AFM FITTEST Nutrition Series: Part 2

By Haley Hall, R.D., LD. and Laura Cajacob Ugokwe, R.D., LD. – May 1, 2013

When training for an event, particularly for something as unique as the 2013 AFM FITTEST competition, many questions arise in regards to optimal preparation strategies. Although many approaches are still up for debate, there are certain aspects of training that have been proven or disproven by scientific research. It’s important to seek counsel regarding nutritional questions that is built on evidence-based practices rather than the latest fad. The following questions are some of the more frequently asked by athletes at Pure Austin Fitness. AFM FITTEST nutritional plan authors Haley Hall and Laura CaJacobs Ugokwe, who are registered and licensed dieticians specializing in sports nutrition, have supplied answers here to help you maximize your AFM FITTEST training.

Q: What should I eat before I train?

You need nutrition before exercise for optimal performance, and carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel for all muscle movement. For a quick snack consumed within an hour of exercise, choose a carbohydrate that is easily digested with limited fiber, protein, or fat. Try a banana, a few dried apricots, or whole grain toast with jam.

Q: I’m not hungry immediately after training. Do I have to eat right away?

Yes—it is vital that you refuel within one hour post-workout for optimal recovery. During the window of time immediately following exercise, the muscles more effectively absorb and utilize nutrients from food. Your post-workout meal or snack should include carbohydrates to replace the muscle fuel utilized during exercise and protein to promote muscle recovery and stimulate further development. If you aren’t hungry, try liquid nutrition, such as one-percent chocolate milk or a smoothie.

Q: How much protein should I eat?

Protein requirements change depending on the day-to-day deviations in your training. Longer and more intense workouts, such as building upper body strength for the med ball toss and pull-ups, require more protein than short, less intense sessions, such as the precision throw and hand grip training. Although inadequate protein can delay muscle recovery due to protein’s vital role in muscle building and repair, excess protein gets stored as fat if it is not burned as fuel. If you are an experienced weight lifter, a good rule of thumb is to consume about 0.5 to 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. A novice in the strength training arena, however, should consume more, aiming for 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. It is not advisable to exceed one gram of protein per pound of body weight per day.

Q: In training for AFM FITTEST, would it be more productive to gain muscle or lose fat?

Ideally, both fat loss and muscle gain would take place over months of training. They both, however, cannot occur at the same time, so it is recommended to aim for one or the other during specific training cycles. As you approach the last month before the competition, shooting for last-minute muscle gain would be more productive than fat loss. Restricting calories at this time can lead to losing that hard-earned muscle and will likely decrease energy and performance. Instead, focus on nutrition timing and eating enough to satisfy your body’s needs. Save any body fat loss goals for after the competition.

Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Austin for a post-workout meal?

Hall: My Saturday workouts are almost always followed by a breakfast taco at Whole Foods. The perfect combo: corn tortilla with scrambled eggs, roasted vegetables, black beans, kale, pico de gallo and dragon salsa (a creamy jalapeno avocado salsa—my favorite part).

Ugokwe: I love the patio at Austin Java, along with the menu full of healthy options. One of my favorite post-workout meals there is the Hippie Hollow Omelet; you can’t go wrong. I always debate between that and the Classic Eggs Benedict, for which I sub salsa for hollandaise sauce.

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