We’re constantly bombarded with confusing and conflicting information.
Hands up who, in the last few years, has heard one of these statements:-
“Carbs are the devil, you need to be going as low carb as possible.”
“Maintaining the right weight is a simple mathematical equation of calories in versus calories out”
“Lowering your fat intake is the only way to lose weight.”
“Doctors have been misleading us for years, moving more and eating less will not work for everyone.”
“Five a day [fruit and vegetables] is a marketing myth propagated by retailers in America.”
OH MY GOODNESS! Is it any wonder that the average man on the street has no real idea of what to put in his mouth to maintain a healthy lifestyle, let alone someone who is increasing their level of exercise and fitness to compete in a triathlon.
We are not nutritionists, although we will happily direct you to Simply Nutrition, who are Specialist in Sports Performance Nutrition, so what we share with you are our own thoughts and ideas regarding the optimum healthy nutrition choices, based around and garnered from our avid reading and research on the subject.
So, what should you be eating, what plan should you be following, how much should you be consuming…?
We can’t answer that, everyone is different, but we do have some key points for you!
1. Keep it real!
Don’t commit to giving up things that are going to make you miserable! Be realistic – you have a life to lead, which will no doubt include social occasions as well as training, so don’t feel that you can never have an alcoholic drink, or a slice of birthday cake, or a burger at a barbecue that is actually complete with the bun!
2. Do your research
If you are going to follow a particular diet plan then do your research and find out the overall impact of the plan you have in mind – don’t follow something that is designed for weight loss if you are actually looking to eat to maintain your fitness performance. Remember that athletes achieve peak performance by training and eating a variety of foods.
3. Don’t jump on a bandwagon
Yes, people that eat low or no carb diets drop a lot of weight quickly, but this does not make it an ideal diet to follow for an athlete in training. Athletes gain most from the amount of carbohydrates stored in the body. Carbs will provide a large percentage of the energy you require for training.
4. Make friends with fat!
Fat is not the devils food! We have advanced beyond that thinking and most people will now know that all fats are not created equal, there are good fats and bad fats. Head for the avocados, nuts and seeds to find some healthy fats, and steer clear of the doughnuts, chips and choccy bars! Fat provides body fuel; use of fat as fuel depends on the duration of the exercise and the condition of the athlete but is key for endurance athletes, so particularly relevant if you are training for longer distances.
5. Don’t believe the [protein] hype
Exercise may increase an athlete’s need for protein but how much you need is something you should really look into before you head for the health food shop to get supplements and shakes. It’s generally accepted that athletes need more protein than sedentary people, however recommendations really vary based on the training being undertaken including the intensity and duration, body weight, average daily energy intake, whether weight loss is part of the goal, age, etc. Do remember, that protein is found in many foods, so good healthy meals will be making up a large part of (if not all) of your daily protein requirement.
6. Water, water everywhere…
Water is essential for everyone, but it is a must for an athlete in training. Water regulates your body temperature, lubricates your joints, helps transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy. If you don’t keep yourself properly hydrated then you will not perform at your highest level. If your body is dehydrated you are likely to experience fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness, or more serious symptoms.