Building a fitter and stronger body involves a lot more than an intense fitness regime or training schedule. How you refuel your body between workouts plays a significant role in boosting performance and improving results.
Whether you’re working towards a specific fitness goal, or on a mission to get fit and healthy, the following nutritional advice comes from experts behind some of the most successful athletes.
Sports nutritionist, Dawn Scott is a fitness coach for the U.S Women’s National Soccer team. She says one of the biggest nutritional mistakes athletes make – particularly women – is reducing calorie consumption in order to achieve a lean body.
She explains: “This causes reduced stores of carbohydrates in your body, which are essential for training and performing and can then lead to muscle breakdown, as your body eventually starts to use protein as an alternative fuel source”.
Instead she advises keeping your calorie intake at the recommended level, but adjusting your protein and carbohydrate consumption to support your performance.
Exercising in the morning without eating breakfast beforehand is not something Dan Bernadot, PhD who works with Olympic distance runners, recommends. Eating first thing balances blood sugar, which means you will have more fuel to get you through an intense workout. If you’re not a fan of breakfast, Dan suggests having something small such as a piece of toast and a glass of apple juice.
Get plenty of antioxidants
Eating a balanced diet consisting of nutritious superfoods is one of the best ways to ensure your sports performance is high. Nuts, fruit, fresh vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins will help to boost your immune system and overall well-being, while tucking into some Greek yoghurt as a snack will up your intake of healthy bacteria.
Manage your carbs
Overloading on carbohydrates the day before a big fitness event or workout will greatly affect your performance – and not in a positive way. This is because the body cannot process a large amount of carbs in one go, so it stores any excess as fat. The night before a big event, manage what you eat by replacing one portion of protein or vegetables with another carbohydrate serving. The next morning, fuel your body with a low-carb, high protein breakfast such as eggs on wholemeal toast.
After an intense workout or event, it is important to refuel your body with the right mix of carbohydrates and proteins to replenish your glycogen stores and aid muscle recovery. A whey protein shake is recommended by the sports nutritionists, which will provide hydration as well as sustenance.