Food goals The fitness industry is forever advertising the latest drink, gel or bar but what are you eating when you are not on the bike, in the pool, out running on the roads, on the track, in the hills, in the gym or honing your craft wherever that may be? I’ve seen a lot of endurance athletes who are training heavily for events at present who haven’t built muscle or got leaner despite all the extra training and are hungry all the time. It is likely that your diet isn’t high-quality enough if you fit in this category and you aren’t burning fuel efficiently. If you have picked up injuries or aren’t seeing your body composition changes that you would like these are good visual signs that this is the problem. A way to fix it is to eat way more fruit, vegetables, lean protein and complex carbohydrates, kill junk food intake completely and I include gels and energy bars in that (I don’t take them at all – you can’t control your body if you’re consuming these products in my view) and limit your alcohol and caffeine intake to a minimum or kill it completely if you can. Big breakfast I touched on breakfast yesterday in a post and some of you put up some brilliant photos of your breakfast eating regimes. Some of you were probably sat there thinking, “my breakfast doesn’t look anything like that!”” If you think you’re tired because you’re training so much you really need to think again. Many endurance athletes that I have met will be brilliant at fueling their workouts properly while they’re training but then ruin it by finishing the day with a caloric deficit. Talking to them it seems there is a real fear of gaining weight but all they are producing for themselves is an under-fed athlete. Having worked in elite environments myself and done some pretty extensive research on my own body I can categorically say performance starts with your fueling, not your training. Get your fueling wrong and you have nothing to work with. I would be happy to help you understand how you work out your levels if you want to go down that road but in the meantime, make sure you get started with a high quality breakfast. Your first meal of the day should make up a third to a half of your daily calories. Yes that's right I did say that. If your workouts are poor, you end up with “junk miles” as I call them, plus you get hungry during the day or in the evening. These are signs you have a problem. If you have this sorted you will recover quicker after training, you won’t be hungry in the evening and you will see consistent improvement in your training. Yes consistent improvement in your training. Still think you’re eating enough? Practice eating I got asked yesterday when an athlete should eat before a race. Whilst I have a rule of thumb it is something you need to practice, as everyone is different. Even if you’re putting quality foods into your body, if you put them in at the wrong time this can have a detrimental effect to your performance. My rule is that I have some sort of nutrition approximately one to three hours before a training session. When I’m doing sessions that are of shorter time frames or they are both short and high in intensity, say under a couple of hours, I have taught my body to rely on fat stores for energy, consuming fewer carbohydrates. Remember though that I am an adult and of a certain age and weight and male. The issue with the internet is that all of this gets forgotten. Plans need to be written for an individual, not lifted and applied as if they were your own if you want to see real results. The whole area of eating across different types of training schedules is a massive topic. Get in touch if you want to talk about you. What I will say though is what you eat after a workout when your muscles are primed to accept nutrients is so so important. The half hour to an hour immediately after long, high-intensity workouts are really important. I try to consume 1 gram of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight and 20 grams of protein after a workout. I don’t have any fat as I find it inhibits my carbohydrate absorption until a few hours later. If you’re feeling sluggish before and during workouts you’ve got this as an issue here. If you feel great whenever you exercise you’ve likely got this right. Monitor your macros It isn’t just about 5 or 7 a day. It’s about far more than fruit and vegetables. Macronutrients - carbohydrates, fats and proteins have important functions to perform in the body, and it’s crucial to give your body the right amount of each if you want to perform. The right percentages for you all will vary depending on what type of athlete you are. Many things need to be taken into consideration including your training hours. As a rule of thumb though, I go with 45-65 percent of daily calories from carbohydrate, 15-20 percent from protein and 20-35 percent from fat. If you feel tired before and after as well as during sessions or you are falling asleep after training you have a problem with your mix of nutrients. If you always recover well or never seem to get injured or sick I would say you are on the money. Hydrate right I drink a lot of water but I don’t follow a proper guide and as everyone is different in size, activity levels, sweat rate, the weather comes into it and even in some cases altitude also it is difficult to get this kind of information for yourself from the net. Ultimately you want to achieve a balance of fluid and electrolyte. I will alternate between water and tailwind when I’m working in an effort to top up salts and minerals as I have quite a manual, labour intensive job. If you suffer from headaches or can’t concentrate at work you are likely dehydrated and if you urinate a lot during the day and it’s water coloured or you hardly urinate and it’s a dark colour you have an issue. If your urine is consistently straw coloured you’re doing just fine. Develop a healthy relationship with food Lots of athletes I work with are obsessive types and that includes me. I have certain rituals and routines on race day and log my workout hours and monitor my body like a science experiment. I’ve noticed with some athletes that when it comes to food, this relationship can and does get tricky. The body can be crying out for nutrients, but often athletes can be more prone to denying themselves what they really need. Eating should always be pleasurable. If it isn’t, that needs to be worked at. You have to learn to love food and not just see it as a necessary evil. If you’re eating without thought and see the process as painful and a chore, you have an issue. Learn to eat slowly and at a table without distractions and chat with family about your day. Stay away from pre-packaged foods and get involved in meal preparation. I always enjoy food more if I’ve been involved in the preparation. If you want ideas and/or help with your food goals to aid your activities get in touch. Look after your body.