“Nutrition cannot substitute for raw talent, training, mental preparation or equipment, but bad nutrition can destroy performance.” Stone Foundation, June 2005
This quote says it all really! In this article we’ll look at how you can eat to get the best out of your body in your chosen sport. So, let’s break it down into what you need to support each of your body systems. This does get a bit technical but later on I’ll translate all of this into a diet that will help for everything!
- Muscles – need protein to repair, carbohydrate to provide glycogen for energy and water to store the glycogen. They also need magnesium to help relax muscle fibres and improve blood flow
- Joints – need an anti-inflammatory diet (I’ll explain later), glucosamine and chondroitin to aid repair
- Lungs – need magnesium, iron to help transport oxygen to our tissues, water and vitamin A to help with their mucous membranes which are vital for exchanging oxygen with our environment
- Heart – needs antioxidants (that basically means lots of colourful fruit and vegetables), beetroot and some of you may have heard of this, coQ10
- Adrenals – these help us cope with stress whether it’s physical or mental stress. They need B vitamins, protein (needed to balance blood sugar), magnesium (again!!) and zinc
- Gut – water to aid transit time through our guts, digestive enzymes to help digest our food, probiotics (see previous article), protein and glutamine as it’s the fuel for the cells of our gut
- And finally energy – in order to make energy we need B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium (yet again!), zinc, coQ10, manganese, sulphur, carnitine, iron and alpha lipoic acid
Now, you probably won’t have heard of all of these so now I’ll give you a list of food to eat that will incorporate all of these requirements. So, we need to eat:
- Protein at every meal – that includes breakfast so think eggs, nuts, protein powder in a smoothie for example. Other protein sources for other meals include meat, dairy, fish, nuts and seeds
- 6-8 portions of colourful fruit and vegetables a day – think colours of the rainbow and don’t forget your white veg like onions and cauliflower. Include green leafy vegetables as they contain magnesium which you can see is needed for just about everything!
- 6-8 medium glasses of water
- Healthy fats – we need fat to digest the fat soluble vitamins so eat avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, oily fish, nuts and seeds
- Eat cabbage as a source of glutamine
- Eat brown rice, oats, almonds, sunflowers seeds, eggs, turkey, salmon, lentils and mushrooms to get your B vits
- Magnesium is found in dark green leafy vegetables, nuts (particularly almonds), seeds and brown rice
- Eat onions, eggs and garlic as a source of sulphur
- Avoid junk food which depletes vital vitamins and minerals
- Avoid sugar as this upsets your blood sugar balance which causes energy crashes and decreases our ability to cope with stress
- Choose complex carbohydrates – wholemeal bread, pasta but always eat them with protein to reduce their impact on your blood sugar. Choose starchy vegetables as a carbohydrate source – sweet potato, butternut squash, turnip
- Eat sauerkraut and kefir as a natural source of probiotics
- Eat ginger, pecans, brazil nuts, lamb and oats as a source of zinc
- Glucosamine and chondroitin for joint repair are best obtained via supplements as they are only available in very small amounts in food, so if you’re interested in these contact us on 0800 024 8460 as not all supplements are made equal. You need a highly absorbable form and cheaper brands don’t tend to provide this.
Plus we needs loads of antioxidants to combat the free radicals that are produced during exercise.
Some sports will benefit from carbohydrate loading but those are only the ones that last for more than 2 hours! So that’s your marathon runners, long distance cyclists and triathletes for example. Under 2 hours you don’t get any benefit from carb loading and, in fact, you could argue that’s it detrimental. In order to carb load effectively it is usually preceded by exhaustive exercise to deplete glycogen stores. This makes individuals tired, irritable and interferes with pre-event tapering and still some athletes don’t achieve an increase in glycogen stores so think carefully before you go down this route. There is some suggestion nowadays that the depletion phase is unnecessary but we’ll cover that in a special carb loading article.
So, overall you are basically wanting to eat a varied diet full of nutrient dense foods. Think basic foods, nothing processed just colourful fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, lentils and water. Now, we are not all the same so there is not a one diet that fits all. We each have different guts so food that suits some of us may not suit the rest. Therefore, the best way to get the best out of your body is to have an individual nutritional therapy assessment. That way we can take into consideration any existing health issues that you have or any nutritional deficiencies to maximise your sporting potential.
If you’re interested in your own sports nutrition consultation please book now online or call us for more information.