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How should you eat if you’re training twice a day?

Most professional athletes work out twice each day and "weekend athletes" who have limited time during the week often train more than once a day. Many times, amateur athletes combine two sessions of exercise to save time or get into shape faster. Even if trainings differ in nature (e.g. bicycle and Pilates, running and swimming, weight-lifting and jogging) or time of day (morning vs. evening), the body is exerting a lot of energy for one day.

What is the purpose of the "two-trainings-a-day diet"?

The goal is to allow your body to recover between your two workouts, and begin the second workout with maximum power and performance quality. However, to be realistic, we cannot get to the second workout with full recovery in the same day. The reason is that refilling glycogen stores (the carbohydrates stored in the muscle) takes more than 24 hours! The goal is to do everything possible within 6-10 hours to restore at least 60% of your glycogen stores. Yes, it is possible, and studies have shown that with proper nutrition you could achieve it.

How should you eat between your two trainings to allow your body to recover and perform a high-quality training in the second part of the day?

10 dietary rules to maintain between 2 training sessions in one day:

1) Immediately after training - The first step is to eat very soon after the end of the first training, which is called the "metabolic window." If you eat at the right time (within 30-45 minutes) the recovery rate will be faster. What should you eat for the metabolic window meal? Eat proteins and carbohydrates together in the same meal. Protein helps build muscle and carbohydrates will help the muscle building processes by supplying energy and filling glycogen stores.

2) What can be eaten after the first workout? You could eat a sandwich with tuna, cheese, egg, chicken or turkey, or a meal with eggs, cheese, salad and bread. Another option is muesli with yogurt, granola and fruit or cereal with milk/yogurt. Of course, if the training ends before noon you could eat lunch with chicken, beef, or fish with rice, pasta, potatoes and more.

3) Filling glycogen stores – Eat carbohydrates every two hours during the day between the two workouts. Yes, eating more frequently than in a typical day helps to fill glycogen stores in the muscle. This is especially important after endurance exercise (running, bicycling, swimming, rowing, etc.) because glycogen stores could run out. That is also why it is important to increase carbohydrates between the hours of training, even if it increases calorie intake. If you will fill glycogen stores in the best way until the next training, you will be able to burn more calories in the next workout!

4) How to combine carbohydrates? It is recommended to eat carbohydrates every two hours after the first training (after the "metabolic window meal"), especially at six hours after the end of training #1. At this time, the rate of glycogen filling is fast due to the high activity level of the muscle's enzymes. The food you eat is more likely to be utilized by the muscles towards the recovery process, and not become a fat tissue.

5) Which type of carbohydrates to eat between the two trainings? Eat mainly complex carbohydrates between training (low glycemic index). Examples of complex carbohydrates: cereals rich with fiber, whole wheat bread, rye bread, whole pasta, brown rice, quinoa, crackers that are rich in dietary fiber and more.

6) Don't forget to drink - It is important to drink plenty of water to replenish fluids and help the body recover until the next training. Weigh yourself before and right after the training, not to see "weight loss," but to see how much fluid you need to re-hydrate. For every pound of weight you lose from the beginning of the training, drink two cups of water (16oz=500ml). Do not drink it all at once; spread the drink during the hours until the next training.

7) Do not forget protein - Protein should be incorporated into meals throughout the day to allow muscle building after exercise. Do not consume large amounts of protein, but include at least 1-2 times during the meals before the next workout. For example: milk, cheese, yogurt, beef, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, beans and more.

8) Supplements - If you are taking supplements, be sure to combine them at the right time in relation to the exercise (e.g. protein shake, BCAA/amino acids, vitamin C, magnesium, etc.) Remember to combine them with food—or without—according to the instructions.

9) The important meal before the next workout - 3-4 hours before the second training, it is important to eat a relatively large meal based on carbohydrates, so the start of training you are as strong as you can be. What should you eat? For example: Pasta, rice, couscous, bread, granola, cereals, etc. You don't have to eat cooked/hot meal if it does not fit in your schedule, but make sure the amount of carbohydrates is high in this meal.

10) Eat before the second exercise- It is important to eat 30-60 minutes before the second workout. You could eat a light snack rich with carbohydrates that gets absorbed quickly (high glycemic index). The goal is to provide available energy at the beginning of the training. What kinds of foods? Fruit, low-fat energy bar, dried fruit, a slice of white bread with honey / jam / cheese / cottage cheese, pretzels, a handful of cereal (not rich in dietary fiber), etc.

Summary

If you choose to do two sessions of exercise in one day, be sure your eating habits during the time between the two training sessions are optimal. If you can eat right during the hours between the first training and the second, you could succeed in getting ready for the second training in the best shape your body can be.

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Yael Dror

© 2016 by Yael Dror

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