Let's face it, eating optimally to boost our training is a topic that we have all struggled with over the years. This is not really surprising given the number of conflicting ideas and different schools of thought regarding diet in health and fitness circles.
Most of us have come across that person who jumped from one fad diet to the next, saw improvements before taking the foot off the gas pedal and going back to square one, if not worse. This restricts you from performing near your highest potential, and only a small portion of the year is spent in good shape.
You want to know the secret? Keeping it Simple...
"We cannot outwork a bad diet", we have heard this expression many times before. Here is the explanation for the basic relationship between food and exercise, performance and recovery.
Firstly, what does food do for us?
It gives us energy. Just as a car requires petrol or diesel to power its engine and generate energy, we need fuel – in the form of food – to power our continued existence, thoughts, recovery from illness, fuel our workouts and help us recover from training. The food we eat provides us with a range of nutrients: carbohydrates, fat, protein, water vitamins & minerals and fibre.
How does that help with training?
Carbohydrates are converted into energy the quickest and the human body relies heavily on the stored carbohydrates (glycogen) as its main energy source. These are stored in the liver and muscle tissues, most of us can store around 1200-1500 calories in the body if eating effectively.
For workouts of higher intensity or for less than 40 minutes, performance will generally drop if there’s nothing in these stores, you may feel lethargic as your body searches for fats or proteins to use up.
Another great energy source that we have is fat, stored as internal fat and the very visible and annoying external fats. In food they are also great for keeping us fuller for longer. With fat calories, the body typically likes using these during low-intensity, prolonged exercise.
For example if we are running a 10km, half marathon or marathon your body will begin to work its way through the carb stores mentioned above. When they are running low it will begin to take energy from our fat stores. If you choose to take a sugary drink or gel along the way, your body will simply go back and use up the calories from the sugar in those and then transition back to using fats.
If you are an endurance athlete, fats should be at least 30%+ of your diet, as this is a really important source of energy for longer aerobic based sessions.
Why is it important? Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. It is also a pretty good energy source as a back up. Your muscle tissues are made up completely of protein so when you train you are asking them to grow to cope with the new demands on the muscles. Eating more protein will help speed up that process. Simple.
No need to go mad on it, somewhere in the range of 1 – 1.5 grams per kg of your bodyweight should facilitate growth.
If your protein intake isn't high enough, you won’t recover as quickly. In the fitness game recovery is key, it allows to you to apply your best self every workout. Underperformance = Lack of development.
Lack of water causes dehydration in the joints ligaments and muscles, and the body won’t work without it. Secondly, the body will be fatigued and its systems will slow down. Thirdly, it actually causes water retention (feeling bloated and wobbly). If you aren’t running to the toilet at least 6/7 times a day, start guzzling more water!
VITAMINS & MINERALS
We get different types from different food groups, some of them are essential for energy production, recovery, sleep and keeping your immune system high. Eating a well-balanced diet is the best way to make sure you aren’t skipping any. Although I wouldn’t say they are performance enhancers, if you’re low on them you will not be at 100%. (Eat Right)
It is the broom of our internals, constantly cleaning our digestive tract. Fibre carries away the waste products of muscle production. If waste builds up in the body it can lead to an increase in fat mass and poor overall health.
If you would require nutritional guidance around sports performance and eating to optimise your training, our team of highly-qualified nutritionists will provide you with the right support to help you achieve and maintain optimal athletic performance. Speak to us for a free initial consultation!