Sports Nutrition: Food for Playing and Non-Playing Days.

There’s a lot of focus on supplements and protein when it comes to sports performance but diet and the right nutrition are essential. This is not just limited to playing days, it is just as important to eat well on non-playing days so for a great start, always ensure an adequate balanced breakfast such as:

·         Eggs: omelettes, frittata, scrambled etc are a perfect protein source and a great vehicle for adding a huge variety of vegetables.

·         Granola with yoghurt. Homemade granola ensure less sugar and combined with the protein from the yoghurt, makes a well balanced breakfast.

·         Protein smoothie- 1 portion protein powder, handful blueberries, half an apple, tblspn coconut oil, water, blitz and serve. In addition to these core ingredients, can add things which such as celery, cacao powder, maca powder, cinnamon, cucumber… can have half avocado instead of coconut oil.

·         Banana protein pancakes (2 bananas, 2 eggs, half cup protein powder, whizzed and fried) or (body coach recipe of 1 banana, roughly chopped 1 scoop vanilla protein powder 1 egg 25g rolled oats)

Macronutrients

It is very important to ensure adequate intake of all macro nutrients, these being fat, carbohydrates and protein.

Carbohydrates:

Focus on low GI high fibre carbs so rye and ryevita dark rye are best. High fibre can cause problems for some so best to eat with something like apples which keeps everything moving.

Fats:

Dietary fats are essential but only in the right form. Trans fats found in margarine, cakes and biscuits are detrimental to sports performance and sportsmen/women should focus on Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and saturated fats . MUFA in the diet are found in chia, flax and hemp seeds which can all be added to smoothies, granolas and eaten as a snack. MUFA are also present in coconut oil which can be used to cook with and avocado which can be had as a side with lunch and dinner. Another way to ensure you’re getting enough dietary fat is to take an omega 3 supplement.

Protein:

Protein sources should be lean and grass fed where possible to minimise the intake of dietary toxins. Sports players should aim for between 1-2g of protein per kilogram of body weight and may come from the following sources:

·         Eggs can be batch cooked for snacks or as an addition to meals throughout the day.

·         Chicken

·         Lamb

·         Beef

·         Turkey

·         Fish (SMASH- Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines, Herring are all oily fish and the highest for omega 3)

·         Plant based options such as lentils, chickpeas and legumes or tempeh which is a form of tofu.

When in need of a healthy snack or a sweet treat, always try and balance out the sugar with adequate protein or fibre or use spices such as cinnamon to slow down the blood sugar rise. This gives a slow energy release so even though it’s a treat, it won’t spike your blood sugar and therefore won’t cause weight gain.

·         Fruit and nut bites: 100g dried fruit blended with 200g nuts, a spoonful of cinnamon and some milk. Formed into cookie like bites and baked until golden brown.

·         Apple and peanut butter,

·         Cottage cheese with rye crackers and pumpkin seeds,

·         Full fat yoghurt with berries,

·         Boiled eggs with veg and olive oil,

·         Cacao instead of chocolate, add to bananas, little almond milk, blend and freeze for cacao banana nice cream.

·         Flapjacks made with banana instead of syrup or sugar.

·         Slow release energy so even though a treat, it wont spike your blood sugar and therefore wont cause weight gain.

Pre training meals:

If eating 2-4 hours before, best option is low GI carbs in the ratio of 1.5 carbs to 1 protein:

·         Sweet potato porridge with cinnamon and almond milk

·         Quinoa porridge with cinnamon and grated apple

·         Brown rice, chickpeas and vegetables.

If eating straight before training, best option is to have dried fruit and rice cakes or nothing at all.

Fats:

Mono unsaturated fatty acids and saturated fats are better for testosterone production rather than polyunsaturated fats which are found in processed foods like margarine, cakes and cookies, as this type of fat suppresses testosterone production. Testosterone is essential for sports performance as it increases competitiveness and allows participants to perform better.

Micro Nutrients

Ensuring adequate minerals and vitamins is essential for energy production in the body. This can be achieved from a good multi vitamin and mineral supplement or the following foods which provide the following essential nutrients:

·         Magnesium- pumpkin seeds, leafy greens, sesame seeds, quinoa

·         B vitamins- spinach, yoghurt, eggs, tuna, chicken, turkey

·         Coq10- organ meats, sardines, mackerel

·         Iron- lentils, spinach, red meats

·         Omega 3- oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, herrings, anchovies

·         Carnitine- red meat

·         Lipoic acid- broccoli, spinach, brewers yeast.

Excessive training releases cortisol and reduces the immune system so minerals like zinc are essential. This is found in

·         Beef

·         Lamb

·         Sesame and pumpkin seeds

Exercise also causes oxidative stress in the body which produces free radicals, for this reason it’s essential to eat at least 6 portions of fruit and vegetables a day in a variety of colours to get an abundance of antioxidants.

Supplements should be considered as part of a wider nutritional protocol but essential fatty acids and branch chain amino acids are essential. For more information, get in touch for your own personalised nutritional protocol.