The Top 10 Foods For Athletes

The Top 10 Foods For Athletes

Whatever your level, if you’re an active person select these nutrient-dense superfoods for your best performance!

  1. Dark green vegetables

AdobeStock_56178614.jpgKey nutrients: B Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants

Mineral-rich leafy greens are key foods in any athlete’s diet, providing nutrients for energy production and fibre. The darker green they are, the higher concentrations of antioxidants. Antioxidant-rich vegetables help regulate the body’s inflammatory process. Vegetables such as kale and spinach also contain carotenoids and flavonoids, two powerful antioxidant families that protect cells from free radicals that cause oxidative stress.

  1. Eggs

Key nutrients: vitamin D and Leucine

Basket of organic eggs in a rural farmers market
Eggs pack a protein punch

Eggs provide protein in a low calorie package. Egg yolks are also a good source of vitamin D essential for bone and muscle health. And there are the BCAA (branch chain amino acids), particularly Leucine in eggs that are vital building blocks for muscular growth, as well helping to promote fat oxidation and endurance.

  1. Bananas
Bananas
Bananas fuel performance

Key nutrients: potassium, choline and vitamin B6

Potassium is one of the electrolytes lost after intense exercise, so replacing this is vital to aid recovery. Choline is needed for healthy nervous system activity and for healthy cell structure. Vitamin B6 in bananas is crucial for red blood cell production, and assists in carbohydrate metabolism.

  1. Milk
Organic White Almond Milk
Organic White Almond Milk in a Jug

Key nutrients: carbs, calcium and protein

A combination of carbohydrates and protein make milk an ideal post exercise muscle recovery drink as consuming the macronutrients together allows muscle tissues to repair faster. Calcium is known for boosting bone health and in a two-year American study looking at the affects of different nutrients on bone density, it was shown that an extra cup of milk a day was found to reduce runners’ incidence of developing a stress fracture by 62 per cent.

  1. Lean red meat
fresh raw meat
Lean red meat is a healthy choice for athletes

Key nutrients: iron and B12

The easiest and quickest way to get iron and B12 on board is to eat red meat. Red meat has had a bad press but if you choose organic, or grass-fed, and avoid processed meats, you’ll be sure of getting plenty ‘performance nutrition’! Iron deficiency can result in poor performance, and symptoms include, tiredness, shortness of breath, and elevated heart rate.

  1. Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna)

Dried smoked spratKey nutrients: Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs)

Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and trout are all good sources of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and are excellent for heart health, too.

  1. Quinoa

AdobeStock_82504648.jpegKey nutrient: Amino Acids

Quinoa contains twice as much protein as rice or cous cous, and it’s gluten-free and fibre-rich. This nutrient-dense grain doubles up as a source of low GI carbohydrate and the bonus is that the protein in quinoa has a near perfect blend of nine essential amino acids, which we need to build lean muscle mass and recover well.

  1. Blackcurrants (New Zealand CurranNZ)

bowl-blackcurrants

Key nutrient: Anthocyanins

These universal plant pigments responsible for the red, purple, and blue hues in foods have lots of health-promoting qualities. They have a positive affect on blood flow, and studies have found that taking a supplement such as CurraNZ (NZ Blackcurrant) increases lactate clearance, enhances fat metabolism, improves endurance and boosts recovery.

  1. Almonds
Almond nuts isolated
Almonds are a healthy and nutritious snack

Key nutrients: Vitamin E, calcium and magnesium

Eat a small handful of almonds at least three to five times per week for a top source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that many athletes can fall short on. Almonds also help lower bad cholesterol, whilst raising levels of good cholesterol. Almonds are a great source of calcium and magnesium too, both vital for bone and muscle health in athletes.

  1. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin heap
Take seeds daily

Key nutrients: Zinc, magnesium, vitamin E, iron

High carb diets may decrease zinc absorption, so topping up levels with a daily handful of pumpkin seeds is the perfect answer! Zinc has an important role to play when it comes to immunity, so very relevant for endurance athletes who train hard, and often compromise their immunity. Pumpkin seeds are also a very useful vegetarian source of iron.

Getting Carbs Right for Sport

Getting Carbs Right for Sport

Runners love pasta parties, and endurance athletes are fuelled by gels and sweets, but do we need to rethink our relationship with carbs for the best performance? Runner and coach, Fiona Bugler and sports nutritionist Lucy Ann Prideaux report.

