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The Importance of Timing in Sports Nutrition

Picture of a nutritional off season meal

Sports nutrition is always best tailored to individual needs, relying on age, gender, sporting goals and an individual’s general level of physical exertion over a day, month, or year. However, there are some useful general rules that can be applied to optimise sports nutrition and help work towards goals, whether that be muscle building, fat loss, or sports performance. Nutritional vending machines (as opposed to those selling traditional “junk food” products) in leisure centres, universities, and gyms can also have a key part to play in facilitating an optimal nutritional timetable. Timing in sports nutrition can be concerned with either daily or yearly (called periodisation) timescales, and the general rules are different for each.

Daily Nutritional Timing

Daily nutrition will depend massively on an individual’s sporting or fitness goals, but it will always concern itself with nutritional intake before, during, and after exercise. This time division holds good for anyone who engages in regular exercise and follows some general principles. Just before training, replenishment of water and sugar for the next session is the key thing to remember, as well as avoiding any bulky food. Energy bars, a banana, and an isotonic sports drink is the usual fare here. During training, the emphasis is on hydration alone, so water or a sports drink is useful. Just after training is perhaps one of the most important nutrition time windows and varies slightly depending on an individual’s objectives. Generally speaking, this is the time for the replenishment of sugar, protein and water. For those engaging in weight training, for example, this is the optimal time to have a protein shake or bar to maximise the effectiveness of the session. In addition to all of this, a balanced breakfast, lunch, and dinner are also essential.

Periodisation

Dividing up the year in terms of nutrition is called periodisation and is an essential practice for athletes whose sporting calendar involves seasons and scheduled competitions. Generally, this can involve four time periods, pre-season, in-season, post-season and off-season. Naturally, the type of nutrition consumed in these periods will vary massively from person to person, but it is all based on the principle that, because each season will involve a different level of physical exertion, nutritional consumption should vary accordingly. As mentioned above, daily nutrition involves before, during and after session nutritional intake. Therefore, if you are engaging in fewer sessions (in, for example, the off-season) you will have less of this intake while still balancing things with a steady three meals.

Advantages of Nutritional Vending Machines

Nutritional vending machines in gyms, sports venues and universities can really aid with nutritional timing. The nutritional intake required before, during, and after a session is best optimised by proximity to the session itself. This is especially true of after-exercise nutrition because, in this state, the body is actively engaged in the recovery process, rebuilding glycogen stores, and repairing and rebuilding muscle proteins. Having the nutrients you need to hand at precisely this time is an ideal situation.