So often we see athletes starting their Performance Nutrition Program with the statement “I know I eat well but why am I not getting better?”
Well let’s show you the difference between eating well and fueling for performance.
Jane is a 25 year old cyclist who has started competing in road races. She progressed pretty quickly through the lower categories in the UK and started working with a cycling coach. After several previous years of limited exercise and a lot of “living for the weekend” she made a commitment to her training program and increased her intensity and duration of training.
Then she hit a stalemate, longer endurance rides with the local club were a chore and she’d often hit the wall after 2hrs and would have to slog home feeling a little dizzy. She had also decided to turn some excess body fat to working muscle so started taking various “lean protein” shakes and eating “protein cookies”. She was susceptible to a cold in the midst of a training block and her sleep was often disrupted when training in the evening after work. It got to the point where walking up the stairs was a struggle and she felt she was constantly training with tired legs.
It was specifically the poor recovery that Jane wanted to focus on and when she got in touch with our team.
She enrolled into the Athlete Nutrition Coach program and sent a request to work 1:1 with a Nutrition Coach because she admitted she was completely clueless when it came to nutrition and was going to need a personal approach. We booked her in for an Individual Performance Review and kicked off the process from there
She created a food and training diary based on her nutrient intake starting out which looked a bit like this:
- Cereal in the morning
- High protein roll with chicken and cheese at lunch
- Chicken and veg stir fry with rice in the evening
- Snacks of fresh fruit, bar of chocolate and protein cookie
- 90 min training ride 700kCal
We input Jane’s fully populated log into our Nutrition Analysis Software (Nutritics) for a review. Please note the below only encompasses a snapshot of the review.
We were able to identify the gaping holes in Jane’s nutrition that had been leading to the issues she described above. In a nutshell, although she was eating healthy food and including a good range of fruit and veg she was well on her way to a compromised immune system, stress due to hormone imbalances and possibly even chronic fatigue due to limited energy availability.
Comments on Macronutrients:
- First and foremost was her energy intake in kCal was worryingly below the target for her activity levels and training commitments. This lack of energy availability for her general work day, on top of her training was leading her down a path of dysfunctional menstrual cycles and chronic fatigue – both associated with RED-s
- Her carbohydrate intake was over 50% lower than what is recommended for an endurance athlete completing 1-3 hours of training per day
- Despite all the protein shakes and cookies her protein intake was 20% lower than target. And the quality of those sources was also called into question
Comments on Lipid (fats):
Such a high level of saturated fat and limited quantities of beneficial fats was impairing Jane’s recovery and goal of decreased body fat. Omega-3 for example is a widely recognised aid to enhancing muscle protein synthesis.
Comments on Minerals:
It’s very clear to see that Jane’s intake of the minerals vital for sustaining her activity levels are too low. These are vital for hundreds of biological processes relevant to exercise and athletic performance, such as energy storage/utilization, protein metabolism, inflammation, oxygen transport, cardiac rhythms, bone metabolism and immune function.
Comments on Vitamins:
Of particular note was such low levels of Vitamin D especially during a time when our immune systems are an area of public health concern. Vitamin D responsible for a number of essential roles within the body including bone health, immune function and DNA regulation.
With her input on body composition goals, work and training activities, gender and age we created a starting plan for Jane that would aim to address all of the following:
- Optimal recovery from her training sessions
- Appropriate fuel for training
- Loss of body fat and increased lean muscle mass
- Improved sleep
- Better immunity
Already we would expect to see a massive improvement in Janes energy levels, performance, sleep and general health and wellbeing even before any recommendations for supplement are made.
It’s all well and good getting all the right nutrients in – the next step is getting the timing right and being able to answer these questions and many more:
- What type and how much carbohydrate will fuel my activity
- What are the best sources of protein
- When is it best to intake sources of beneficial fats to optimise recovery
- What foods am I best avoiding around intense training or competition to optimise performance
These are some of the steps we can take you through as part of your Athlete Nutrition Coach Program. Although our programs are self led with online support we are now offering Individual Performance Reviews to allow athletes on a program to work 1:1 with a Nutrition Coach.
Get in touch via the Contact Us page and let’s get started!
- Jeukendrup, A. E. Nutrition for endurance sports: marathon, triathlon, and road cycling.” J Sports Sci 29 Suppl 1: S91-99, 2011.
- Jeukendrup, A. (2014). A step towards personalized sports nutrition: carbohydrate intake during exercise.” Sports Med 44 Suppl 1: 25-33, 2014.
- Heffernan, Shane Michael et al. “The Role of Mineral and Trace Element Supplementation in Exercise and Athletic Performance: A Systematic Review.” Nutrients vol. 11,3 696. 24 Mar. 2019, doi:10.3390/nu11030696
- Ackerman KE, Holtzman B, Cooper KM, et alLow energy availability surrogates correlate with health and performance consequences of Relative Energy Deficiency in SportBritish Journal of Sports Medicine 2019;53:628-633.
- Smith, G.I., Atherton, P., Reeds, D.N., Mohammed, B.S., Rankin, D., Rennie, M.J., and Mittendorfer, B. (2011). Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Am.J.Clin.Nutr. 93402-412.