Fitness nutrition is more than eating healthy. It has the goal of supporting exercise and then recovery. Fitness nutrition is about content and timing. It is about muscle support first and muscle preservation second.
Reaching Peak Performance
Most athletes are concerned about peak performance and not about losing weight. In fact losing weight can be detrimental to top athletes because at their stage of fitness, weight loss is usually muscle.
Fitness nutrition focuses on first supplying muscle with the necessary glycogen and proteins at the time of exercise. This requires ingestion a few hours earlier of adequate carbohydrates, protein, and water.
The liver, muscles, and blood can store about 600 calories of glycogen and glucose. A meal with this amount of calories in carbohydrates before intense resistance training or long duration aerobics would be sufficient.
After an hour and a half of aerobics, the athlete should consider carbohydrate and protein support through ingesting liquids. Cyclists often carry snacks they can eat while riding.
Resistance trainers face the dilemma that when the body runs out of glycogen, it will start burning lean muscle tissue for fuel. A snack of carbohydrates and protein like a Cliff Bar can supply the muscles with nutrients and allow the continued use of fatty acids for fuel.
The next concern for athletes is recovery. If the body does not receive carbohydrates and protein after exercise, it will once again resort to burning muscle tissue for fuel to replenish the catalytic process first and repair and building second. The body eats itself to rebuild itself.
An adequate meal must follow intense exercise. To maintain muscle building and repair during recovery, carbs and protein should be consumed every four hours. This is because amino acids lose their value after four hours.
Intense resistance training at 90% to 100% may take 72 hours to fully recover. During this time, adequate nutrients must be consumed to prevent the body from feeding on its own muscle. Intense aerobics of durations longer than one and a half hours need fluids as much as nutrients. Athletes should drink 16 to 24 ounces of water each 20 minutes for every pound lost.
Fluids and Fat Loss
Muscle is about 74% water weight. This should obviously point to the need for fluids to maintain muscle mass. 80 ounces of water is the normal amount that should be consumed for average daily activities. When intense exercise is added, additional water should be consumed.
Fat loss is a normal by product of aerobics as low impact aerobics burn fatty acids for fuel first. Intense aerobics also burn glucose and lean muscle. Resistance training burns fat in the recovery period but only utilizes glycogen stored in muscles during exercise. In anaerobic resistance training with extended periods of intense contraction, the body will convert other substances for fuel.
If athletes are not getting sufficient calories, they will start to lose weight not only as fat but as muscle tissue thereby hindering future peak performances. Insufficient calories not only causes plateaus, but leads to over training, fatigue, and injury.
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