Understanding how to fuel your body to become a better athlete.
If there is one thing I wish I had learnt more about as a young athlete, it would have been the importance around feeling your body. I say this, and then I stop and think to myself, that perhaps based on my personality type, it would have been more detrimental to my food anxiety. In any case, understanding that what goes in your body, assists in what you get out of your body.
As athletes we focus so much on the “little things” that I never really realised that I wasn’t focusing on one of the most important things. Fuel. I always thought that I ate quite well, I had “healthy eating habits” and that yes, I was doing the little things right. Where I came unstuck is when I went to the local health food store and was trying to find a protein powder that suited my cycling needs after a gym work out.
This was a stage when I assumed carbs were the devil, in fact a myth… who knew? So I asked the guy behind the counter for a recommendation… one that of course would be ASADA and WADA approved. The guy asked what it was for, and what I did for exercise. I started to explain I was a professional cyclist and I had started a gym block, and everyone I knew took protein after gym for muscle recovery. So now we started getting in to ratios of carbs to protein, diet, supplements and he honestly lost me. He casually asked how many grams of carbs and protein I was getting in the day, I just looked at him blank faced…. “ummm. Well. Ok, I have no idea to be very honest”. He sorta laughed and said, “you professional athletes get it so wrong sometimes. You spend all this time, money, energy and focus and finely tuning your body, and then don’t even consider how you are actually fuelling it”. At first I was taken a back and offended. Then I thought to myself, he is right actually, what the hell am I doing?
I have been through so many yo yo diets of quitting sugar, low car, high protein, paleo, veggie… for a second, no carbs, that I had never really stopped and thought “maybe I should seek professional advice”. Every now and then I would do some search on the internet, a bit of reading here or there, talk to teammates or friends, and pick up bits and pieces.
For the most part, I just winged it, and ate what I wanted, when I wanted, and tried hard to not over eat at races because of “race anxiousness’” A new term I have coined, which means food anxiety. To be fair, I had seemed out advice here or there, and the best advice /i got was from a good friend back home, “the Foodie Chain cyclist” aka Brittany Lindores. Brit put together a simple food plan with lots of options for me, calculating roughly calories in and calories out on heavy, and light training days. It got to the point where I just knew what I could eat, when, and also, when I could allow myself to have treats.
This is when I had just gone through a massive bout of depression and anxiety, and needed some structure and control in my life again.
Having the food plan really did help, and I trusted Brit, so it made me trust the plan, plus I loved the suggestions she put on the food plan. I gained control back again, and was able to get down to a nice healthy race weight again, which made me happy, and ride fast.
If only I had stayed on the food plan, perhaps my food issues would not have arisen again mid way through 2016. Again, it was a control thing, and a coping mechanism for me. For most every day people trying to lose weight, or just find a balanced diet to make you feel better and ride better, the control side of things around food will not be an issue. My advice to you is if you are investing money in a trainer, buying all the right gear, and setting aside a lot of time for your sport, you owe yourself to speak with someone in a nutritional background. And start to learn how to fuel your body properly before, during and after training. Below is an example of how I would fuel my body on a reasonably heavy training day.
TRAINING – 4 hrs of training with 5min strength efforts (5min x 5min at T4)
Pre ride: Advice from Brittany Lindores, the “Foodie Chain” – Ebook online.
1 cup uncooked Porridge made with water or milk Toppings (up to 2):
– 2 tsp honey or maple syrup
– cinnamon – 1⁄2 banana
– 1 tbsp peanut butter
* Eat 4 servings throughout ride. (See tips sheet for serving sizes) – Homemade pancakes, banana bread, muesli bars or protein balls. Electrolytes in your drink bottle are essential, particularly in hot weather. Don’t opt for the sugary products (like gatorade/powerade), go for products like OSMO.
* Make sure you eat on your ride so you aren’t ravenous when you get home
Protein shake – The hulk shake
– Protein powder of your choice, spinach, frozen banana, berries, almond milk, cinnamon. Blend, pour, enjoy!
Once you have showered and stretched, relaxed a bit, then you can settle down for a proper post ride meal of
– 2x Eggs (your way), avocado & 2 pieces of toast (opt for a grainy bread). Feel free to add any vegetables on the side. E.g. roasted mushrooms, tomatoes, sautéed spinach.
I’ll be bringing you more foodie tips over the coming months. Stay tuned!
Also read: “Oat to the meal, water to heal.”