Sugar Fixes

Is preexercise sugar detrimental to performance? Despite popular belief, most athletes can tolerate a preexercise sugar fix without physical problems (Horowitz and Coyle 1993). Even a candy bar eaten five minutes beforehand is unlikely to hurt performance. But a better solution than consuming preexercise sweets for an energy boost is to maintain a high energy level throughout the day by eating adequate calories of health-promoting foods at breakfast and lunch.

Eating a high-sugar food 15 to 45 minutes before exercise can have a negative effect if you are sensitive to swings in blood sugar. A concentrated dose of sugar (either natural sugar in fruit juice or refined sugar in soft drinks and jelly beans) rapidly boosts your blood sugar but simultaneously triggers the pancreas to secrete a large amount of insulin. Insulin transports excess sugar out of the blood and into the muscles. Exercise, like insulin, similarly enhances this transport. Thus, your blood sugar can drop to an abnormally low level once you start to exercise. In general, though, people who are in good physical condition can regulate their blood sugar with far less insulin than sedentary people and do not experience the "sugar crash."

That was not the case with Jackson, a teacher who liked to take a stationary cycling class after work. Because he was trying hard to lose weight, he ate only small portions at breakfast and lunch. By the time he left work for the 4:00 class, he was drained and searching for a quick energy boost, which he got from drinking a can of soda pop. Within 15 minutes after beginning the exercise class, he felt light-headed, shaky, uncoordinated, and unmotivated to continue. On some days he even had to stop for a rest. The rapid drop in blood sugar interfered with his ability to exercise. I suggested that he trade the 150 calories in his quick-fix soda for more calories at lunch. That change did the trick. He ate an extra half sandwich at lunch (150 calories) instead of an afternoon soda, and he enjoyed a higher energy level.

Without doubt, breakfast and lunch are the best energy boosters. But if for whatever reason you have skipped breakfast or lunch and are hungry and craving sweets before your afternoon workout, eat the sweets within 10 minutes of exercise if you are concerned about experiencing a sugar low. This plan will minimize the risk of a possible hypoglycemic reaction because the insulin will not have greatly increased in that short period.

meal, be it a homemade blenderized meal or a can of a commercial meal replacement such as Boost or Ensure, experiment during training to determine if this new food works well for you.

• If you know that you'll be jittery and unable to tolerate any food before an event, make a special effort to eat well the day before.

Have an extra-large bedtime snack in lieu of breakfast. Some athletes can comfortably eat before they exercise, but others prefer to abstain.

• If you have a "magic food," be sure to take it with you when traveling to an event. Even if it's a standard item such as bananas, pack it so that you will be certain to have it on hand. Even if you have no favorite foods, you still might want to pack a tried-and-true supply in case of an emergency. If you should encounter delays, such as being stuck in traffic or an airplane, you'll still be able to eat adequately. Here are some suggestions for a traveling athlete's emergency food kit:

o Sealable bags of dry cereal (oat squares, Cheerios, granola)

o Crackers, tortillas, wraps

° Meal-replacement bars, granola bars, fig bars o Dried fruit, nuts, trail mix o Pouches or easy-open cans of tuna or chicken o Peanut butter, jam, honey (preferably in single-serve portions)

O Water, juice, sports drinks

  • Always eat familiar foods before a competition. Don't try anything new! New foods always carry the risk of settling poorly; causing intestinal discomfort, acid stomach, heartburn, or cramps; or necessitating pit stops. Schedule a few workouts of similar intensity to and at the same time of day as an upcoming competition, and experiment with different foods to determine which (and how much) will be best on race day. Never try anything new before a competition, unless you want to risk impairing your performance.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. You are unlikely to starve to death during an event, but you might become dehydrated. I suggest you drink extra fluid the day before so that your urine is a very pale color. Drink two or three glasses of fluid up to two hours before the event, and drink another one or two glasses 5 to 10 minutes before the start.
Diabetes 2

Diabetes 2

Diabetes is a disease that affects the way your body uses food. Normally, your body converts sugars, starches and other foods into a form of sugar called glucose. Your body uses glucose for fuel. The cells receive the glucose through the bloodstream. They then use insulin a hormone made by the pancreas to absorb the glucose, convert it into energy, and either use it or store it for later use. Learn more...

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