Meal timing and type of nutrient is important for an athlete and their sports nutritionist to be aware of. Findings from a study on optimizing the timing of a nutrient showed that performance of moderate-to high intensity exercise lasting for at least forty minutes is improved by consuming a moderately high carbohydrate, low fat, low protein meal approximately three hours before exercise, compared to a similar meal consumed six hours before exercise. This strongly demonstrates that athletes should not skip meals before a competition or training sessions. Also keep in mind that this research used a 40 minute bout of exercise, and many athletes exercise or compete for hours at a time. In practice, always consider length of activity and meal timing, snacking, and hydration for getting the most out of athletic performance.
Reference article: International Journal of Sport Nutrition Exercise Metabolism 2000, 10(2).:103-13, Pubmed abstract Sports Nutrition
Tips for Meal Timing
- Before competition or exercise session (at least 3 hours before): Consume a low fat, moderate carbohydrate and protein meal, such as grilled chicken breast, small sweet potato, ½ cup rice.
- During competition: Replace fluid loses, high intensity training- replace electrolyte, provide carbohydrate snacks, such as bananas, energy bar, half bagel, sports drinks.
- After or recovery: Should contain some carbohydrate and protein (should not contain high fat), a small turkey sandwich on whole grain bread, yogurt and fruit, small bowl of multigrain cereal with low fat milk.