For my last blog post of 2018 – or the first of 2019, depending on when you are reading this – I thought I would draw up a short list of suggested New Year’s Resolutions for endurance sports participants to help you improve your diet and nutritional practices in 2019, with a subsequent benefit to performance. I’ve kept the list deliberately short and hopefully manageable:
- I will eat enough food to fuel my training and support my recovery
You need to supply your body with enough energy to train as well as carry out all the normal functions of living. Being energy deficient is likely to have adverse consequences for your health. Aim to eat more on your heavy training days, choosing good quality foods (see below), particularly carbohydrates. Your muscles also need food to help them recover. Replenish your glycogen stores within 60 minutes with a carbohydrate food or drink, eg fruit juice, fruit smoothie, chocolate milk, sandwich, porridge, and make sure that you have several sources of protein during the 24 hours after training, eg pot of Greek yogurt, chicken breast, protein drink, two eggs, handful of nuts.
- I will plan my pre and post-training meals and snacks in advance
Think ahead and make sure you have some carbs available to have in the hour or two before training, eg oats, bread, fresh or dried fruit, and then some carbs and protein for your snack or meal after training, eg Greek yogurt and fruit, chicken and rice, oatcakes and almond butter, recovery drink with both carbs and protein eg chocolate milk.
- I will eat high quality foods at least 80% of the time
By high quality foods, I mean vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, eggs, wholegrains, dairy products, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils. Not too many foods from a packet or ready-made meals. Try to use these foods for most of your pre- and post-training meals and snacks, too, rather than using energy bars and protein drinks, although sometimes these will clearly be more convenient and are better than not eating at all.
- I will increase and decrease my carbohydrate intake in line with my training
This means eating more carbs on days that you train heavily and fewer on light training or recovery days. By carbs, I mean wholegrains, starchy vegetables like potatoes or butternut squash, fruit and any sources of sugar, eg fruit-flavoured yogurt, honey, chocolate. You can eat as many vegetables as you like (aim for 4-5 portions a day, cooked or raw, to optimise your health). By decreasing carbs, I mean eat smaller portion sizes of or less frequently, rather than excluding them altogether.
- I will practice my race day nutrition strategies in training
Don’t risk your race day this year by trying a gel, drink, bar or other food for the first time. Experiment in training, especially on long runs or rides. Don’t forget to work out the best race day breakfast and when to eat it. Everyone is an individual; what works brilliantly for your friend isn’t necessarily going to work for you, and it’s best to find that out as early as possible.
Good luck in all your races this year!
Jo Scott-Dalgleish BSc (Hons) is a BANT Registered Nutritionist, writing and giving talks about nutrition for endurance sport. Based in London, she also works as a Registered Nutritional Therapist, conducting consultations with triathletes, distance runners and cyclists to help them eat well, be healthy and perform better through the creation of an individual nutritional plan. To learn more about these consultations, please visit www.nutritionforendurancesports.co.uk