The following guidelines are those for an ideal world, where the time surrounding a training session is free and you have nothing to do but prepare. This, as I well know, is nearly never the case. Food is eaten 'on the go' and is often not the quality, quantity and timing that is desired. None the less, if you aim for these guidelines, and get somewhere near, it's a good start for training.

3 - 4hrs prior to training                                High carbohydrate meal
                                                                  Drink 250 - 500ml
1 - 2hrs prior to training                                Small meal or snack
Just before training                                      100 - 200ml sports drink

During training                                             100 - 200ml sports drink every 15 - 20min

Up to 4hrs after training                                High protein high carbohydrate meal
                                                                  500ml either isotonic or hypotonic drink

It is important initially to eat well daily, this will allow your body to have optimum fuel stores, which can then be 'topped up' by the pre exercise meal. Pre exercise meals and snacks will provide you with extra energy, but will not make up for the intake of the previous week.
On this note, it is also important to build up changes over a matter of days or weeks, rather then adjusting your diet on the day of competition. Our bodies will only take on change at a certain rate and if your current diet is a bit far from the ideal then begin with gradual alterations, such as introducing a small breakfast or a smoothie, rather than going for a high fibre meal to start the day.

Going into exercise with sufficient energy stores and hydration will allow you to train or compete for longer without getting fatigued from dehydration and lack of energy. It is important though that the 'right' foods and drinks are consumed. See the pages on carbohydrate and hydration for tips on which foods and drinks to consume.

After training, research has shown that consuming a high carbohydrate, high protein meal will aid in recovery, helping both replenish energy stores that will have been used during exercise, as well as aiding the recovery of muscles and tissues. This meal is particularly important if more than one training session is being undertaken in the day.
Many athletes do not want to even entertain the though of eating immediately after exercise, but the sooner after exercise has finished, the better. This is because the enzymes in your body which digest and absorb food are still active and also the muscles will uptake more glycogen. The rate of uptake will depend on the amount of glycogen used during exercise, the amount of carbohydrate in the meal being consumed and the amount of time between exercise and when the meal is eaten. If it is not possible to consume a whole meal soon after exercise, then a snack of a sports drink and a banana, for example, followed by a meal will also be fine.

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