Written by Danielle Dunnagan, MS, RD, CSSD, LD on January 3, 2020.
As a dietitian, I frequently get asked what foods are best to eat before and after exercise whether it be to add muscle, lean out or improve athletic performance. It’s no secret that food and exercise go hand hand, but performance based nutrition is not just what you eat. It’s when you eat too. Nutrition has a vital role in optimizing exercise as well as enhancing recovery. Because of this, professional soldier athletes should take interest in choosing the right foods to fuel for success.
The body and brain’s preferred source of energy
Dietary sources: grains, cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruit, milk, yogurt
Carbohydrates are a vital fuel source for both endurance and resistance training and can be divided into two main groups. Complex carbohydrates are digested slower because of their fiber content and help provide a sustainable source of energy. Simple carbohydrates are broken down into energy much faster and can be useful when consumed before exercise. When carbohydrates are broken down in the body, they are stored in muscles as “glycogen,” or your body’s main fuel source when exercising. It is important to consume carbohydrates both before and after exercise to maximize these glycogen stores for sustained energy.
Repairs and rebuilds
Dietary sources: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, milk, cheese, yogurt, soy, grains
Protein is broken down into “amino acids” which are the building blocks for the human body. Protein is needed for many purposes such as formation of muscle, hair, nails, and skin as wells as muscle contraction and injury recovery. Protein by itself is not a major form of energy and no storage form exists in the human body. An active individual needs between 0.4 and 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. Try choosing lean sources of proteins to help reduce saturated fat intake.
Primary form of stored energy
Dietary sources: nuts, seeds, oils, fatty fish (salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, mackerel, herring), avocado
Fat is the most concentrated form of energy and plays an important part in our overall health. Fat helps insulate the body, protect organs, provide structural support for cells and transport nutrients. Choose unsaturated dietary fats from the sources listed above to enhance performance and recovery and decrease inflammation present in the body.
Staying hydrated and practicing dietary supplement safety are also imperative for overall health and performance. Come attend the class offered at the Army Wellness Center, “Performance Nutrition: Gaining the Tactical Edge,” to learn more about performance nutrition, nutrient timing and supplement safety. We look forward to seeing you there!
What – “Performance Nutrition: Gaining the Tactical Edge”
Where – Army Wellness Center (Building #29605 next to Gordon Fitness Center)
When – Select Fridays at 10am. (class lasts 60 minutes)
Call DDEAMC Nutrition Clinic at 706-787-2243/3081 to register! Class size is limited.