Eating right is very important for everyone’s health and well-being, but if you’re an athlete, you’ll know that maintaining the right nutrition can help you make a difference to your performance.
Nutrition and sports performance
A few days ago we gave a talk on sports nutrition in our physical store in Alcorcón. Did you miss it? Don’t worry! In this article we will talk about the importance of nutrition and the benefits of making the right food choices to improve our athletic performance.
Nutrition, a holistic process
Diet or nutrition is an integral process that affects us in all aspects, from the care of our immune system to being able to get adequate rest and a good quality of sleep or correct stress management. Because if our body has the necessary nutrients, it can perform at its best in all aspects of our lives.
On the contrary, not having a proper diet can lead to injuries, health problems, excessive tiredness and fatigue, and even slow progress in improving athletic performance despite long hours of training.
To ensure that we know how to eat properly, it is important to understand two basic concepts of nutrition: macronutrients and micronutrients.
Macronutrients are those types of nutrients that are found in large amounts in food. They are responsible for supplying the body with energy, promote growth and regulate metabolic processes.
- Carbohydrates: their main function is to supply energy (fuel) to the body. They are found in foods such as rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, sweet potatoes and cereals.
There are many types of carbohydrates (glucose, fructose, lactose…), they are stored in the muscles and in the liver, and not all are consumed in the same way during exercise. There are carbohydrates that are absorbed quickly, and those that are used slowly. A correct combination of these will allow us to recover correctly and achieve a good performance.
- Proteins: have the function of structuring and regulating the function of the body’s organs and tissues. Its main effect is to increase muscle mass. To do this, we need the right combination of physical exercise and nutrition. Protein is found mainly in white meat and fish (animal protein); and in soya, egg whites and other vegetables (vegetable protein).
Our body synthesises proteins in a continuous process and it is important to be aware of this in order to know when it is best to consume them to get the most out of their effects. The time when we synthesise protein the most is just after physical exercise, so it is optimal to consume it just after our workout.
- Fats: their function is to provide the body with energy reserves with which to work in the long term. They are found in foods such as olive oil, avocado and nuts.
There are foods that provide several macronutrients, such as legumes and quinoa, which provide carbohydrates and proteins; or red meat, whole eggs, oily fish and nuts, which provide proteins and fats.
Micronutrients, on the other hand, are the small amounts of vitamins and minerals required by the body for most cellular functions. They are regulating elements, which help to boost the immune system and have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory function. Iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, B, C and D are some of the best-known minerals and vitamins and are mainly found in fruits and vegetables.
Nutritional preparation for a cycle touring event
In addition to eating properly during the season, cyclists are especially concerned about nutrition when we have a race coming up. The correct planning of the menus for the days before the event is as important as planning the food we will eat during the event or having a clear idea of what we need to eat after the walk to recover.
First of all, it is important to know that a ciclotouring race is a long and medium-high intensity event, so energy consumption will last for hours and, therefore, we need to have good nutrient stores. Sugars and fats will be the main nutrients our body will turn to for energy.
Therefore, during the week prior to the event, we will prepare our body to have sufficient reserves on the day of the event. We will plan lunches and dinners by combining the amounts of nutrients according to the carbohydrate load on the following basis:
- LOW LOAD: raw and whole vegetables, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, whole grains and starches.
- MEDIUM LOAD: raw vegetables and fruits, vegetable proteins, whole and white grains.
- HIGH LOAD: cooked vegetables and juices, proteins and white grains and tubers.
The planning of the previous week, assuming that the test will be on Sunday, would be as follows:
- Mondays and Wednesdays: low-cost menus for both dinner and lunch.
- Tuesdays and Thursdays: medium-load lunch and low-load dinner.
- Friday: high-load lunch and medium-load dinner.
- Saturday: high-carbohydrate-loaded lunch and dinner.
This brings us to the day of the test where we have to take into account:
- We eat breakfast 2 to 4 hours before we start to ensure that we have been able to digest the food.
- Avoid excess fat and fibre
- 30 minutes before the race take an easily digestible, carbohydrate-rich pre-workout supplement.
- If we want to ingest caffeine, we should consider that it is absorbed within 30 to 90 minutes and eliminated after 5 hours. The ideal dose will be between 3 and 6 mg per kg. It is important to note, however, that these figures depend on individual caffeine tolerance. We are all affected differently and it depends on our metabolism.
We will have previously planned the food we will eat during the test. Carbohydrate intake is very important as the main source of energy for endurance sport performance. To do this we will analyse the route and organise the intake of water, carbohydrate-loaded supplements and other foods by selecting the type of supplement we prefer to consume (bar, gel, gummy…) and other foods such as fruit and other solid foods such as small snacks that are easy to eat. Remember that we lose a lot of salts during exercise, so it is important to replenish them in water.
Our recommendation is to pre-test the planning in our long-term training. Everyone responds differently to nutrient loading, to the type of supplementation… and we need to be sure that what we do on the day of the test is going to work for us.
As we have said, it is just as important to plan your pre- and post-test nutrition as it is to plan your post-test nutrition. Once the walk is over, it is very important to follow a good nutritional guide for a quick recovery:
- Eat carbohydrates
- Analyse whether we have lost weight and hydrate to regain it
- Protein intake for proper muscle recovery
- Add fruit for their antioxidant properties
Would you like to learn how to prepare a recovery shake for after your workout, or energy sweets? In this link we explain how!
We hope these tips will help you to plan your future nutrition for optimal sporting performance!