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.

 

5 Ways to kick start motivation

5 Ways to kick start motivation

You’ve committed to getting fitter and healthier, and you are full of enthusiasm at the moment, but you have a track record of dropping out and are worried it will happen again – here’s how you can stay on track.

  1. Set yourself a goal: Setting a goal gives you an end to your plan of action. A well-known longitudinal study of Harvard graduates found that those who had clearly defined, written, goals were the ones who went on to achieve the greatest success.
  2. Find something you enjoy: Eating plans and exercise can seem like a chore. But finding something you love to do is simple, running or dog walking, tennis or even gardening are all great ways to exercise. Cooking is fun and experimenting with healthy nutrients and ingredients can be as enjoyable as the eating!
  3. Make healthy your default setting: New research has found the most consistent exercisers are those who made it into a specific type of habit – such as jumping out of bed automatically when they hear their alarm and heading for the gym. The aim is to make being healthy your default setting so you don’t have to think about it. Plan andyou’re your workouts, record what you eat, and the nutrients you take in. Be as methodical and practical as you would work meetings or social events – that way they’ll actually happen.
  4. Tell people what you’re doing: Good friends will want to encourage you on your getting healthier plans (and some may even join you – so even better). If you’ve made a public commitment, you’ll have more motivation to carry on and earn their praise. Setting up a Just Giving sponsorship page for a charity event can be a great motivator too, once people have donated money for your chosen charity you’ll have the added incentive of not wanting to let them down.
  5. Track your progress: Whether it’s a wearable, a phone app, or simply a pen and paper, tracking your health and fitness progress and using data, stats and graphs will get you to your goal. faster

Staying motivated

  • Dangle the carrot: If you respond to bribery, promise yourself rewards for your exertions. If you meet a friend for a Saturday morning class – why not have a coffee and catch-up/beer and watch the match afterwards?
  • Download some music for workouts: We all have our favourite songs that make us run that bit faster or dig in the cross trainer with more oomph. Load them onto your i-Pod and enjoy.
  • Work with your body clock: Are you an owl or a lark? Is it realistic for you to get up an hour earlier and run before work to or will you find it easier to pop to the gym after work? If neither are realistic (particularly tough for working parents), think about how you can fit more exercise into your daily routine – brisk walks at lunchtime, walking all or part of the way to or from work and then maybe some classes and a long run at the weekend may be the best solution.
  • Eat to suit your day: Don’t believe you have to rigidly stick to one particular time of day to eat. Research has found if you are under-eating or over-eating for your needs, your performance and recovery and management of your weight will all be affected. What matters is the nutrients you get in over your day, so manage eating plans to suit your lifestyle.
  • Talk to an expert: An assessment of your fitness and nutrition goals are worth the investment. An expert can give you a fresh perspective and advise you on how train, and what to eat.

Why you need to stay hydrated

Why you need to stay hydrated

If you’re a runner or gym bunny it’s probably already on your radar that you need to keep your fluid levels topped up before, during and after exercise, but even the most sedentary of office workers need to take care to keep hydrated, too.

Dehydration is a growing problem

Surprisingly, despite our cool and wet climate, dehydration is a growing problem in the UK; a survey by the National Hydration Council revealed dehydration was the cause of tiredness and fatigue in one in 10 GP consultations for the complaint. And hospital admissions for dehydration rose by 57 per cent between 2003 and 2013/14.

Dehydration and exercise

Research has found it’s not uncommon for athletes to lose six to 10 per cent of their body weight due to water loss during strenuous events. But even being as little as two per cent dehydrated can affect performance. Visit the Amplify Shop for a great range of hydration products you can take on board whilst training.

Athletes are especially vulnerable to dehydration at the beginning of a new season when they are not acclimatised to changing weather conditions or sudden increases in activity levels.

How much do you need to drink?

Drinking enough fluids is something most of us don’t think about enough especially when we’re busy. We rely on our thirst sensation to prompt us to top-up but experts warn this is unreliable because by the time we feel thirsty we’re already dehydrated.

Official guidelines from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends an intake of 2.5 litres of water (fluid) for men and 2.0 litres of fluid for women per day, via food and drink. EFSA says of this 2.5 or 2 litres a day, 70 to 80 per cent should come from drinks, and the rest from food.

Obviously, there are lots of variables – if you exercise, you’re advised to drink extra fluids, for example, a large glass of water (200ml) for every 45 minutes of exercise as a rough guide. You may need to drink more if you’re working out in hot weather though and the extra intake you may need will depend on your body size and how intensely you exercise.

If you’re pregnant you need to drink an extra 0.3 litres of water a day and 0.7 litres more a day is you are breastfeeding – on top of the normal 2 litres a day recommended.

Does it matter what you drink? 

The short answer is not really… Water is the healthiest option as it is calorie and fat-free, but tea and coffee are okay as well but bear in mind they can have a mild diuretic effect and make you pass more urine if you drink a lot of them. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect too, so it you are on a boozy night out, try to drink water between refills.

How do you know you are dehydrated?

Water makes up for 75 per cent of our body weight and performs several vital functions in the body including carrying nutrients and waste products, controlling body temperature, lubricating moving parts and acting as a shock absorber for joints. It also makes up 73 per cent of the brain.

This is why the symptoms of being dehydrated are quite literally felt throughout the body and include headaches, concentration problems, tiredness , dry eyes, constipation, greater susceptibility to urinary tract infections such as cystitis and kidney stones, as well as migraines.

Severe symptoms

More severe symptoms include a rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, not passing urine for eight hours, feeling tired or confused, a weak pulse , sunken eyes, semi-consciousness, dry skin which sags slowly back into position when pinched, cold hands and feet and seizures. These symptoms need urgent medical attention, usually rehydration on an IV drip in hospital.

 

#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/