Tyler Robbins Fitness

Tyler Robbins has his B.Sc. in Biochemistry: Pre-Medical, is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), is certified through USA Weightlifting, and a CrossFit Level 2 Trainer.

Day 25 - Meal Timing


A while back I discussed different ways to strategize your diet (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). The reason why I mention these blogs is because of a topic that I see discussed all the time. I recently saw mention of it just yesterday:

What would you recommend eating-wise on the day of a competition?

This topic can actually be broken down into two main categories. Although related, some folks like to prepare themselves for training and competition differently, so I will discuss both scenarios below.

Pre-Workout

I see this question asked all the time, and honestly, it is entirely dependent on the individual. First of all, different people like to workout at different times of the day. Some people even workout at different times from day to day.
I like to train first thing in the morning before I start the rest of my day. So, because of this, I generally exercise on an empty stomach (minus a cup of coffee). Your body keeps energy stores for all sorts of situations.

Adipose tissue (body fat) is stored for times when aerobic energy sources are sufficient to meet your required needs. This is when you are performing tasks when you can meet your energy demands mainly through breathing and circulation alone. An example of this is either walking or jogging.

On the other hand, when you perform fast, powerful actions, such as required during resistance training, your body dips into its stored anaerobic energy stores known as glycogen. Glycogen is stored in the muscles and liver of the body.

This is where situations vary from person to person. Some people have a good storage and utilization system of their glycogen stores and can "get up and go" on an empty stomach. Others, need a bit of sugar to help them through a workout.

If I am doing a cardio-based workout, or lighter resistance training (endurance training, total-body work, etc.) I like to workout on an empty stomach, but again, that is me. If, on the other hand, I am going to be doing some heavy resistance training, I like to have a bit of chocolate milk (250ml) prior to my workout to not only give me a bit of a sugar boost, but to also have some protein flowing through the veins.

Pre-Competition

I find, similar to the "to eat or not to eat before a morning workout" topic, you do what works for you! For any endurance or performance event, it never hurts to do a bit of carb loading for a few days leading up to an event, but as for your 'last meal' (for lack of a better term) some people like to eat 2 mins before competition, while others (myself included) like to eat quite a few hours beforehand, if not on an empty stomach altogether.

Keep in mind that your body obviously stores adipose (body fat) for times of starvation or as an aerobic energy source, but it also stores glycogen in the muscles and liver for those times when you need explosive power (same as discussed above). As long as your diet is pretty well-rounded leading up to an event, your body's energy sources should be nice and "topped up".

Again, this can vary from person to person, but the general recommended guideline is to eat a well-rounded meal 3 to 4 hours prior to competition.

I know that growing up, I used to get a serious case of "nervous gut" before competition. This applied to virtually any competition I participated in. Unfortunately, because of this, I could hardly eat a thing the day of, and even the day prior to competing. My parents used to always try and get me to eat something, which is smart, but my stomach would always be in knots, so do what works for you!

Hydration

One thing I will definitely promote is proper hydration. Often times, when an athlete is beginning to show signs of fatigue, it is because they are dehydrated. It is recommended that you consume 500ml of beverage (preferably water) 2 hours prior to training or competition. This ensures that your body has sufficient hydration, but also allows enough time for digestion so you do not have water sloshing around in your belly.
During competition or training, you should aim to consume anywhere from 150-250ml of water every 15-20mins. Due to the nature of sport, this is not always realistic, but you should make the best effort possible to remain hydrated.

Following competition or training, hydration is also important. Official recommendations suggest that an individual should consume 500ml of fluids for every pound of body weight lost, although this is just a general guideline as many of us do not weigh ourselves before and after training/competition. 

The key thing is to remember that thirst is not a good indicator of proper fluid levels. Your body will give you that 'thirst' sensation when you have reached a low level of hydration, although it will not indicate to you when you are at optimal levels. Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day, especially for those that are very active is the best-case scenario!

Quote of the day:
"The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less."
-Socrates