Nutrition To Prevent Overtraining

Part 1

Inappropriate nutrition can accelerate development of overtraining. Inadequate nutrition includes low energy intake, low carbohydrate intake and generally a low-quality diet. All of these have been associated with an increased risk of overtraining. It is therefore also likely that optimizing nutrition can at least partially prevent overtraining.

Overtraining is brought on because of high intensity and/or high-volume training with limited recovery, it is perceived that the fatigue and underperformance is partly because of a decrease in muscle glycogen levels. Therefore, it is particularly important in making sure that the right amount of Carbohydrates, protein and fat are included into an athlete’s diet. It is just as important to make sure that the correct fuel is taken after a workout for optimal recovery.

Since muscle and liver glycogen stores are directly related to fatigue – low stores may result in early onset of fatigue – it is important to start replenishing glycogen stores as soon as possible after exercise or competition. It is advised that you eat or drink a recovery meal within 30 min of training as this aids in the restoration of your glycogen stores. The timing of CHO intake has an important effect on the rate of muscle glycogen synthesis in the hours after exercise. Carbohydrate intake immediately after or within 30 min of exercise is more effective than delaying intake by 2 hours. Muscle glycogen concentration after 4 hours is 45% lower compared to ingestion of the same amount of carbohydrate immediately after exercise. Clearly when carbohydrate intake is delayed until after the “insulin independent phase” less glucose is taken up and stored as glycogen.

The resynthesis of muscle glycogen after training or competition is undoubtedly one of the most important factors for performance. Replenishment of muscle and liver glycogen can be achieved simply by ingesting carbohydrates.

But then the question, how much is enough? Is it the same for every athlete?

Generally, females need less fuel as their energy needs are less. But this is not always true, and studies have suggested that women and men require the same amount of fuel for the same amount of energy expenditure. The Australian and New Zealand National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that men and women have the same daily energy requirements.

On average about 70-90g of carbohydrates per hour for the first few hours after a long training session or competition are suggested. Studies have shown that more than 90g of carbohydrates does not seem to have any further benefit.

Source: Jeukendrup and Gleeson (2018)

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