Daily Nutrition vs Training Nutrition

We are very honored to have Kelli Jennings, registered dietitian (RD) guest posting today.  I wish I had even half the nutrition knowledge she has.  Kelli’s post contains valuable information that all cyclists and athletes should be aware of.

Like many athletes, you may have found yourself reading the ingredients of your favorite sports drink and wondering exactly how “healthy” this stuff is for you.  “Aren’t dextrose, sucrose, and fructose just sugar?  Shouldn’t I avoid sugar?  And, what the heck is theobromine?”

When making food and drink choices, it is very important for the athlete to distinguish training nutrition from daily nutrition.  In fact, these 2 aspects of nutrition require opposite strategies.  Many times, athletes get caught up in healthy eating practices (which are great for daily eating!) and snub their bodies’ demands for refined, quick fuel immediately before, during, and after training or competing.  While eating healthy foods throughout the day is imperative for a healthy body, you will do yourself a disservice by not consuming quick-acting fuel when you require it.  So, what do you need when?

First, let’s start with daily nutrition. We’ll keep it simple.…you need:

1)     A healthy pattern of consistent meals and snacks – ie. breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, and dinner as opposed to eating nothing until 2pm, then overeating all afternoon and evening (believe it or not, I see this all the time!)

2)    Adequate daily fluid.  64 oz. per day fluid is a great starting point for the metabolism of a 2000-calorie per day diet.  However, many athletes need upwards of 3000-4000 calories per day, which requires more fluid.  Remember, dehydration is cumulative and get worse day after day if it is not remedied.  And, it has a DIRECT detrimental effect on performance.

3)    Appropriate and adequate daily calories based on your weight goals (maintenance, loss, etc).  This is best calculated by a professional and should take into account your weight, age, sex, height, body fat percentage, daily activities, weight history, dieting history, training schedule, and clinical judgment.

4)    Whole food and whole grain carbohydrates at every meal and snack.  Carbohydrates should be the foundation of the athlete’s diet, and, fiber is the foundation of preventative nutrition.  Truly, it is one key to wellness and healthy weight maintenance at any calorie level.  Of course, you do not want a belly full of fiber while you’re training, so keep reading…

5)    Protein at every meal.  You have higher protein needs than a sedentary person as you are constantly building and rebuilding cells.

6)    Essential fats, especially omega-3 and monounsaturated fats with minimal saturated and trans-fats. From an athletic and overall healthy standpoint, omega-3s help reduce the inflammatory response in our bodies which may help your body react with less inflammation anytime cells need to heal and recover.

7)    Adequate vitamins and minerals – again, you have higher needs than a sedentary person (which is who the RDAs are based upon).  Without individual blood testing, it suffices to say that you should include all the food groups (grains/starchy vegetables, fruits, vegetables, milk/yogurt, protein, and healthy fats) in your daily diet.  If you exclude a group as a non-meat eating vegetarian, for example, make sure you are getting adequate protein, calcium, iron, zinc, etc from other sources as opposed to just avoiding meat.  Then, for all athletes, I believe it is prudent to take a high-quality multivitamin that includes iron, an adequate B-complex, and extra anti-oxidants on a daily basis.

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