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Friday, 20 January 2012

Nutrition 101

Someone brand new to the sport has asked me to comment on the basics on several topics.  So let me start with nutrition, since this is an area of more expertise for me (I have been at Mountain Biking for 3 years but I have been involved with sport nutrition for many years...OK, like 3 decades, but I didn't want to sound as old as I am dangit!).

So here is my Cole's Notes lesson (that means short, eh) version of diet for sport.  I encourage your input and comment. 

The basics of the human diet involve the four macro nutrients; protein, fat, carbohydrate, and water.  The relative mix of each will affect how well you perform at sport.

Protein
Necessary to repair muscle, maintain the immune system, manufacture and replace hormones, enzymes, and red blood cells.  Protein is also used for energy during long or intense activity.  Protein is necessary in the diet because body is unable to produce all it needs and is not stored in the body as a fuel deposit for future use.  Dietary protein (what you eat) is used for immediate needs, with any excess converted and stored as carbohydrate or fat.

Unfortunately, there is no agreement within the field of nutrition on the recommended protein intake for athletes; however sport scientists generally suggest 0.04 ounces of protein intake per pound of body weight for the endurance athlete.

Fat
Necessary for maintaining regular menstrual cycle, preventing infections, manufacture of hormones, nerve/brain cells, carrying and absorbing vitamins, and is the body's most efficient source of energy.  There are "good" fats and "bad" fats; bad fats are trans fatty acids, man made fats found in processed foods read as "hydrogenated" on food labels.  Good fats are monounsaturated and omega 3 fatty acids found in certain nuts, cold water fish, and red meat (preferably from wild game or organically raised cattle).  30 percent of your caloric intake should be from these fats.

Carbohydrate
Provides much of the fuel for endurance events in the form of glucose and glycogen (blood sugars).  However, there has to be a plan to include carbohydrates in the diet.  When carbohydrates are digested, the pancreas releases insulin to regulate the level of blood sugar.  Insulin also prevents the body from using stored fat, works to convert carbs and protein to body fat, and moves fat in the blood to be stored as body fat. 

The glycemic index measures how fast specific carbohydrates enter the blood stream.  Foods high on the glycemic index produce a more dramatic rise in blood sugar and bring about all of the negative aspects of high insulin described above.  Foods high on the glycemic index include potatoes, rice, refined sugar, syrups, bread, pasta.  Foods low on the glycemic index include green leafy vegetables, beans, tomatoes, cauliflower, nuts.

For the most part, you want to stick with low glycemic carbohydrates, however during, and immediately after, long intense training sessions or races you want to quickly replenish carbohydrate stores in the muscles and liver.  In this case high glycemic carbohydrates are beneficial, which is why many sports drinks and gels contain these types of carbohydrates.



What I do
Right or wrong, (and I do encourage comments and feedback) following is the basis of my nutrition plan.
  • Eat 5 - 6 meals per day; this means eating every 2 - 3 hours.  This helps to keep blood sugar levels stable, and prevents hunger.
  • Eat a lean protein with each meal to ensure I get at least 240 grams of protein per day.  Lean protein includes chicken breast, lean beef cuts, tuna, whey protein.
  • I ensure that at least 30 percent of my required caloric intake comes from fats.  If my meal does not contain enough fat I supplement with fish oil.  The Nutribase Complete Book of Food Counts is a great resource for measuring the macro nutrients in specific foods.  You can also google to find  a good calorie calculator online, to determine your required calories per day.
  • Eat veggies with each meal, and avoid refined high glycemic carbs.
  • I have not yet mentioned in this post, I feel it is important to point out that I do my best to insure that my foods are gluten free and organic. 
Race day nutrition, and post training recovery drinks will be different from the norm, and is great fodder for a future post!

1 comment:

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