Dossier: Healthy eating

Feed your muscles

Should you eat before training or after? Does protein help build muscle? Here you’ll find answers to many of the questions often asked by sports enthusiasts.

Text: Susanne Wagner

Myth 1: Taking magnesium prevents muscle cramping

False. There is no scientific evidence that taking magnesium prevents muscle cramping. However, we cannot rule out the possibility that magnesium may be effective against cramping – there are currently no good studies on the subject. For sports nutrition expert Samuel Mettler, the popular belief that magnesium helps against muscle cramping is hard to understand. According to the Swiss Society for Nutrition (SGE), a balanced diet with the right amount of fluids provides a good basis against cramping. Depending on how much you sweat, you will need upwards of 2 litres.

Myth 2: Eating before training provides energy

True. It’s generally a good idea to eat before training. The best solution is to eat a balanced meal five hours before doing sport. Around 30 to 60 minutes before starting you can eat a small snack such as a banana or have a sports drink. Anyone who has eaten before exercising delivers a better performance and can compete better physically and mentally When training for longer than one or two hours, eating these foods during the training session can enhance and prolong your performance. Eating after training helps the body recover and provides nutrients. Each person has to experiment with portion sizes, tolerance and nutrients to find out what suits them best. There’s no right or wrong.

Myth 3: Special protein bars or shakes are needed to build muscle

False. Eating a healthy, balanced diet and sufficient amounts of protein in combination with (weight) training and sufficient recovery times can have a positive effect on muscle mass. You can generally get protein from normal foods such as dairy products, a ham or cheese sandwich, tofu, quorn or a lentil salad. The benefit of animal proteins is that they tend to promote muscle build-up more effectively than plant-based proteins. However, so far there has been insufficient scientific research into plant-based proteins to make a sound assessment. Protein bars or shakes are convenient for sportspeople because the e consumed quickly on the move. Vegetarian and vegan protein bars and shakes are now also available containing plant-based proteins.

Professional support

Stéphanie Hochstrasser
Leiterin Nutrinfo und Medienservice, BSc BFH Ernährungsberaterin SVDE, Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Ernährung SGE

Sabine Oberrauch
Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin und Fachberaterin, MSc ZHAW Ernährungsberaterin, Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Ernährung SGE

Dr. Samuel Mettler

Ernährungswissenschaftler und Dozent für Sporternährung an der ETH Zürich und der Berner Fachhochschule