The movement to ‘train low carb and race high carb’ has gathered momentum in recent years amongst triathletes, cyclists – and even runners! And former carb fans, such as world renowned running expert, Tim Noakes, author of the The Lore of Running have had a complete change of view, saying excess amounts of carbs (especially high GI, sugary and refined carbs), are not good for runners and that sugar and processed food is responsible for the obesity epidemic and shocking rises in diseases such as diabetes (A Diabetes UK report in August 2015 found that there has been a 60 per cent increase in the disease in a decade).

Carb diet options for athletes

So how does the ‘traditional’ endurance athlete’s high-carb diet work? The body will easily adapt to a high-carb diet, becoming highly efficient at metabolizing carbohydrates for energy. In a long run or race for example, a runner may top up with energy-boosting carb gels. If they don’t have gels, they may under perform not because carbs are the only answer, but because their body has adapted to carbohydrate metabolism, burns carbs quickly, and needs regular top-ups. It expects to receive regular amounts of glucose to continue making energy.

The theory goes on that if you train the body to use fat when you run you do not need to be loading up with extra carbs. However, some athletes find that during this transition period, when relying too much on burning fat as fuel it’s harder to move faster or step up a gear, as the body can’t make energy quickly enough, and they run out of juice during training – and catastrophically, on race day. Many opt to ‘train low’ on carbs (50 per cent fats, 25 per cent carbs, and 25 per cent protein) for five to 10 days. Then, one to three days before a race, they opt for carb-loading with 80 per cent of their food coming from carbohydrates, 10 per cent from fat, and 10 per cent from protein, and take carbs on board during the race, i.e. ‘race high’.

We still need carbs – but watch your GI score

Carbs do supply readily available energy for performance but it’s important that the carbs we eat are healthy and we understand that not all carbs are equal. Carbohydrates are ranked using a scoring system called the glycemic index (GI). The GI score of a food is based on the rate at which it breaks down into sugar (glucose), how fast it is absorbed, and consequently how quickly is raises levels of blood glucose.

High GI Carbohydrates breakdown quickly during digestion, and release glucose into the blood very quickly.

Examples: processed ‘white’ foods, pure sugar, and energy gels.

✗Eating too many high GI foods can block the ability to burn fat.

✗High GI foods don’t fill you up and you’ll get hungry again quickly.

✓High GI food can provide fast-energy replenishment or be used during exercise – e.g. energy gels.

Low GI Carbohydrates breakdown slowly, releasing their glucose gradually into the blood stream.

Examples: Apples, pears, plums, oranges, grapefruits, raspberries, blueberries, kiwis, fresh figs; brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, barley, a few wholegrain breads such as dark whole rye bread, soy/linseed bread, and vegetables.

✓Provide longer-lasting energy, and a more sustained feeling of fullness, therefore aid in fat loss.

✓Generally, these foods are higher in fibre and nutrients, too.

 

The ultimate solution and best diet for athletes, is one that is flexible and includes moderate amounts of healthy carbohydrates balanced with quality proteins and essential fats. During periods of intense training, and leading up to long endurance events, the athlete should increase the amount of carbs, based on their particular energy expenditure, and their response to carbohydrates. Trial and error is necessary to a degree, and eventually the individual finds the perfect amount for them to train, recover, and race successfully.

 

Following a nutrition plan

Following a nutrition plan

Your body needs the right fuel whether it’s going to function at a higher level for sport and fitness challenges or keep going on a weight loss regime. That means not only ensuring the appropriate levels of calories are going in, but achieving the right balance of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and proteins too. Jo Waters reports.

Get enough calories

Skipping meals, snacking on nutritionally empty foods and failing to optimally time eating can all affect your strength and performance.

If your goal is to get fit and lose weight you might be tempted to cut your calorie intake right back – but there are limits. Cutting your calorie intake too low and getting too thin isn’t good for your performance as your body will burn muscle tissues and slow down the rate it burns calories, so weight loss may slow down too. If you don’t eat enough can also get run down and more prone to infections and injuries which can take longer to heal.

How many calories do you need?

