Triathlon Magazine Canada - - T1 - BY PIP TAY­LOR

Nu­tri­tion is, for many, a puz­zle. Per­haps it is the con­fu­sion and abun­dance of ad­vice, the nav­i­ga­tion of a crowded food environment or the fact that we all eat mul­ti­ple times ev­ery day – what­ever the rea­son it seems we all make mis­takes when it comes to nu­tri­tion. When it comes to eat­ing to op­ti­mize health, well-be­ing and longevity there are some re­cur­ring blun­ders that are also re­flected in the com­mon mis­takes of sports nu­tri­tion. Here are four of the most com­mon mis­takes and how you can rec­tify or avoid them in the first place.


The stats on obe­sity and gen­eral health tell a stark tale of over­do­ing it. Most ath­letes bal­ance this out, and yet go­ing over­board be­fore a race is a very com­mon (and eas­ily solved) is­sue. Carb load­ing can have ben­e­fits for per­for­mance, but those ben­e­fits are only re­al­ized if the prac­tice is im­ple­mented cor­rectly. More of­ten the (in­cor­rect) trans­la­tion is that we need to eat as much as pos­si­ble, or that we can add in a few ex­tra cook­ies and scoops of ice cream, jus­ti­fied as nec­es­sary fuel. This sim­ply places ex­tra load on the gut, leav­ing us feel­ing heavy and bloated – hardly the feel­ing we want head­ing into a race. Foods you don’t com­monly eat, or pro-in­flam­ma­tory foods, may fur­ther in­crease this load, mak­ing your gut work over­time.


Gut is­sues are the most com­mon rea­son peo­ple fail to fin­ish or race to ex­pec­ta­tions. Car­bo­hy­drate load­ing may be ap­pro­pri­ate, but get in­formed on how to do it cor­rectly and eat for per­for­mance. If you are some­one who eats when they are bored, anx­ious or stressed, then plan ac­cord­ingly and have other strate­gies in place.


Some­times nu­tri­tion guide­lines can feel like a set of rules, and di­ets can feel re­stric­tive and rigid. As ath­letes, we plan our train­ing regimes, lo­gis­tics sur­round­ing the race, race strat­egy and even how we are go­ing to re­cover. Most of us also like to have a very struc­tured nu­tri­tion plan, espe­cially for race day. This makes sense – the less de­ci­sions we are try­ing to make in the heat of the mo­ment, the bet­ter we can sim­ply con­cen­trate on ex­e­cut­ing. And, when it comes to nu­tri­tion, there are var­i­ous re­sources, re­search and ad­vi­sors that we can use to put to­gether a blow by blow nu­tri­tion plan, de­tail­ing pre­cisely how much car­bo­hy­drates, wa­ter, elec­trolytes, pro­teins, amino acids, the os­mo­lar­ity, os­mo­lal­ity, caf­feine con­tent and when th­ese should all be con­sumed. In the­ory, this works well. In prac­tice, though, a plan is only good if things are ac­tu­ally go­ing to plan. There are other fac­tors that are hard to ac­count for – weather changes, mood, me­chan­i­cal is­sues, ill­ness, un­ex­pected re­ac­tions to food or wa­ter, as well as a lit­tle bit of chance and luck.


Plan. Then ad­just that plan. Then lis­ten to your body, tune into your in­stincts and ad­just again. If your stom­ach is ri­ot­ing, then don’t try and stick down another gel, in­stead sip slowly on wa­ter and slow your pace tem­po­rar­ily. If you feel hot and thirsty, then drink more.


Avoid lurch­ing from one di­etary prom­ise or rev­o­lu­tion­ary new prod­uct to another. Like the rest of the pop­u­la­tion, ath­letes are not im­mune to mar­ket­ing and there is no stronger pull than the world of the food and diet in­dus­try. In­deed, in some ways ath­letes may be even more sus­cep­ti­ble to hyped up prom­ises on pack­ages if the lure of a PB per­for­mance is strong enough. Of­ten the claims don’t stack up to sci­en­tific or anec­do­tal trial, and are sim­ply a wasted in­vest­ment (of time, money and san­ity).


When in di­etary doubt, al­ways go for the hype-free fruits and veg­eta­bles. We can all ben­e­fit from eat­ing more whole foods, no mat­ter what else the di­etary per­sua­sion is. When it comes to sports per­for­mance and prom­ises, don’t for­get where the real en­gine is – you. And that the ba­sics are most of­ten the most im­por­tant: good over­all diet, hy­dra­tion and ap­pro­pri­ate tim­ing of in­take.


For some, nu­tri­tion can be a side note. A ne­ces­sity to fuel train­ing and other ac­tiv­i­ties with lit­tle in­ter­est in the ef­fect of food, or even the taste, qual­ity or prove­nance. This dis­con­nect re­moves our abil­ity to eat ap­pro­pri­ately – whether for en­ergy or health. Get used to pay­ing at­ten­tion to how your body feels and re­pay it with qual­ity nu­tri­ents. In­vest in your health and per­for­mance by tak­ing a hands-on approach – from shop­ping, cook­ing and nu­tri­tion knowl­edge.


Get ed­u­cated. Learn how to cook, find out where your lo­cal mar­kets are, get to know pro­duc­ers and learn to love your food. This in­tu­ition and in­ter­est trans­lates di­rectly into your sports per­for­mance too, by al­low­ing you to bet­ter tune into body sig­nals.

Pip Tay­lor is an Aus­tralian pro­fes­sional triath­lete and nu­tri­tion­ist.

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