An athlete who performs at their best is also a healthy athlete. Fundamental to good health is meeting your vitamin and mineral requirements. A healthy diet for an endurance athlete isn’t just about making sure you are eating enough calories to meet the energy requirements of your training and everyday life, and within that a suitable balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein. Continue reading
Vegan diets have become noticeably more popular in recent years. Many people will choose to exclude all animal products from their diet for ethical reasons. Others may see it as a healthier way of eating. Or it may well be a combination of the two. I’ve certainly observed an increase in the number of endurance athletes who are turning to veganism. That’s great if it’s the right decision for you, and it is certainly possible to be both vegan and a high performer, but you do need to be aware of several potential risks to both your health and your performance if you follow a vegan diet which isn’t well balanced and doesn’t take account of potential nutrient deficiencies. Continue reading
Now that we are heading into the winter months, it’s common for endurance athletes to find their training compromised by Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (URTIs), otherwise known as colds and flu. Hard exercise is known to suppress the immune system, which can leave you open to picking up whatever bugs are going around, especially if you commute on public transport or work in a closely-packed office environment. So it’s worth taking extra steps to boost your immunity, and your diet has a role to play here as many compounds found in food contribute to a healthy immune function.
Taking anti-oxidant supplements, such as 1000mg of vitamin C or 500IU of vitamin E, on a daily basis is common practice for many endurance athletes. Consuming functional foods containing high levels of polyphenols with anti-oxidant properties, such as cherry juice, green tea or pomegranate has also become popular in recent years. This practice is understandable, as it is well known that training promotes free radical activity in muscles, leading to oxidative stress which contributes to both muscular fatigue and muscle damage. Logically, supplementing the diet with additional anti-oxidant nutrients should help to reduce that fatigue and damage by ‘quenching’ the free radicals generated. Continue reading
Vitamin D is a unique nutrient in that it is made in the body through the action of ultraviolet light, eg sunshine, on skin. It is also found in small amounts in a limited number of foods including oily fish, eggs, butter and mushrooms. In the last 10 years or so, a great deal of research has taken place into the physiological functions of vitamin D, and the evidence is mounting that vitamin D plays a far wider role than simply contributing to bone health through the part it plays in calcium absorption. Vitamin D insufficiency has been implicated in, to give just some examples, muscle weakness, upper respiratory tract infections, various auto-immune conditions including psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis, cognitive decline, mood disorders, cardiovascular disease and even cancer.
But what are the implications of vitamin D insufficiency for those participating in endurance sports? Could it affect performance? And are runners, cyclist and triathletes, who tend to spend much of their time training outside, even at risk of having inadequate vitamin D? I’ve taken a look at the research. Continue reading