Wondering how to maximise your training through nutrition? Co-owner of Health and Permance Collective, Dietitian Jessica Spendlove details the 4 things you should be focusing on to do just that.
When it comes to sports performance, it is not only about eating a healthy balanced diet. Of course, that is important, but it is equally if not more critical that you consider one main thing – what will optimise performance! This means recommendations and strategies focused on optimal fueling and recovery for training and competition requirements.
Depending on the sport of choice, requirements may be abnormal compared to general population guidelines simply due to the amount of training conducted and hence the energy expenditure. Understandably, the type, duration, intensity and frequency of training and competition are all factors when determining specific requirements.
Having good overall health and a robust immune system is essential, but eating for performance is about having many more tools in the toolbox than just meeting nutritional requirements set out by the standard guidelines.
Here are my four essential pillars when it comes to eating for sports performance.
1. Maximise Protein Intake– timing, distribution and type
Protein is the primary nutrient involved in muscle growth; however, it is not only about the amount, but it is also about the kind of protein you consume, when you eat it and the frequency. Research has shown we can maximally use around 20-40grams of protein at a time for muscle protein synthesis. Therefore, aiming to provide the body with 4-6 doses of good quality, high biological value protein across the day will switch on the muscle protein synthesis pathway more frequently, than just having 2-3 meals with large amounts of protein. What does this mean? Most people need to redistribute some of their protein at lunch and dinner for breakfast and snacks.
We also know that the ability to recover, gain lean muscle mass and strength is elevated for 24-48 hours after a training session, which is why it is essential for anyone training most days to keep a relatively constant protein intake as their body is always in a state of recovery.
2. Adjust Carbohydrate intake
Adjusting carbohydrate intake is also an essential strategy when looking to manipulate and optimise body composition. Unlike protein intake which should remain relatively consistent on all days as discussed above, carbohydrate intake should not. Different training sessions require varying amounts of carbohydrate and adjustments to intake both before training and also during training should be made to maximise performance during the session and adaptation post. Training sessions which work at higher intensities require more fuel than sessions which are at lower intensities. The table below displays some best practice guidelines around carbohydrate requirements during activity.
|TYPE||DURATION||WHAT IS REQUIRED||EXAMPLE|
|Brief exercise||Less than 45 minutes||Nothing required||F45, run, spin class|
|Sustained high-intensity exercise||45 – 75 minutes||Small amounts – mouth rinse of carbohydrate.||Extended high intensity class|
|During endurance sports Including team sports||1 hr to 2.5 hrs||30 – 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Can be all glucose or mix of glucose / fructose||Sport like AFL, Netball, NRL, Half marathon|
|During ultra-endurance exercise||More than 2.5 / 3 hrs||Up to 90grams per hour**||Marathon, triathlon, ironman|
Reference – Louise M. Burke, John A. Hawley, Stephen H. S. Wong & Asker E. Jeukendrup (2011): Carbohydrates for training and competition, Journal of Sports Sciences, 29:sup1, S17-S27
3. All the colour – don’t just consume the recommended fruit & vegetable guidelines, exceed them.
Micronutrients are essential for supporting every metabolic function the body performs. Inadequate intake can jeopardise metabolic function which will reduce performance and limit results. This is why it is important to eat the rainbow and achieve adequate fruit and vegetable intake every single day. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables also helps ensure good health and immunity. Consistency with training is key to improving performance, and nothing disrupts training like injuries and illness.
The guidelines recommend an adult consumes 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables per day. A good starting place is to look at each meal and snack and make sure there is some form of colour in the form of fruit or vegetables. If the meal or snack is only brown and white think about what colour can be added to complete the meal and boost up the micro-nutrient intake.
Humans function better when they are hydrated. This includes cognitive function, physical performance and metabolic efficiency. Hydration needs are highly individualised due to variations in sweat rates between people, or even for the same person exercising in different conditions. While there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to replacing fluid losses from sweat, individuals should be aware of their own hydration requirements before, during and after exercise. A few useful tips include:
- Aim for pale yellow urine over the day
- Start your training hydrated and avoid losing more than 2% body weight
- Replace more than what you have lost in a session – the general rule is 120 – 150%
Physical recovery is also key. Physiotherapist Andrew Ilief gives 8 tips for a better recovery here.
Jessica Spendlove is the co-owner of Health & Performance Collective, and the Performance Dietitian for the GWS Giants, Cronulla Sharks, Giants Netball, Sydney Kings and Western Sydney Wanderers. Check out Health and Performance Collective here. You can also find out more about Jess via her website here and Instagram page here.