Towards Optimizing the Timing of the Pre-Exercise Meal

in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
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The purpose of this study was to compare the effect a 6-hr versus 3-hr prefeeding regimen on exercise performance. The subjects were 8 active women (21.4 ± 0.9 years, 60.4±2.4 kg, 19.9 ± 1.3% body fat. and 165.6±2.1 cm). All women completed 2 exercise trials (separated by 3—6d) on a treadmill where they ran at moderate intensity for 30 min with 30-s sprints at 5-min intervals, followed directly by increasing incrementally the grade until volitional fatigue was achieved. The exercise trials were performed 3 hr and 6 hr after consuming 40 ± 3 kJ/kg meal. Time to exhaustion was 0.75 min shorter (p = .0001) for the 6-H trials compared to the 3-H trials. There were no significant differences in submaximal or peak oxygen uptake, heart rate, or rating of perceived exertion (p > .05). The 6-H trials compared to the 3-H trials resulted in .05 lower RERs (p = .0002), and a 2 mmol lower blood lactate at exhaustion (p = .012). Blood glucose levels and cortisol responses to exercise were similar between trials (p > .05). However, both resting and post exercise insulin levels were lower during 6-H trials. It was concluded that performance of moderate- to high-intensity exercise lasting 35—40 min is improved by consuming a moderately-high carbohydrate. low fat, low protein meal 3-hr before exercise compared to a similar meal consumed 6 hr prior to exercise. Thus, athletes should not skip meals before competition or training sessions.

The authors are with the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina. Chapel Hill. NC 27599.