Tips from the trainer – Sports Nutrition

iic_2013_fitness_f_07_20131205_1794075004With the recent BBC documentary showing the comparisons between the effects of fat and sugar on the body I thought I would delve more into this, looking at the link between food and fitness.

Food is broken down into 3 different groups: Carbohydrates, fats and proteins. I would recommend that you have around 55% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 15% protein.


Carbohydrates are sugars that the body uses for energy. Simple carbohydrates (also called simple sugars), provide the body with quick energy. They are found in fruit, milk and white sugar. Complex carbohydrates (known as fibre and starch) are broken down in the body more slowly than simple carbohydrates and are found in vegetables, bread, rice, oatmeal, whole grains and peas.


Fat has had a lot of bad press over the last 20 years. Your body needs fat to grow and to process vitamins. There are many different kinds of fats. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are good for your body. These fats include nuts and fish, as well as olive, peanut, safflower and canola oil. Other kinds of fat, including saturated and trans fats can increase the risk of certain diseases. Saturated and trans fats are found in butter, fried foods, baked goods, fast food, whole milk and in meat from animals.


Protein helps the body grow, builds muscle and give us energy. Protein-rich foods include meats, eggs, avocado, nuts and beans.

Do I need to eat more when I exercise?

If you’re doing lots of exercise, you’ll use more energy each day than if you did little or none. But still make sure that you have a balanced diet. Aim for larger portions of carbohydrate rich foods such as wholegrain pasta, rice, sweet potato, porridge and breakfast cereals.

Is it better to eat a diet high in carbohydrates or protein when I’m training?

Carbohydrates are the fuel that will power your exercise regime. Protein is needed in moderate amounts for muscle growth and repair, but the main form of energy used during exercise is carbohydrates. They are the most important fuel for muscles, and an essential energy source for the brain and central nervous system.

Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. These stores are small, so a regular intake of carbohydrate is necessary to keep them topped up. Low glycogen stores will result in poor performance and increase the risk of injury.

How should I time my meals and snacks around exercise?

Once you’ve eaten a meal or snack, allow one to four hours to pass before you start exercising. Your body needs the time to digest properly (the amount of time depends on the amount of food you’ve eaten). If it’s an average meal, eating around two hours before you exercise works well. The meal should be high in carbohydrate, low in fat and low to moderate in protein. Too much protein or fat will slow down the movement of foods from the stomach, and will make you feel uncomfortable.

Food and drink also plays a part in recovering effectively from training. Good recovery is crucial to prevent a midweek slump in energy levels, and to aid muscle growth and repair. When you finish training, aim to have a carbohydrate and protein rich food or drink within 30 minutes.

Do I need to drink when I exercise?

Dehydration can have a major effect on exercise performance. It’s important to start any exercise session well hydrated. Do this by drinking water, squash or diluted fruit juice regularly during the course of the day.

For any exercise that lasts longer than 30 minutes, drink fluid while you’re doing it. Just like at Bootcamp! Remember that the more you sweat, the more you’ll need to drink.

Water is usually enough for low-intensity exercise up to 50 minutes. For higher-intensity exercise lasting more than 50 minutes, or lower-intensity exercise lasting hours, I would recommend a drink with a little sugar or glucose added. Try also adding a pinch of salt. The glucose in a drink will help to maintain energy levels, and the salt helps to keep you hydrated and reduce chances of getting cramp.

Exercise to lose weight or build muscle? Should there be any difference in your diet?

Yes! To lose weight (more specifically body fat), the amount of energy you consume has to be less than the energy you burn. You’ll need a diet and exercise regime that makes this happen. But to build muscle, you need to combine resistance training (also called strength training) with a diet that includes enough energy to enable your body to make muscle. This energy should come mainly in the form of carbohydrate-rich foods, but you’ll also need a little more protein to provide muscle. A particularly effective approach is to eat small amounts of protein and carbohydrate before and after the resistance training session.

Should I take extra supplements when I’m playing sport?

First, ensure that you have a balanced, healthy diet that suits your sport. Consult a registered dietitian or nutritionist with expertise in sports nutrition. They can assess this and advise you on particular supplements. For the average person, a well balanced diet will be sufficient

Having completed 16 years of hard fitness within the Royal Marines and most recently three 60 day Insanity courses in 2013 combined with numerous Bootcamp sessions, this has worked fine for me!

Mic Beards

Written by Mic Beards, Managing Director of Comando Concepts


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