Nutrition: Our Top Tips
Good nutrition is key to balancing your performance triangle alongside training and recovery. Our body needs the right balance of nutrients in order to train hard and recover, in short if your nutrition is poor your progression will be slow or even non existent and your body will be more at risk of colds, infections and injury. We work with a top nutritionist to offer personalised nutrition support to get the most out of your training and racing but on this page we offer some basic tips that provide a good starting point.
What’s best to eat when training?
• Aim for a quality diet with good variety. Allow ample time to plan and eat structured healthy meals, more of ten that not we tend to snack on unhealthy foods when we haven't planned our food and we are getting it 'on the fly'. Doing a weekly shop and planning your meals can be a really good use of time as an athlete.
• Avoid the temptation to exclude whole food groups from your diet there is little to no evidence that this promotes sustainable healthy lifestyles. If you are looking to lose weight whilst building up your training take care to ensure you are still remaining healthily. In the years I have been coaching and personal training the ONLY way that someone loses weight is through a negative energy balance. Some people find it easier to do that by excluding whole food groups, particularly the ones which then tend to eat the most of, but it's not the excluding of the food group that creates weight lose, its the reduction in overall calorific intake. It can be the hardest message in the world to hear that sustainable weight loss comes from small, sustained changes over a long period without doing anything radical. In order to train and recover your body needs fat, protein and yes, carbohydrate!
• No single food can maintain and promote good health and the term 'superfood' should always be treated with sceptical eye. However foods rich in vitamins and minerals will give you most benefit in your diet. Berries, nuts, seeds, pulses, quinoa and plenty of mixed coloured fruit and veg. In particular foods such as blueberries, beetroot, avocado, quinoa, kiwifruit, broccoli and oily fish can be great additions.
• Eat wholesome wholegrain carbohydrate, sources such as rye bread, sweet potatoes and buckwheat for a more sustained energy. Try and avoid excessively large portions of ‘refined carbohydrate’ such as cakes and sugary cereals as these offer a lot of calories but relatively limited density of vitamins or minerals and their energy is often short lived.
• It's important to eat a good variety of protein sources daily, such as lean meat, pulses and dairy. The timing of protein intake is a key factor as our body doesn't store protein like it does carbohydrate and fat. Breakfast time is a good example – following a night of sleep without food your body will be needing protein. Try to include this in your breakfast (for example from yogurt, or eggs) and then try to have a steady intake of quality protein throughout the day.
• Include healthy fats on a daily basis such as eggs, nuts, oily fish and avocados and try to reduce trans- fatty acid intake eg: chocolate bars & biscuits etc.
• Carry a bottle of water everywhere you go and ensure you keep filling it up aiming for at least 2 litres a day. If hot and to be sure of avoiding dehydration, consider sipping from water containing high five zero tablet to retain pre exercise vitamin and mineral balances. Crucial to avoid cramps and keep your body in balance.
Best healthy breakfast?
• Typical commercial breakfast cereals, porridges, pastries and toast options are typically high in refined carbohydrates and sugars containing a lot of calories but few vitamins or minerals. They also often contain additives and are high in salt to prolong their shelf life. There are not proteins, healthy fats, fruits or vegetables contained in these types of options.
• A great breakfast would be a quick and simple avocado and almond smoothie, spinach and watercress omelette on rye bread, poached eggs on wholegrain bread, or chia seed buckwheat porridge with fruit.
What time to eat before training?
• Meal timing is especially important for athletes Your pre-training meal should contain foods that are high in carbohydrate, low in fat, moderate amounts protein, low in simple sugars and concentrated fibre. Generally, the meal should be consumed far enough in advance to allow for stomach emptying and intestinal absorption.
• A good rule of thumb is to limit your pre-run meal to about 300-400 calories eaten approx. 3-4 hours before training. A smaller 200-calorie meal such as a wholemeal bagel or oatcakes with banana would be eaten between 1 and 2 hours before running.
• If you plan on running in the evening, plan your food intake accordingly to allow for a healthy mid morning and mid afternoon snack. this could include wholegrain rice cakes with a nut butter, handful of dried mango or a banana to ensure you’ve got enough energy to fuel your run. However try not to overeat during the day as this will leave you feeling lethargic, sluggish and may cause stomach issues whilst running later on.
• Good balanced food planning will ensure you arrive at your run raring to go!
What to eat after training?
• Your post-run meal is super important because when you have finished your muscles have depleted their energy stores. The energy stores need to be replenish as soon as possible for your training to be of maximum benefit. Therefore it is important to consume something quickly digestible such as a recovery drink or a healthy sandwich containing protein, as soon as you can after training.
• Ideally try to consume food within 20/30 minutes after your run. If taking a recovery sports drink, try to take one with a 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio is recommended. Milk is an excellent affordable recovery drink as it has a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein, water and electrolytes (vitamins and minerals lost through sweat) and no extra added sugar. Alternatively 250ml of High 5 recovery powder or other milk based drinks without added sugars are good options. Then follow this with a nutritious meal such as grilled tuna steak, brown rice and salad within 90mins. This will help with your ongoing recovery process, energy levels and replenishing the body ready for you next run.
What to avoid?
• Try to avoid processed foods high in both sugar and fats, refined or processed carbohydrates and chemical sweeteners. Try to avoid sugary drinks or adding sugar into hot drinks. Sugars are typically hidden in most processed foods, for example, two tablespoons of tomato ketchup has approximately a quarter of the recommended added sugar intake per-day for an active adult.
• Try to steer clear of food products that are advertised as ‘low fat’ and ‘0% fat ‘ as well as those promoted as low calorie low sugar. Limit the amounts of margarine, spreads, and sugar-free cakes, cereal bars. Think of these foods as empty and artificial foods, and try to eat as close to natural as possible.
• Try to avoid foods with hydrogenated fat (eg: palm oil, baked goods and fried foods). The chemical structure of this fat has been altered from a healthy one to an unhealthy one.
• Try to avoiding excessive caffeine intake especially at meal times. Caffeine can decrease nutrient absorption in the diet. Caffeine, while initially giving you a boost, can leave you feeling sluggish and tired later causing you to reach for high sugar foods for energy. Opt for water and non-caffeinated herbal teas or green tea which contains only low amounts of caffeine some of the time.
• It’s recommend to cut down alcohol consumption to less than 3 units a week to complement your training. A medium size glass of wine or beer has the same number of calories as a small chocolate bar and needs to be burned in the same way as food. Alcohol is similar to fat which yields 9kcal per 1 gram, where as alcohol yeilds 7 Alcohol is empty calories with limited nutritional benefits.
What to eat on race day?
• Race day is all about having a plan you have practiced in training and sticking with what you know works.
• Aim to eat a good breakfast 2-3 hours before the start if your race, aim to eat slowly as nerves can lead many to eat breakfast too quickly and upset their digestion.
• Snack on half an energy bar or banana perhaps 60-75 minutes before the race start.
• During the race particularly a marathon fuelling throughout the race can help you sustained your energy and pace towards the end. Gels are the easiest and most effective way to get this energy quickly and easily into your system. One gel after 45-60 minutes and one every 30-40 minutes after, it's not a shot though, sip it, don't down it and you'll find it is easier to digest. Energy drinks or even jelly babies are other common options but can be harder to digest and you'll need more of these to provide the same energy as a gel.
• Sip on water throughout the race but try not to over do it, we don't need ot be drinking gallons of water. Go in well hydrated and then sip every few kilmoeters to keep topped up. Remember if its hot drinking water wont cool you down so take care to no over do it, pouting water on your head and neck can help.