You’re working towards a new season, new event or latest competition. However, you get your kicks, be it team sports or individual events you want to be feeling and performing at your best come showtime.
Your training is all about getting you fitter, faster, stronger and as accurate with your skill execution as possible.
Sessions are tough and purposeful, all aligning to your own – or your teams – performance outcomes.
The question is; how much focus are you putting on your nutrition?
I often talk about nutrition as a weapon – one completely under your control – that’s so valuable to your physical preparation. Get it right and you only enhance the work you’re doing on the training track, get it wrong and you blunt any gains you might have made otherwise.
During focused training periods you are challenging yourself both physically and mentally, so some adaptation is required to raise the bar both literally and metaphorically. An important piece of this equation is getting nutrition to support both your physical and physiological adaptations to an increased workload.
Nutrition goals vary from individual to individual, depending on factors including type of sport, type of session, energy budgets, body composition goals and age of the athlete to name a few.
In saying that, there are a few key pillars which apply to everyone when it comes to tough training blocks, which can help you on your way to making those gains you’re chasing.
This is critical for an athlete or active person. It helps with recovery, optimising muscle protein synthesis (growth), increasing lean mass, improving strength and also managing appetite.
Most athletes – and individuals in general – need to focus on getting more protein at breakfast and snacks. We know most people well exceed this at lunch and dinner, butin a lot of cases miss the mark at breakfast and snacks. Finding ways to more evenly distribute protein intake across the day is key. If you can aim for around 20 grams of protein in these focus areas that’s a great starting point.
Some great breakfast options packed with protein:
- ¾ cup of oats + 1 cup of soy milk + hemp seeds + nut butter + fruit of choice.
- 2-3 scrambled eggs with grated cheese on rye sourdough with avocado and vegetables.
Some great snack options packed with protein:
- Smoothie with protein of choice (WPI or plant) on coconut water with frozen berries, frozen banana, handful of baby spinach, chia seeds and optional nut butter.
- Wholegrain crackers with creamed cheese, smoked salmon and cucumber.
This is an important one to manage throughout your training block, adjusting your intake based on expected output will not only help you optimise your performance, but likely body composition as well.
Having enough fuel on board for the work ahead means you’re going to be able to run out sessions as best as possible and effectively recover. When attention isn’t paid to this area, it can be easy to under fuel before a session, particularly for those training early in the morning or not great with breakfast.
For my early morning trainers, you should aim to have at least something before starting – think a piece of fruit, dried fruit, piece of toast or a smoothie (pending how early we are talking, the neighbours may not appreciate a 5am nutribullet!).
What you also want to do is use dinner the night before as an opportunity to prepare for the morning. If you have a longer, more intense session, your evening meal should have a large portion of carbohydrate, compared to other nights.
Getting enough colour: – i.e. fruits & vegetables
We all know this one; getting enough fruits and vegetables. Variety that should be part of our diet year-round.
Australian guidelines recommend two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables per day for the average person.
Given the increased demands an athlete endures, these recommendations should really be the baseline minimum and ideally your intake is exceeding these numbers, but let’s at least start by hitting the guidelines..
This is important to ensure athletes are consuming many important micronutrients and antioxidants which help support their training, energy (important co-factors in energy metabolism), recovery and immunity to name a few.
The focus here is on your omega-3 fatty acids, which have hugely beneficial cognitive and anti-inflammatory properties.
For athletes with high energy budgets – like AFL players in pre-season – healthy fats can be used as a way to ensure intake is sufficient, if struggling to meet requirements – this strategy is used once other focus areas with protein consistency and adequacy as well as carbohydrate periodisation have been optimised.
Some great snack options packed with healthy fats:
- Wholegrain crackers with avocado, cheese and tomato.
- Greek yoghurt with mixed nuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, nut butter and berries.
Now all that’s left to do is get your nutrition plan in place and start preparing!
If you’re looking for sports-specific nutrition advice head to the Health and Performance Collective website and check out our e-books for AFL, rugby, football and netball.