5 Questions - 5 Answers: Interesting facts from the sports nutrition sector

Joëlle Flück 23. December 2020

Is alcohol-free beer actually a good regeneration agent? Can I also perform well at an Ironman without a low-carb diet? These and three other sports nutrition questions are addressed in the following article.

This article is presented by the Swiss Sports Nutrition Society

QUESTION 1: Is alcohol-free beer a good regeneration agent?

While the carbohydrates, water and electrolytes contained in alcohol-free beer provide several nutrients that replenish your energy reserves and water balance, it lacks protein, which is a key nutrient for regeneration. To ensure optimal regeneration, you should also incorporate a protein source.

Conclusion: drinking an alcohol-free beer now and again after a hard or long training unit will not do any harm if you are sure to include an additional protein source.

QUESTION 2: Are bananas a suitable snack during a running competition?

Due to the redistribution of the body’s blood circulation, digestion is restricted during intensive running competitions and gastrointestinal problems often arise. Nevertheless, you should not go without an intake of fluids and carbohydrates during competitions lasting more than one hour. The intake of fat, proteins and fibre leads to an unnecessary strain on the digestive tract. Bananas contain important carbohydrates but are also rich in fibre. What’s more, solid foods such as bananas are generally more difficult to digest than liquid foods such as gels or sports drinks. For those suffering gastrointestinal tract problems during training, liquid, or easily digestible products (gels) can reduce such problems. In principle, the individual load intensity and tolerability must also be taken into account.

Conclusion: a ripe banana can serve as an excellent snack before or after a run but is less suitable during a competition. At a lower intensity, however, it can certainly be an alternative.

QUESTION 3: Should I eat a low-carb diet for an Ironman?

The goal of a low-carb diet is to optimise your lipid metabolism. The body should get used to remaining in a state of low carbohydrate availability for a long time. Athletes with a high scope of training (with regard to an Ironman), however, rely on additional energy in the form of carbohydrates, especially during long and intensive training units. Training loads on a low-carb diet are therefore generally perceived as more strenuous. Available studies to date show that a low-carb diet has no performance-enhancing effect. For athletes who frequently experience gastrointestinal symptoms during a competition, a low-carb diet during the preparatory phase can serve to maximize their lipid metabolism and thus reduce the intake of carbohydrates somewhat during the competition itself.

Conclusion: a good mix of fasted training and high-intensity training units with full carbohydrate stores or with an intake of carbohydrates during the load could be a solution!

QUESTION 4: Can I also drink too much?

An excessive fluid intake in the form of water during sporting activities can have serious consequences. Symptoms such as headaches or disorientation through to the swelling of tissue or a cerebral oedema can occur. In order to prevent this, you should use sports drinks and not just water for loads of more than one hour. As a guideline, you can reckon with an intake of 4-8 dl of fluid per hour during sporting activities. Under no circumstances should you be “heavier” after the load than before. Monitoring your weight before and after the load can help.

Conclusion: 4-8 dl of fluid per hour of exercise and feeling thirsty is a good guideline. Monitoring your weight before and after a load can also help to find the optimal fluid intake (see the hydration calculator).

QUESTION 5: Do I need to train in the fat burning zone to lose fat?

When I train in a fasted state or do a longer unit without a carbohydrate intake, I can train my lipid metabolism. However, this is not the same as losing fat mass. In order to lose fat, I need a negative energy balance, which I achieve by increasing my activity (leisure time, training) or by reducing my calorie intake through food and fluids. Lipid metabolism training can support these measures if you want to lose weight but is not absolutely necessary.

Conclusion: a negative energy balance is the most efficient way to lose weight!

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