Nutrition Blog 1 - Food For Thought
Getting fit and healthy has never been more popular. The desire to manage body weight, improve body composition and enthusiastically follow social media influencers showcasing athletic pursuits and gains, is an increasing upward trend.
Regardless of the level of physical activity, all human beings are dependent on food for survival and have been for thousands of years, but despite the worlds combined considerable scientific understanding on physiology and food science, human malnutrition, undernourishment, and over-nourishment are commonplace.
No one disagrees that adequate and appropriate nourishment is key to continued health and wellbeing, and for athletes contributes massively to sporting performance. However, the approaches to eating well and fuelling for optimal sporting performance are diverse and sometimes at odds with one another.
Some athletes in their pursuit for sporting excellence, make some fundamental errors with their nutrition. Many athletes fail to meet their fuelling requirements and as a result can suffer from Low Energy Availability. The pattern of consistently under eating to lose weight in a bid to outperform a competitor, is an increasing trend amongst athletes and a concern for many sports support teams.
Some athletes when attempting to improve their fat utilisation as a fuel source, will adopt diets which fall short of the energy requirements needed to perform well, experiencing the dreaded ‘bonk’, plus injury, with impaired post recovery. Bonking is an unpleasant experience, a result of carbohydrate depletion, and can be offset with a good pre-exercise meal, appropriate carbohydrate fuelling during, and adequately balanced post-exercise meal afterwards.
So how do we get it right?
Athletes are humans first. We need to first pay close attention to dietary guidelines. In England, The Eatwell Guide is the recommended resource referred to by dieticians, nutritionists, and food coaches.
Following such healthy eating guidelines encourages appropriate food habits and improved overall wellbeing.
Meals ideally should be colourful, using a variety of vegetables, fruit, quality proteins, and complex carbohydrate sources, and involve chewing.
Colourful food contains protective vitamins and minerals. Red, orange, and yellow foods are good sources of Vitamin A, C and E, potassium, carotenoids, beta-carotene, anti-oxidants, flavonoids. Providing support to the immune system, eye and skin health, prostate, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Purple foods are rich in anthocyanins which are anti-oxidants that benefit the heart, brain, inflammation and help to offset cancers, dementia, and eye health decline. Green foods are full of phytonutrients, like catechins, flavonoids, isoflavones, phytosterols, nitrates, folates, chlorophyll, tannins. Phytonutrients are amazing for heart health, blood pressure, and reducing cancer risks. So invest in your health and aim for a rainbow on your plate.
Variety means accessing many nutrients from as many sources as possible to meet the body’s needs. It also makes eating interesting and fun. Food boredom or food fatigue can lead to poor food decision making, succumbing to unhealthier ultra processed options. Food fatigue can lead to weight gain, an undesirable body composition and more importantly, affect an athlete’s performance.
Our bodies are not able to manufacture all essential amino acids necessary for a healthy body, so consuming quality ‘complete’ proteins with the full essential amino acid profile the body needs, is vital e.g., meat, eggs, milk. For vegans, there are plenty of incomplete proteins like pulses, beans and grains that can be eaten together to achieve the full range of essential amino acids.
Complex carbohydrate foods are wholefoods that contain fibre, essential for a healthy digestive system. At Bespoke Cycling Coaching, we love and regularly consume potatoes including sweet, seasonal vegetables, beans, pulses, wholegrains like quinoa, oats, rice, couscous, bulgur wheat, wholegrain bread, and wraps. Simple sugary carbs have their place in training or on an event, however complex carbs are your daily go to for general health, correct body composition and preparation for overall sporting performance.
Chewing gives your jaw a good work out, which is as important to health as working your heart. Chewing stimulates digestive enzymes in the mouth, instantly starting the digestion process. Foods not chewed still travel towards your stomach, but the stomach must work much harder to break down the food because it hasn’t been partially digested in the mouth first. Eat more foods that encourage chewing like raw apple, raw carrot, bell pepper, celery, crunchy rye sourdough bread.
To understand how much food and fluid is required and when, is largely determined by age, gender, size, relative effort level, injury, illness, pregnancy, lactating status, and environmental factors. Awareness of the energy requirements both at rest and after exercise, is not only important for overall health but crucial to an athlete’s performance, recovery, and adaptation.
To understand your unique requirements and gain insights into your bespoke nutritional plan using our specialised software, get in touch.