There is an important marriage between training and nutrition. Proper training stimulates and triggers the opportunity for improving. Nutrition provides the nutrients for energy, recovery, growth, and maximizing performance. While training is generally geared to a specific time of day, nutrition is an ongoing, all day long event for most of us. The body’s ability to digest, absorb, assimilate and utilize the various nutrients is a time involved process. Planning can make sure that it has the things it needs at the times it most needs them. Pre and post training nutrition is often practiced quite successfully. But there is another category that many feel is equally important and that is “intra” training nutrition, the fueling of the body during the actual training process. Is intra training nutrition something you need to focus on?
Intra training nutrition is not new and is often not glamorous or elaborate. Simply drinking water to stay hydrated while exercising is a basic form of intra training nutrition. In fact, water is the original and in many cases the best intra training drink. You may have also seen distance athletes like marathon runners and triathletes fueling themselves during an event with food, carbohydrate drinks, and products like Gu and energy bars to try and make sure that they have enough energy in their system to push hard and actually reach the finish line. There is a growing trend among many hard training athletes and fitness practitioners to fuel themselves during training. They believe that the right intra training product (most commonly a drink sipped during the workout) can provide fuel, help protect against muscle breakdown, and even help start the repair and recovery process sooner. Most athletes and exercise enthusiast believe that any combination of these factors can improve results, which makes the potential benefits of intra training nutrition an easy sell to many. At the very least it warrants taking a closer look.
In terms of intra training nutrients speed of uptake is essential so liquid based options are most popular. Of course, water is the first and most common intra training drink. Also, how well the body is feed and hydrated before training can effect the need for intra training nutrition. If you are properly nourished, you may just need to maintain your fluid or hydration level. If the workout is short enough, there may not even be a need for additional nutrition during training. But if you are working out long and hard, especially if you are in a hot and/or humid environment, your training/performance can be effected if you don’t at least replenish some of what you’ve lost. Remember, the body loses more than just water during exertion. Hydration is of course the first priority. Your body may need to maintain/replenish proper electrolyte levels and balance as well. Beyond this, there can be a need for a fast acting and quickly available energy source if you are training/competing for so long that you risk depletion and underperforming.
At the very least, most athletes should be sipping/drinking water during training. If you want to still keep it basic and natural, but go a little beyond just water you can try coconut water or an electrolyte water. Beyond this, there are many other possibilities depending on your need and/or sport. Fast digesting carb powders can be mixed in your water for energy. Also, BCAA’s can be consumed for both energy and added protection agains muscle breakdown. You can easily customize a basic formula to try out during your training. Their are also plenty of commercially available designated intra training drinks from most top supplement companies that are formulated to do the job. Most will contain a combination of ingredients designed to be mixed in water like; BCAA’s, essential amino acids, electrolytes, fast acting carbs (if desired), herbal energizers, adaptogens like ginseng, specific amino acids for mental alertness like L-Taurine, etc. You can purchase or create really elaborate formulas, or stay basic and “clean” with your intra training drink choices.
Intra Workout Options:
General Fitness: Water, Coconut Water
Distance or Long Duration Training: Water, Electrolyte Support Drink with energy source if needed (products like Cytomax from Cytosport or Gu for example)
Intense Anaerobic Training of Short Duration: Good pre-workout meal, water during or zero calorie intra drink like Amino-X (BSN), Amino Build Next Gen (MuscleTech), or a BCAA based intra formula
Intense Anaerobic Training of Longer Duration or Involving Multiple Workout: Carb and amino acid/BCAA’s based intra formula like Size-On (Gaspari Nutrition), Cell Tech (Muscle Tech), Cytomax, Gatorade, etc.
Fueling your body is an ongoing process if you are serious about fitness. The actual training period is also a time that the body needs nutrients. Depending on what you’re doing during that time, and how long that time period is, you will need to pay more or less attention to what you are ingesting during training. On the conservative side of the spectrum, at least make sure that you are properly hydrated. On the more aggressive side, you may desire to target your body with specific fuels and nutrients beyond water in a effort to maintain energy, optimize performance, and maximize recovery. There is not one universal answer that fits everyone (or even one person’s who may do different types of workouts). Evaluate your workout energy, progress, mood, ability to recover, and any factors that you feel are important to your fitness success. Ask yourself if you need to improve any aspect of your nutrition before, during, or after training, as well as throughout the day. If you determine that the intra training window is a time that you can target to make a nutritional adjustment or addition that can improve your overall results, then there are a number of options currently available that may benefit you.