes of food. So instead of a whole sports bar, try breaking that bar into pieces and pop a piece in your mouth every 20 minutes.
What is eaten during exercise is critical for keeping an athlete moving. As always athletes should train with different foods before heading into competition. Nothing is worse than having an unexpected reaction to food during competition.