Ask the Expert: A Dietician's Perspective & Advice

Continuation of our interview of Gretchen Kauth, MEd,RD.

Do you recommend adjusting an athlete’s food intake before and after a competition?

“After determining the correct amounts of macro- (carb, protein, and fat) and micro- (vitamins/minerals) nutrients and fluid an athlete should consume, the next step is to deter- mine the proper timing of those nutrients. Depending on the intensity and duration of the exercise, eating/drinking before, during and after can be a critical component in the outcome of the training session or competition. Close attention to fluid and electrolyte consumption to maintain proper hydration is one of the most important nutritional practices for optimizing performance and preventing acute, sometimes dangerous, situations. As little as a 1-2% decrease in body weight over the course of an exercise bout can affect performance and, more importantly, may compromise the athlete’s health. Consumption of carbohydrate and protein before and after exercise continues to be studied. “Recovery nutrition” is getting a lot of attention these days with recommendations to consume carbohydrate and protein (generally accepted ratios of 4:1) closely following vigorous/exhausting exercise to replenish glycogen stores and stimulate muscle protein synthesis.”

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