Written by Elsa Chu, P. Dt.
Elsa is part of Coast to Coast Nutrition - an Instagram page dedicated to helping Ultimate players navigate their nutrition
One of the simplest and most effective ways to boost your game is to plan snacks and meals around your physical activity. Eating too early or too late before a practice or workout can cause a dip in energy or focus and uncomfortable digestion. All these can influence, or outright ruin, a practice or workout. Give yourself an edge by planning ahead and grabbing the right stuff on your way out the door.
BEFORE A PRACTICE
Practices require a lot of running, which is fueled by carbs. When you show up to practice with your last meal long gone, your body has to pull stored carbs from your liver, then your muscles. This puts a ceiling on how hard you can exercise, since your muscles are breaking down as you’re trying to use them.
On the other hand, stuffing down a sandwich right before putting on your cleats can cause cramping, bloating, and gas—good luck trying to practice with those. The body diverts blood away from the stomach during exercise, so the food stays in your stomach, waiting for digestion to restart.
Ideally, you should have a light meal or large snack one or two hours before practice starts. Eat something with lots of carbs, some protein, and little fat (fat takes up to nine hours to digest and is not fuel-friendly for running hard). Try a fruit smoothie with yogurt, a granola bar, or a bowl of cereal.
BEFORE WEIGHT TRAINING
Weight training differs from ultimate practices in that there is usually little running and more explosive lifting movements, followed by rest. The heart rate is never elevated too high, and the stomach never gets bounced up and down as it does when running. The energy systems that are used are also different; they are more reliant on the quick twitch power of the muscles.
Showing up to a weight session underfed usually results in rapid fatigue and a loss of strength. Showing up overfed to a session probably won't have such severe consequences, although it may cause some uncomfortable digestion.
Aim to eat something in the hour before a session starts, and balance protein and carbs for this meal or snack. A nut butter sandwich, protein bar, or yogurt parfait are all sensible, practical choices before hitting the weights.
AFTER A PRACTICE OR WEIGHT TRAINING
If your practice or training lasts more than an hour, and kicks your butt a little, it’s a good idea to have something to eat afterward as well. Research on the “anabolic window,” or the time most beneficial for eating after exercise, is mixed. It is recommended to eat within 45 to 90 minutes after intense exercise, but make sure to listen to your body. If you had a light snack beforehand, plan to have something in your bag for the ride home. If the session was short or easy, then it’s fine to wait until you get home to have dinner. If you didn’t eat anything beforehand, then it’s essential to eat something during practice or right after it ends.
Pack a snack to eat within 45 to 60 minutes after your practice or weight-training session. This snack should be high in protein and carbs. Easy options include protein bars, smoothies with protein powder and fruit, or a bagel with nut butter and jam.