Article by Nella Foulds – MNU Certified Consultant Nutritionist and recipe creator for ‘The Lean Cook’
Nutrition is such a subjective term and we all interpret what good nutrition is differently. What we eat greatly impacts how we feel, what we’re able to do, and sometimes we can get it wrong when we’re looking to support our activities with the types of food we eat. When I help someone dial-in their sports nutrition while they’re training, I also look at supporting good overall health too. Why would you want your health to suffer if you’re training to be at the top of your game on race day!
When we first put a pair of running shoes on, we do it for lots of different reasons. To get fitter, to lose weight, to be more active, but regardless of your endgame, you should give your nutrition just as much thought as your training plan, because you won’t be able to reach your target milestones if you adopt an IIFYM approach (If It Fits Your Macros as the acronym goes, but more often it becomes If It Fits Your Mouth, because a training run acts as a junk food hall pass in come circles).
As well as choosing the right training plan you want to:-
- Fuel yourself for the training you have planned.
- Recover well from your training and avoid injury.
- Get to grips with hydration.
- Understand what in-run supplement suit you.
Now this may sound like stuff that everyone is bound to know, but we often look to see what others are doing because yet again they’re smashing their training plan. But we are all different. What suits you probably won’t suit the next person, so it’s important that you understand the basics of nutrition.
We should eat a balanced diet which incorporates protein, carbohydrates and fats. Each macronutrient has a role to play in your sport nutrition and it’s important to make the right choices for you. Sometimes the role that protein plays in sports nutrition is forgotten because of over importance of fuel or carbohydrates.
Protein is involved in most biological process. It’s necessary for muscle repair, muscle retention and immune function amongst other things. It makes sense that if we want our body to function well and recover after a training session that you should eat enough lean protein.
Carbohydrates are our bodies preferred fuel source but in recent years has seen the rise of the low carb diet. If you want to perform well you should be consuming carbohydrates, but not all carbohydrates are equal. You should choose complex carbohydrates over refined carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains (oats, brown rice, whole wheat pasta) quinoa, potatoes, vegetables are harder for the digestive system to breakdown (this is a good thing!). They will fill you up and act as a fuel source over a longer timeframe. Refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, rice, cereals, baked goods, processed foods etc) provide a short burst of energy and are often calorie rich and nutrient poor.
Fat. A balanced diet includes ‘good’ fats from foods rich in Monounsaturated (olive oil, avocado, nuts) and Polyunsaturated (oily fish, sunflower oil, seeds) fats. Fat helps us to produce recovery hormones, sex steroid hormones, helps with our immunity. While fat is the most calorific of the macronutrients, it does have lots of benefits providing you choose the right type of fat and consume the right amount. Avoid trans fats which are primarily man-made and found in processed foods. Trans fats are consistently shown to increase cardiovascular disease so this is the one to avoid!
What about sugar? Fresh fruit and vegetables should make up the bulk of your diet for lots of reasons and they are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre. The sugars in fresh fruit and starchy vegetables contain small amounts of naturally occurring sugar, it is healthy and should not be avoided. If you are concerned about your sugar consumption, look at any processed foods where sugar is hidden and look to reduce these first.
A word on food group elimination. Certain food trends in most recent years has lead to individuals eliminating food groups. Unless you have allergies or intolerances, there is no reason why you should remove particular food groups from your diet. Dairy provides calcium as well as protein, gluten and wheat are great sources of carbohydrates with essential vitamins, minerals and of course fibre and meat contains protein, iron and essential B vitamins. The elimination of a food group can lead to a nutrient deficiency especially if not undertaken under appropriate guidance.
If you’re going to train like an athlete then consider eating like an athlete.
Article by Nella Foulds
Nella is a MNU Certified Consultant Nutritionist and has her own nutrition practice specialising in Sports, Performance, Weight loss and Clinical Condition. www.nellanutrition.com
She is also the founder and creator of ‘The Lean Cook’ with over 330 healthy, nutritionally balanced everyday recipes perfect for runners.