How many times have you felt confused and lost when looking at sports products available in the market? Which one is the right one and when exactly should you be taking it? Are they harmful or beneficial?
Swimmers should always rely on real foods as a source of nourishment and sports nutrition products should never replace your meals, they should rather be providing you with support, particularly immediately before/after or during your sessions when solid foods are hard to consume or even plan for.
In long duration exercise, both performance and endurance are impaired due to limited availability or loss of fluids; drop in blood sugar and depletion of muscle glycogen (your muscles’ carbohydrate stores).
Generally, sports products are recommended for any exercise session that is of long duration, meaning 60 minutes or more. In fact, research has shown that, for instance sports drinks, can improve performance by about 20% in a 90 minutes session.
Sports drinks, gels and bars are the types of products that are considered useful and safe and can provide you with support by replenishing fluids, electrolytes, carbohydrates and at times even proteins and fats (depending on the product).
I will be providing you with some tips on how to make the right selections for each type of product along with when it’s most recommended to consume it.
Main ingredients of sports drinks include water, carbohydrates and electrolytes (Sodium most importantly).
When selecting a sports drink, choose a product that contains about 14-15 g of carbohydrates and about 100 mg of sodium per cup. It is important that you avoid sports drinks that are too high in sugars (they might cause you some gastrointestinal distress), or too low in sugars (they will not really provide you with enough benefits).
Sports drinks are best consumed before, during and after. Try to have about 500 mls of sports drinks 1-2 hrs before your exercise session and then keep consuming about 200 mls every 15-20 min (if your session lasts longer than 60 minutes). At last you need to replenish your losses, and that’s why ideally, you should weigh yourself before and after your training and drink about 500 mls for every half a kilo (one pound) of weight lost.
Sports gels are usually higher in carbohydrates, they typically contain about 20-25 g of carbohydrates and they are semi-solid. They are best consumed during training as they provide quick sugar supplies and they are really easy to carry. You should know that gels do not contain enough water and therefore it is essential that you still drink plenty of water to make up for the fluid losses.
Avoid gels that contain added ingredients such as herbal products, vitamins or co-enzymes, as research has not shown any additional benefits on performance when such products are included.
Energy bars are the only products that typically include both carbohydrates and proteins and they aim at providing you with a compact source of calories. Sports bars are best consumed before and after as they might come in handy when other solid foods are not tolerated or available.
If used about 3-4 hrs before training or immediately after training, select a bar that is higher in carbohydrates (60-100 g per bar), moderate in proteins (10-15 g per bar) and low in fat (<6 g per bar). If used immediately before a training (1-2 hrs before), select a bar that is lower in carbohydrates (30-40 g per bar), lower in proteins (<8 g per bar) and fat (<3 g of fat).
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