11 Jan The nutrition year that was – 10 lessons learnt in 2018
As we enter a new year with enthusiasm and new goals, January is the perfect time to reflect over the past 12 months. Here’s my take on what we saw in nutrition last year and the lessons learnt, giving us an idea of what we can expect to see more of in the year ahead.
- Eating Is NOT Cheating: some athletes made the move away from real food nutrition (it even came with its own hashtag) and this came with tummy troubles, problems with hydration and plenty of race day blow-ups. No surprises many of them are returning to the basics of endurance nutrition (read more here if you want the basics)
- Recover, Recover, Recover: You can relax about the recovery window, (it doesn’t slam shut after 30 minutes) but focus on rehydrating, refuelling and repairing after every session for long term gains. And better still, plan your recovery before you start your training, so you don’t skip the vitals when you’re exhausted.
- Carbs Win Races: All ‘race winning’ moves occur at high intensity, and this level of intensity relies on carbohydrates being readily available. So even if you know of a successful ‘low-carb high-fat’ athlete on insta, chances are they aren’t the norm. The majority of athletes who dominate endurance sports are fuelled with diets rich in carbohydrates.
- Rinse and Repeat: You don’t always need to swallow your sports drink – rinsing your mouth will actually work, but only for ‘all out’ exercise that lasts around an hour. So, when you’re chasing that City-To-Surf PB, this could be the time saving, fuelling technique for you!
- Beetroot Juice: Once your every-day and training nutrition is sorted, try a performance enhancing product like beetroot juice. Consuming it for for 3 days leading into a race will reduce the oxygen cost of exercise and make a steady state effort seem easier (like an Ironman event).
- Pickle Juice: This is a good product to carry on long hot training days when cramping is a risk; rinse out your mouth at the onset of cramp and it will reduce the severity and duration of the cramping.
- Train Your Gut: Your gut is extremely adaptable and trainable. Train your gut to absorb carbohydrates, just as your train your body to handle the exercise. It is unbelievably common how many athletes don’t take the time to practice nutrition on their long rides and runs, only to run into trouble on race day to be left wondering ‘what went wrong?!”.
- Hydration Enhancers: Last year we saw new products emerging that claim to increase the effectiveness of sports drinks by promoting better fluid uptake. The science showed that consuming a resistant starch both pre- and post-exertion can enhance the effectiveness of sports hydration drinks like Bindi. Early days, but it will be interesting to see if products like Prepd are the game changers some athletes need when it comes to hydration.
- Get Some Sleep and Muscle Gains: Too many of us are simply not getting enough hours of sleep. Between work, training and family life, sleep can be the big loser. Getting enough sleep can enhance the quality of our days (and training) through improved productivity, energy and well-being. Add a serve of protein in before you sleep, and you can also increase muscle mass and strength gains. Don’t underestimate the power of sleep and recovery on your training.
- Back to Basics: As the wise David Bryant from Catalyst Dietitian quoted “Too many athletes worry about sports nutrition, but not that many athletes worry about just nutrition”. If you do one thing this year, sort out your everyday diet. Eat your 2 fruit and 5 veg. No amount of caffeine, nitrate, gels or electrolytes will make up for a poor diet.
While there are a huge range of nutrition products and dietary preferences out there, my takeaway is that the basics really do matter. Every-day nutrition, with tried and true training nutrition, plus some race day tweaks will have you perform at your best consistently.
If you are ready to have a great year of training and racing and want to nail the basics, be sure to download our free Ultimate Training Nutrition Guide to get you starting out the year right.