3 Pillars to Sports Nutrition

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January 12, 2017

Nick Suffredin


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There are 3 pillars to sport nutrition that will give you the best chance at success.

  1. Stay hydrated.
  2. Provide fuel for your muscles.
  3. Promote optimal recovery after exercise.

Apply these principles correctly and you can consistently maximize the gains from your training and compete at your best.

While you are training you will continually lose fluids and excrete electrolytes when you sweat. The most critical electrolyte is sodium that you lose. If you do not replace both the fluid and sodium lost through sweat you will become dehydrated, which is the main contributor to becoming fatigued. When you become dehydrated your body works harder, core body temperature rises, heart rate increases making exercise much more difficult. Thirst is not always the best indicator, for example in the winter you may not be as thirsty as a warm summer day doing the same exercise, but you're still sweating and losing fluids. Cold weather causes more dehydration than most perceive due to that fact. Once you lose 2% of your body weight due to fluid loss it has been proven that performance decreases.

You can also become over hydrated or consume too much fluid. This can cause hyponatremia, which is a dilution in blood sodium levels. Not only can hyponatremia be detrimental to performance, but can have sever health implications.

Your plan should be to mitigate your sweat loss and stay above 2% body weight loss due to fluid loss. Becoming well-disciplined in a hydration plan will help you from becoming dehydrated or over hydrated. Be sure to always starting your exercise hydrated and rehydrate post exercise. Consume a sports drink that contains carbohydrates and electrolytes to help replenish losses.

Fueling your body during exercise and preparing it for training is critical to overall performance and gains. Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for your muscles during triathlons or endurance training. If you spend 60-90 minutes of training or even a few hours in a weight room your carbohydrate stores in your muscles can become depleted. If you start your training with a higher level of carbohydrate stores you can delay fatigue longer due to the availability of energy. This is why it is wise to not train on a low carbohydrate diet as you won't maximize your gains or perform optimally.

There are 2 forms of carbohydrate in your body. The first being glucose which will circulate through your body via the blood stream. The other is glycogen, this is the carbohydrate or glucose that is stored in your liver and muscles. To be considered properly fueled it would equate to about 40 calories of glucose in the blood stream and between 1500-2000 calories of glycogen stored in your muscles with more stored in your liver. When you run out of glycogen stores in your muscles, you then will rely on your liver glycogen stores to keep your blood glucose levels from dropping. Once those liver glycogen stores are depleted your blood glucose levels will drop. Your body will be forced to slow down or stop completely. This is what has commonly termed as "bonking".

To avoid running out of fuel during exercise be sure to fuel up properly before a workout, 500 calories 1.5-2 hours before training should help. Post-exercise refueling is just as critical. You replenish your glycogen stores with your post workout nutrition. This will help you fuel for the next session tomorrow.

Recovery from your workouts is just as critical as your fuel and hydration. The more you train the more damage is being caused to your muscles and needing to be repaired. Your muscles are also adapting to your workload and to achieve full adaptations from training, recovery is vital. Recovery includes rehydration and refueling your body's carbohydrate stores to repair your muscles.

To help recovery, DSC_0033as soon as you're done exercising, within 30-60 minutes, you would want to consume some carbohydrates, proteins, and fluids with electrolytes. One of the best recovery beverages is chocolate milk as it contains all of the above and tastes great.

If you apply these 3 pillars together correctly you will see great training gains. After experimenting with your nutrition and you get all 3 in sync, you should be able to take your performance to another level. Only by trial and error will you figure out what works best for you. Be sure to practice your sports nutrition during training and nothing new before a race.


Nick Suffredin is a former Scientist at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) where his primary responsibility was to support the GSSI physiology research program. As part of the innovation team Nick supported research to help improve athlete recovery and performance. Nick has formulated nutritional products for companies and consulted with elite endurance athletes on their nutritional intake for training as well as fueling for races.

His philosophy: each athlete is a case study of one since everyone's needs are different.

Nick Suffredin is an expert in fueling strategies for athletes, and we are proud he is a resource for athletes. Nick is a former scientist at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) where his primary responsibility was to support the GSSI physiology research program. As part of the innovation team, Nick supported research to help improve athlete recovery and performance. The goal of working with our race day fueling expert is to help you go the distance without bonking during a training session or on race day.

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