The complexity of nutrition for athletes is one of the most confusing arenas known and for a purpose, and please excuse the editorial: it is confusing so companies can make money. The science of nutrition is well understood and defined. The complexity exists in the ability to change a behavior and to implement that knowledge. That is the reason diets come and go and that every other month a new wonder "food" is discovered. It is also why every other month a discovery is made that bananas are a nutritional powerhouse and chocolate milk a recovery drink on par with anything a lab could ever make.
But there are ways to figure it out for yourself and that is to know the fundamentals. Sports fueling and recovery are simple and beautiful concepts and once you know how your body uses nutrients the mystery is gone and you can start calling bullshit on a few Ads and trendy diets.
Excess nutrients are those that your body is not using immediately. There are two storage systems: your muscles and your liver. This week we'll focus on the liver as it teaches us about the two basic storage methods: carbohydrate and fat.
The liver converts excess nutrients into glycogen ( a carb) and some into fat. The liver stores the glycogen (remember last week we talked about how your body accesses liver and blood sugars and eating is important to have that storage.) When you take long lapses between meals your body accesses the glycogen in your liver. That store lasts for about six hours if you're not taking nutrients in. Hence when you sleep (and you're not eating) you must eat breakfast before training. The glucose in your muscles requires a longer process to access so don't be thinking about that. Your liver also creates fat packets for longer term storage and also to send places in your body requiring fat to protect you. The liver keeps you going between meals and that time span depends on your level of activity. During training you can deplete your liver if you're not fueling properly...so make sure you eat during training. As to what well that is simple but remember that it has to be portable and simple enough for your body to process. You are now thinking about why gels, power bars, etc. are what athletes carry. But they also carry bananas, sweet potatoes, peanut butter crackers or whatever they've learned delivers energy to liver, blood, and muscles.
Training "teaches" your body how to access the long and short term energy access storage you have (muscle glycogen and fat) but that next week's tale. Suffice to say in this small chunk that the tale of the liver teaches us that your body requires constant fueling in both rest and activity. How it stores it though is up to you and your lifestyle. It is then up to your mind to understand how to use these simple facts and use your liver properly