Develop a structured nutrition strategy
by Keri Strachan
Just like your training, a nutrition strategy needs to be constantly adapting to different training demands daily. It needs to take into account your specific goals. Do you want to lose fat, gain muscle, or maintain weight?
Specific strategies are required for competition days, training days, rest days and days leading up to an event. It is an individually-tailored, evidence-based meal plan to optimise performance through good nutrition and hydration practices.
Why have a nutrition strategy?
A structured eating pattern is vital to get maximum potential from your training sessions and ensure adequate recovery.
There should be different strategies for different training days, such as low intensity versus high intensity, or double training sessions versus only one, or a long ride at the weekend versus a sprint ride during the week. A plan helps you to be prepared and ensures enough of the right nutrients (for energy and repair) are provided.
The dangers of not having a plan
• You may not meet your caloric requirements (especially carbohydrates), so your glycogen stores won’t be replenished. If you start your next training session with already depleted stores, your endurance capacity and performance will be limited.
• You will limit your weight-loss ability by eating the same quantity on all days, even those where you do less exercise.
• You will be tempted to use convenience food options (read: junk food) by being unprepared for regular eating times with snacks and meals brought from home.
A real-life example
A 70kg male runner works in a sedentary environment, but is moderately active during the week, exercising 4-5 times per week for 45-60 minutes at moderate to high intensity. His goal is to maintain his weight and to improve his running performance particularly over the half marathon distance.
What the table reveals
There are five snacks throughout the day, which are carefully arranged around the training session, and include a bedtime snack. For some athletes it is necessary to utilise every opportunity to eat something to assist in meeting requirements and avoiding large volumes of foods at the meal times. Notice too the small portions of tuna and chicken, and how protein requirements are still easily met. (This will be discussed in more detail in the next issue). Fat is included throughout the day (peanut butter, mayonnaise, nuts, oil in cooking).
Fat is an important source of calories and is required for cell formation. Choose healthy fats from plant sources rather than animal sources.
That’s not all folks
This runner will have something similar for days of rest, days that he trains twice a day, for race days, as well as a three-day carbo-rich plan leading up to marathons. A dietitian with an interest in sports nutrition can help create a similar meal plan to suit your needs.
Watch this space to help you develop your own nutrition strategy in these areas:
• meeting carbohydrate requirements
• nutritional recovery requirements
• maintaining protein requirements
• use of sports drinks and supplements
• competition and event day strategies
Keri Strachan RD (SA)
Dietitian at the Centre for Sports Medicine, Umhlanga Medical Centre
Originally published in Go Multi issue 13.4 (November/December 2009)