The normal recommended calorie intake for men is 2,500 calories a day and 2,000 a day for women as a base line for maintaining weight. Obviously, this will vary according to your age and height/weight and the levels of energy you’re burning. If you are doing a lot of exercise though your calorie needs will be greater than this. For example, a 60-minute run will burn around 600 calories – so you’ll need some extra fuel.

If you’re looking to lose weight at the rate of 1lb a week you need to cut around 500 calories a day or 3,500 calories a week so factor this into the equation when you are calculating how many extra calories you need. Dieters may get frustrated at a slow rate of weight loss but it’s important to make slow changes that will be easier to stick to in the long term – it takes about 12 weeks for new habits to form.

The importance of just sticking at it!

Eat a full range of food groups including: fruit and vegetables; lean meat, fish/ poultry; dairy products; nuts and seeds; carbohydrates such as wholegrains, potatoes pasta and rice.

Don’t get too hung up on the type of food you choose, i.e. the balance of macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats). In 2013 The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), revealed that, “numerous trials comparing diets differing in macronutrient composition has demonstrated… very small and inconsistent differences in weight loss and metabolic risk factors.”

And furthermore, the real difference, the key to success for most diets is simple. It comes from sticking at it. Again in JAMA, four meta-analyses summarising between 14 and 24 major trials (in another words a broad sweep of studies) found that “adherence is the only consistent factor with weight loss and disease related outcomes.”

Avoid the Fads

Furthermore, faddy diets where one food group is prohibited such as a high fat diet or low carb regime may get quick results in the short term but you can run the risk of developing underlying health problems including vitamin deficiencies, constipation or gall stones.

Get the balance right

  • Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are great fuel for running and other forms of exercise. Eating a small bowl of porridge or a banana 30 minutes before a run will give you sustained energy release. If you’re doing a longer run you may need to take a healthy snack with you and/or a sports drink.
  • Protein: Protein is found in fish, meat, eggs and beans and is need by the body to replace muscle tissue. Runners should eat lean red meat or another food rich in iron to help prevent iron-deficiency anaemia.
  • Fruit and vegetables: The Department of Health recommends a minimum of five portions a day intake (although many experts now recommend 10). They’re packed full of vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy immune system, fill you up with fibre and are low in calories.
  • Dairy products: Milk, cheese and yogurts are a rich source of calcium needed for strong bones. Choose skimmed milk and low fat cheeses, including cottage cheese as lower fat alternatives to butter and hard cheese.

 

 

7 ways to eat yourself young

7 ways to eat yourself young

Expert sports nutritionist Lucy Ann Prideaux has the low down on anti-ageing eating.

  1. Keep it simple Caring for the body comes down to three things – breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you think I’m being rather simplistic here, you’re right, I am. Eating a good diet is simple. In fact, it is the easiest and simplest thing in the world. You can either eat and drink your way to disease, or eat your way to health and wellness. It is your choice. Prepare simple meals using plenty of fresh, colourful, natural foods, and you can’t go far wrong.
  2.  Drink green tea Green tea is full of health-producing, disease-reducing and anti-ageing antioxidants. A cup of green tea provides plenty of natural plant chemicals called polyphenols. Their high anti-oxidant activity protects the body from damaging free radicals (rogue molecules), which can accelerate the ageing process, both inside the body and outside. A daily cup or two of green tea is a great way to get a good dose of helpful antioxidants.
  3.  Eat berries Berries are also full of anti-ageing antioxidants, and disease-fighting vitamin C. They will help provide your body with a powerful arsenal against ageing by flooding your system with vital nutrients. 
  4. Eat like a bird Nuts and seeds are some of the richest sources of many essential fats from the omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 family of fatty acids. Essential fats are pivotal to the health of the brain, body, hair and skin. The oils from almonds, walnuts and flaxseeds for example can help to alleviate dry skin, reduce inflammation in the body, help control cholesterol levels, and regenerate cells. Nuts and seeds also contain important protein for cellular regeneration, and fibre for colon health.
  5. Opt for healthy fats Healthy superfood fat comes from food such as avocado and olives. Rich in healthy oil for glowing skin, fibre and plant sterols to help control cholesterol, avocado also boasts alkalising minerals such as potassium, and the anti-ageing and protective nutrient vitamin A. Olives and olive oil are particular signatures of the Mediterranean diet, renowned for it’s ability to prevent heart disease and cancer, and promote life longevity.
  6. Eat an apple a day (it keeps the doctor away) One of the most accessible and healthy fruits happens to be the apple. Apples have excellent free-radical scavenging properties, helping to keep you from going ‘rusty’ on the inside. Apple pectin is the main fibre present in this wonder food, perfect for sound intestinal health.
  7. Choose the right colours Green, red, pink and orange are all good natural food choices. Spinach, kale, watercress, broccoli, tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon contain lutein and lycopene, powerful antioxidants that will help keep your eyes looking clear and youthful and help protect against a common eye disease called age-related macular degeneration. Pumpkin and other squash such as butternut, onion or acorn and sweet potato are loaded with minerals and phytonutrients such as beta-carotene, as well as vitamin C that nourish the skin, and keep the insides glowing, too.

