Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES - BY PIP TAY­LOR

We all make mis­takes. But rather than think of mis­takes as a bad thing, re­frame them as op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn and to adapt. Nu­tri­tion, in the con­text of sports per­for­mance, is a prime ex­am­ple of this. It’s im­por­tant to try, test and per­fect in­di­vid­u­al­ized plans for both train­ing as well as rac­ing. How­ever, diet also seems to be an area where many of us of­ten make the same mis­takes over and over. Here are five com­mon nu­tri­tion mis­takes to look out for.

Wor­ry­ing too much about macronu­tri­ent pro­files Macronu­tri­ents – pro­tein, fat, car­bo­hy­drate – are im­por­tant. Ad­e­quate quan­ti­ties of each, at the right time, en­hance fuelling, re­cov­ery, op­ti­mze train­ing adap­ta­tions and al­low for ma­nip­u­la­tion of body com­po­si­tion. Pe­ri­odiz­ing in­take daily and sea­son­ally may also be ap­pro­pri­ate ac­cord­ing to goals, while the ideal quan­ti­ties will be highly in­di­vid­u­al­ized. How­ever, macros only tell a very small part of the story. What we re­ally should be pay­ing at­ten­tion to, the ma­jor­ity of the time, is nu­tri­ent qual­ity. Worry more about the qual­ity of the foods you are eat­ing rather than the num­bers. Nu­tri­tious whole, real foods will have much more of an im­pact on health, and per­for­mance, than try­ing to ad­here to any sort of num­bers guide.

Ex­pect­ing a nu­tri­tion plan to work each and ev­ery time Nail­ing a nu­tri­tion plan for rac­ing, or day-to-day fuelling, is an evolv­ing art (cou­pled with some good science). Fac­tors that de­ter­mine what will work best in­clude age, fit­ness level, en­vi­ron­ment, pre­vi­ous day’s in­take and ex­er­cise, stress lev­els and health just keep chang­ing. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try and de­velop your own nu­tri­tion plan, but you need to be aware of th­ese fac­tors and how they might in­flu­ence your plan.

For in­stance, when it is hot and hu­mid you need to mod­ify your sodium in­take along with fluid needs. Also, when train­ing in the heat, your ap­petite drops and so liq­uid-based re­cov­ery op­tions are prefer­able. The key is to adapt and change a plan, but know­ing how and when to do so.

Ex­pect­ing sci­en­tific re­search to trans­late di­rectly to you in real life Re­search is of­ten con­ducted in lab­o­ra­to­ries and is likely con­ducted us­ing sub­jects that bear lit­tle to no rel­e­vance to you per­son­ally. Or it might be con­ducted on mice, or even on cells in a petri dish. So, while re­sults might be in­ter­est­ing and in­deed per­ti­nent, the find­ings do not nec­es­sar­ily trans­late di­rectly into mean­ing­ful ac­tions for you. Even stud­ies that are con­ducted on ath­letes need to be care­fully ex­am­ined be­fore any con­clu­sions are made – of­ten stud­ies will look at time to ex­haus­tion when try­ing to de­ter­mine per­for­mance ben­e­fits from in­ter­ven­tions. But, in re­al­ity, no race is won by the per­son who can go the long­est – the race is won by the per­son who gets there fastest. So, when­ever you read about new re­search or nu­tri­tion claims look at the sub­jects, per­for­mance pa­ram­e­ters, pro­to­cols, any fund­ing or com­mer­cial in­ter­ests, as well as the ac­tual re­sults, be­fore jump­ing to any con­clu­sions or mak­ing any changes.

Try­ing to com­bine all pos­si­ble sports nu­tri­tion per­for­mance boost­ers There are some very well-stud­ied, and well-sup­ported sup­ple­ments and nu­tri­tional in­ter­ven­tions that can help boost ath­letic per­for­mance, such as caf­feine, cre­a­tine, beet juice and Beta Ala­nine. How­ever, just be­cause caf­feine or cre­a­tine may boost per­for­mance, it does not mean that you can sim­ply use both sup­ple­ments and ex­pect a cer­tain level of per­for­mance boost. Con­sider very care­fully how and if you in­cor­po­rate any sup­ple­ments into your nu­tri­tion plan and re­mem­ber that the big­gest “bang for your buck” in terms of nu­tri­tion comes from sim­ply hav­ing the ba­sics in place first (a nu­tri­tious, healthy diet).

Tak­ing it too se­ri­ously Ev­ery ath­lete, no mat­ter their level or age needs to have a solid nu­tri­tion plan to back up their train­ing. This means pay­ing at­ten­tion to what you are eat­ing ev­ery day in or­der to re­ally max­i­mize train­ing adap­ta­tions and get to race day in the shape de­sired. How­ever, diet can also be taken too se­ri­ously and ac­tu­ally jeop­ar­dize your goals and progress. Timely re­cov­ery nu­tri­tion is im­por­tant to get the most out of the next work­out, but don’t have a fit just be­cause your pro­tein smoothie ar­rives five min­utes out­side the “20-minute re­cov­ery win­dow.” Guide­lines and rec­om­men­da­tions are just that – and this level of stress is most likely detri­men­tal to per­for­mance (and health too). The re­al­ity is, that close enough is some­times good enough.

Pip Tay­lor is a pro­fes­sional triath­lete and reg­is­tered di­eti­cian from Aus­tralia.

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