Athletic performance is a fine line between doing too little and doing too much. We push our bodies to close to breaking point, then we back off a bit, and then we improve. In order to push our bodies this far we need extra nutrients compared to an average person. Protein, carbohydrate, fat, calorie, vitamin and mineral consumption can far exceed normal physiological requirements. So how do you know how much of each factor is required? You come to see a nutrition professional who has read and analysed the latest research in sports nutrition and knows how to apply it to your own individual requirements.
When you come to see me for a sports nutrition consultation, the first thing I do is listen to what you have to say for an hour. What are your hopes and dreams? What is your current training schedule? What would you like to achieve in the next month, 6 months, year, decade, lifetime? What health issues are you experiencing? Are you injured or prone to injury? Do you recover well from training sessions and events? Do you feel that you perform as well as you should? Do you fatigue fast or can you go for days? What is your current diet? Any recurring health issues or nutrient deficiencies?
DIETS FOR ATHLETES
When I have all of the information I need, I usually order a fresh set of blood tests to check nutrient status and for athletes who are consistently experiencing gut health issues, I usually recommend food allergy and intolerance testing. It is unlikely that an athlete could reach peak performance with nutrient deficiencies and food reactions dragging them down. I check to make sure that they are getting the macros right for them. Would they suit a lower carb/higher fat diet or would the opposite be better. Fat adaptation is very important for endurance athletes as they need to access their fat stores when energy gets low in the blood and muscles. I tend to focus on a carb appropriate diet – we find the balance of carbohydrates that are right for you and your sport.
Athletes have much higher protein requirements than the average active person (requirements can jump from 0.7-0.8g per kg for an inactive person to 2g per kg for a strength athlete). If they don’t get the protein right, they won’t have the building blocks for muscle repair and for liver detoxification, neurotransmission etc. Improving the protein alone can make a huge difference. I know this from experience – a year or so ago, I doubled my protein, gained 4kgs of muscle and lost 2kgs of fat in a month and smashed all of my PBs – it really is that important.
Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are often overlooked for macros and calorie consumption. Here’s a question – who is going to perform better? An athlete who is living on nutrient depleted, sugary foods and junk food or an athlete who is eating the right amount of good quality protein, a high intake of plant foods, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds and great fats? It’s a no brainer! The former will be struggling to intake the vitamins and minerals they need despite maintaining a normal weight and still functioning, but the latter will be fuelling their body appropriately and providing the macros and micros they need to perform at their best. In sports nutrition, there is too much focus on big plates of white carbs in the form of pasta, rice, bread etc. Yes – they are pure energy but they are nutrient depleted and will have your blood sugar through the floor in a very short period of time. The focus should be on consuming a highly nutritious, diet that is going to provide you with the building blocks and energy you need to beat the best.
A personalised, specific nutrition plan can make a significant difference to your overall performance, recover and winning edge.