 

#MyMarathonMeal by Martin Yelling

#MyMarathonMeal by Martin Yelling

Top endurance sports coach and former international runner, Martin Yelling shares his choice of pre marathon meal:

“Rice (white or brown), a light sauce, stir fried green beans, broccoli and chicken. A little vanilla ice cream (simple!) and perhaps half glass of red wine.

“Relaxing, easy no fuss food that I’m used to. Carbohydrates, proteins and a waft of something sweet.”

You can meet Martin at the Virgin London Marathon Expo: https://www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/en-gb/training/training-seminars/

Marathon – Tapering & Race Fuel

Marathon – Tapering & Race Fuel

As we approach the tail end of your preparation for the marathon, and are gearing up for the big day, here are a few nutritional tips that will give you the confidence to complete the race with a smile on your face.


Eat more carbs – but not more calories

The goal for carbohydrates should be to maintain a daily intake of 3-5 grams per pound of body weight (6-10 g/kg).

So if you weigh 9 stone, that’s up to 630g, which is up to 2500 calories.

You’ll also need protein and fresh/fruit and veg, and you’ll be doing less miles, so don’t be surprised if you put on a few pounds over the next few weeks. Don’t worry – you will burn it off!


Snack well

Fill your fridge with healthy snacks, so when you do get a pang of hunger you can fill up guilt-free and get the reward of taking in your five to 10 a day. Try carrots, celery and humus or tomato salsa dip, fresh fruit slices and cubes of feta cheese (eaten with oat cakes or rice cakes).

GROUPSHOT-CliffBar_12X68g-400

For on the go nutrition keep topped up with tasty Clif Bars, made with wholesome ingredients that deliver on energy – and taste.


Stay hydrated

As well as drinking lots of water, throughout the day, an antioxidant-rich smoothie or juice (made with dark berries and vitamin rich fruit) is the multi-tasker’s way to fill up.

Coconut water is a great alternative fruit blast, and Chi 100% Pure Coconut Water is packed with electrolytes, is fat free and has the lowest natural sugar and calories of all brands. (It does help that a portion of all proceeds go to the One Seed One Life Charity, supplying orphanages across Thailand with basic supplies.)


Beetroot for endurance

Add beetroot to salad, smoothies, or check out a pre-made beetroot juice. If you cannot stomach the taste, a supplement can be a replacement, such as BioCare’s Beetroot Extract.

Beetroot has been extensively shown to help boost endurance because it boosts nitrate levels in the blood, which can lower blood pressure and reduce oxygen consumption during moderate running.


Race day nutrition 

You need to try anything you take during the race  before you race!

Before you get to the start line, consume a 500ml carb drink with electrolytes, and on the run, you’ll need gels/blocks and drinks.  You’ll need between 100 and 150 calories of carbs every hour of the marathon (but check the pack as it will vary according to your weight and the conditions).

Clif Bar Block Shots are easy to digest, but you will need to consume quite a number to keep topped up (around three and hour). Gels, such as High 5 Energy Gel can be thick and gooey, or a lighter consistency. If you opt for a thicker, gooey gel, take it near an aid station so you can wash down with water.

GROUPSHOT-High5_BoxedGelsAndPowder-400

After the race you might feel a little sick from all those gels, but do try to get a protein: carb mix on board, for example, a 50g sachet of SIS Rego Rapid Recovery or opt for a tasty carbohydrate bar, such as Reload Flapjack Fused Fruit from Grenade.


For more information about eating on race day, check out our piece, 7 Nutrition tweaks for active people.