4 Ways To Use Nutrition To Reach Your Athletic Goals
Education and Advocacy It seems that some of the lessons that stick with us the longest are the ones we learn the hard way.
In my late teens I discovered my love for fitness, and upon moving back to Canada for university after living in the Middle East for five years, I found myself signing up for every race and running group I could find.
Even after graduation, I continued to pursue new athletic endeavours and am still doing so today, my most recent being half Ironman-distance triathlons. All along the way I’ve learned my fair share of first-hand nutrition lessons.
In my first marathon, I learned the importance of eating a big enough breakfast a few hours before to avoid bonking at mile 20. Then there was the excruciating post-run headache on weekend that taught me the importance of drinking enough while training in hot conditions in order to replenish electrolytes. Finally, while I adore enormous salads packed with greens and other veggies, I’ve learned several times over that those sorts of meals do not make for a happy tummy mid-workout!
Now that I’m a little older, a little wiser, and a whole lot more educated when it comes to sports nutrition, I’m able to use nutrition to my advantage when pursuing athletic goals. Here are four ways that you can do the same:
Treat your body like one of an elite athlete, even if you're just a beginner. I don’t know tons of professional athletes personally, but I’m willing to bet they’re not following steady diets of processed foods full of refined ingredients, chemicals and preservatives. Athletes need their bodies to execute peak performances, so they fuel with the best fuel possible: nutrient-dense whole foods including plenty of fruits, vegetables, quality carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. Why hinder your own progress by not doing the same for yourself?
Outside of workouts, focus on whole food nutrition. Sports nutrition products like gels and sports drinks certainly have their place. They’re designed to be convenient sources of carbohydrate that our bodies can easily digest and use for energy while on the go. Outside of workouts and racing however, focus on providing your body with the macro and micronutrients it needs to recover in between sessions. Generally, you don’t need to worry so much about getting x amount of this vitamin and y amount of that mineral – simply eat a wide variety of whole foods that cover every colour of the rainbow. Each colour indicates the presence of particular micronutrients, so by covering the whole spectrum, you’ll be covering your nutritional bases too.
Don't let your body run on empty. I used to try to train and race long distances on very little fuel because I was simply too lazy to figure out how to carry it. I didn’t like running belts or the logistics of strategically squirting a gel into my mouth without getting it all over my face and fingers. In retrospect, I know this wasn’t ideal, especially from a hormonal and adrenal perspective. Training for my first half Ironman last year taught me how much better my body could perform when I paid more attention to caloric needs along the course, and now I’m a believer! I can confidently say that taking the time to find a sports nutrition strategy that works for you will pay off. Not only will it help you reach your athletic potential, but you just might clock some shiny new personal records!
Stock up on anti-inflammatory foods – Want to make your next workout just as great as your last? Incorporate ingredients like ginger, turmeric, dark leafy greens, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like chia seeds, salmon, and ground flaxseed into your post-workout meals. All of these have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, making them must-have ingredients in your kitchen for speedy post-training or post-race recovery.
Super Recovery Coconut Lime Smoothie
What you’ll need:
- 2 big handfuls fresh dark leafy greens
- 1/2 small frozen banana
- 1 scoop vanilla flavoured protein powder (I use Vega Sport Performance Protein, which is vegan, gluten-free and soy-free)
- 1/2 cup coconut water
- 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk beverage
- 1/2 tsp ground flaxseed
- 1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger
- 1 tsp maca root powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 lime, flesh only, peel and rind completely removed
What to do:
- Add all ingredients except ice to a blender and blend until almost smooth.
- Toss in the ice and blend again until no chunks remain.
Pour into a tall glass and enjoy!
If you’d like to combine a whole bunch of superfoods in one quick and easy recipe, you’ll find plenty in my favourite Super Recover Coconut Lime Smoothie. Give it just one taste and it’ll be on your mind during those final miles of your next long training session!
Angela is an avid runner and triathlete, health coach and healthy food enthusiast. Her goal is to encourage and inspire others to live their lives to the fullest, making the most of every day by setting goals and chasing them with passion. When she's not creating new recipes in her kitchen and working with clients, you'll find Angela out for a run, at the farmer's market, and exploring Vancouver, the city she's now proud to call home. You can learn more about her on her blog, Eat-Spin-Run-Repeat.com, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.