Posts Tagged ‘athlete’

Athletic Nutrition

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Here are some notes from the lecture I gave this morning to Moms in Motion athletes preparing for the Carpinteria Triathalon.  Let me know if you try out these tips and how they work for you!  Best wishes, David

When it comes to athletic performance, there are many general rules and guidelines when it comes to what to eat, quantity and when to eat it. You will find that there are a whole range of practices. Some work for certain individuals and others do not. In sum, it’s a highly individual experience. The key is to play with all the variables. The ultimate test is how you feel. Give yourself enough time to figure out what works for you before race day and when you do, stick with it.

3 Phases of Athletic Nutrition:

Pre Event

Load up on the carbs the day before. This will increase your stores of glycogen in your muscles and liver (which is the fuel that runs your body). Instead of the usual white pasta and bagels, try and stick with whole foods/whole grains. Consider a bowl of steamed Quinoa (full of protein also) or if you don’t like to vary from your bowl of oatmeal, you might want to switch to the Irish steel cut oats. They contain much more fiber and beneficial nutrients than the plain rolled oats do not have. Also be sure that you are really hydrating your body a few days before the race. Shoot for at least the 8 glass rule and I’m sorry, coffee and sodas don’t count.

The morning of the race get up early enough to have a good breakfast and allow it to digest fully. Ideally, for a solid meal, try and leave 2 hours before the race. A liquid meal will require less time. The last thing you want to deal with is a bunch of food churning around in your stomach distracting you while you are trying to focus on your event. I think that the more you can move toward liquid meals the better and the closer you get to the event, the smaller the meal should be. Smoothies fit the bill nicely and you can include protein, carbs and fat. Err on the side of carbs with a little protein to balance it out. One of the better forms of protein to use is whey. It’s easily digestible and has a lot of benefit for the immune system as well. Try and get a raw form if you can. Standard Process (only available through practitioners) makes an excellent whey called Whey Pro. If you want to add some fat, try raw coconut oil. You’ll have to chip it out of the container as it’s solid at room temperature, but it’s an excellent form of fat as it doesn’t require a lot of processing by your body to make it available for energy. It’s also very beneficial for the immune system.

The Event

If your race is an hour or less, you can probably do without hydrating during the event. For more than an hour, many suggest consuming some calories every 45 minutes or so. You want to avoid emptying your glycogen stores, also known as “bonking.” Usually a carbohydrate rich snack will do it. The gels and goos are popular now and it’s probably not too terrible if they are used only once in a while. However, if they are a regular part of your training routine, you might want to try making your own healthier version. I have had clients take a small bag of dates with them which seems to work well, but if you are into the gel idea try making your own. Try blending 2-3 dates (I like medjool because they are so meaty) with a little orange/lemon/lime juice,  a bit of agave, vanilla to taste and some Celtic or Himalayan sea salt. Play with the consistency and then add it to a gel flask. You can also try adding a bit of the coconut oil I mentioned before because of it’s quickly available energy.

Other things that you can play with to see if they help your endurance:

Chia Seeds: Apparently the Mayan translation of Chia is “Strength.” The Tarahumara Indians of Mexico who are known for their 50-100 mile runs are regular consumers of Chia seeds.   They are packed with minerals and essential fatty acids. A drink or gel can be made using Chia, lemon/lime juice, agave and water. They form their own gel as they are very hydrophillic meaning that they readily absorb water.  Some sports medicine specialists advise consuming fluids with low osmolality (a measure of the amount of dissolved solids in the fluid) because it’s easier to absorb the fluid once in the stomach. Again, you can try it during a workout or make a drink of it to be consumed before the workout.

Wheat germ oil is another product worth trying. The oil is rich in a compound called octosonol which can help with muscle strength and endurance as well as lead to faster and stronger muscle contractions.  I know some cyclists who will pop a few gel caps of wheat germ oil during rides when they begin to feel the muscular fatigue and they claim it really helps.

I am not a big fan of sports drink as I prefer to make my own, but one thing that I add to my water bottle is a squirt of pre-ionized trace minerals. The pre-ionization removes an extra biochemical step from your body’s “to-do” list, making them really easy to absorb and giving you a slight nutritional edge. I use a brand called “Spectra Min” which are made by the Energetix company (available through my office).


Once you have finished the event, it’s time to recover and rebuild your body. There is considerable breakdown and stress that your body undergoes during endurance events as well as during training. The faster your body is able to repair itself, the quicker you will improve.  So the key is providing plenty of nutrient rich raw materials for the rebuilding process as soon as possible. One of the first things to concentrate on is providing quick protein. Most serious athletes suggest that a good protein supplement be consumed within 20 minutes of finishing a workout/training session in order to maximize the repair process.  I default to the protein smoothie with fruit, whey protein and some coconut or flax oil added to round it out.  With all the added respiration that occurs during exercise, a lot of oxidation occurs in the body.  Eating anti-oxidant rich foods such as berries, citrus, broccoli, tomatoes and garlic is very important. Organic foods tend to have higher nutrient content than commercial produce so if you are taking the time to prepare good food you might want to think about going organic. Lastly, don’t forget to adequately rehydrate your body. As a general rule, drink (better in small sips) at least 2-3 cups of water for every pound of weight that is lost during an event.

To your great health and success!