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Maximising energy for sporting performance

Athletes in training for the London Marathon could improve their performance significantly by giving more thought to what they eat and drink, according to researchers at the University of Hertfordshire.

Dr Peter Jones, a senior lecturer at the University’s School of Life Sciences, was involved with two research projects which have thrown new light on the best foods and drinks to ingest prior to sports performance.

A project which was undertaken by student Matt Furber investigated whether foods with a high or low glycemic index had the best effect on 10 mile trial performance in males. Glycemic index (GI) is a ranking system for carbohydrates based on their immediate effects on blood glucose levels.

They found that the participant who followed a Low Glycemic Index (LGI) diet showed significant improvements in running performance as opposed to those who followed a High Glycemic Index (HGI) diet, which the researchers attributed to increases in blood glucose during the trial time.

“The improvements in performance were only seen when the carbohydrate loaded was low in GI,” said Matt. “The mechanism behind this may be due to the increases seen in blood glucose throughout the time trial.”

Another research project undertaken by postgraduate student, Nick Tiller, found that athletes could maximise their performance through drinking mixed carbohydrate drinks, as opposed to those containing single carbohydrates only.

“This is important because, for example, if you drink commercially available sports drinks, you can only ingest 70 grammes of maltodextrin per hour, which may not be enough to maximise your performance,” said Dr Jones. “But if you supplement this with, for example fructose, you can open up two channels and increase the amount of glucose available to your body.

“There is no doubt but that the foods that we eat have a significant effect on performance. Those in serious training need to give this more thought if they are to maximise their performance.”

Helene Murphy | alfa
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