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
The optimal time to eat and drink prior to, during and after exercise is an issue that all endurance athletes must contend with if they want to maximise benefits from training or perform at their best in races. It’s also been the subject of many research studies over the last 20 years or so, which has sometimes led to conflicting conclusions. So, it is good to see the well-respected International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) produce an updated position stand on Nutrient Timing recently (2017) 1, which makes practical recommendations for athletes about when to consume carbohydrate 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
I’m very pleased to welcome a guest contributor to my blog this month, Dr Nicky Keay, who is a medical doctor specialising in sports endocrinology. Dr Keay has published many papers relating to sports endocrinology (the impact of hormones on performance) and is a regular contributor to the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) and the British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine (BASEM). She will be organising and chairing the annual BASEM spring conference.
At the end of Dr Keay’s article, I have added some practical nutritional tips to help athletes avoid or recover from RED-S. Continue reading
How many days training did you lose last winter from colds, coughs, flu or generally feeling under the weather? If it was more than one or two, read on for some recommendations on how to support your immune system through boosting your nutrient intake. Continue reading
Four years ago I wrote a blog post on the potential benefits for endurance athletes of maintaining optimal vitamin D, as shown by the research up to that point. You can read my 2012 post here. This area has continued to be of interest to sports scientists, which has led to further relevant studies, and vitamin D is now seen as a micronutrient of key interest when assessing the nutritional needs of athletes. For example, it is one of only four micronutrients given this status, alongside iron, calcium and certain anti-oxidants, in the recently published position stand on Nutrition and Athletic Performance from the American College of Sports Medicine. 1 So I consider it is time for an update and have taken a look at the more recent research to see what it holds for the endurance athlete. 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.
I hear your comment as you read the title of this blog post: Eat seven different vegetables and fruit a day? Surely we should be aiming for five a day? But what you may not realise is that the original ‘5 a Day’ message that was introduced into the UK and elsewhere about 20 years ago as a public health target is just a marketing term. It isn’t actually based on any research that suggests that getting your five a day is some kind of ‘magic bullet’ which reduces risk of ill health and disease. The sad fact is that the majority of the population are still falling well short of consuming 5 portions of vegetables and fruit on a daily basis. Just getting them to ‘5 A Day’ would be an achievement.
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