Focus on Quality and Choices
As you continue your basic training and prepare for the coming race season, you appreciate the importance of matching training with the proper amounts of energy, carbohydrate, protein and fats (See my February 16th column“). During this training cycle, you can also focus on types of food choices you consume to provide quality nutrition and variety to your daily and training diet.
This is one of the best times of the year to experiment with new foods and recipes. While you can still keep convenience and time in mind (what’s good, quick, and easy?), don’t keep falling into the same old food choices and meals. Variety in foods also provides a variety of nutrients, keeping your diet balanced and interesting. Focus on maintaining a strong immune system. Training stresses your body, and taking a few days or a week off from training due to an illness, could hold back your training efforts. Focus on quality carbohydrates provided from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Grains and more
Tired of the same repetitive rice, potatoes and pasta? Even if you aren’t, experiment with some whole grains. Many of these foods can be prepared in less than 15 to 20 minutes, and cooking them can easily become part of your weekly routine. Some good whole grain choices include kasha or buckwheat, which is a great source of fiber and magnesium. Barley is an ancient and nutritious high fiber whole grain. Pearl barley has had the outer husk removed, but is still high in soluble fiber (that kind that lowers cholesterol) and can be prepared in 10 minutes.
Qunioa has also been around for thousands of years and is common in South American cuisines. It is higher in protein than most grains, and a great source of copper, iron, and magnesium. Of course brown rice (prepare ahead of time if necessary) is more nutritious than white rice, and whole meal pasta is also a better choice than more refined varieties. Other whole grains include amaranth, bulgur, millet, steel-cut oats, teff, and wheat berries.
Other highly nutritious carbohydrate choices include sweet potatoes, and all varieties of the in-season winter squash. Dried beans and lentils are also highly nutritious and great source of carbohydrates, a good source of protein, and high in fiber, calcium, and B vitamins.
Fruits and Vegetables
The sixth edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans just released by the USDA January 2005 now call for nine servings of fruits andvegetables daily for a hefty dose of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Add variety to your current winter fruit and vegetable intake and build on your choices as we move into the spring season and welcome wider produce choices. Green leafy vegetables such a kale, collard greens, and broccoli are highly nutritious and can be steamed or stir-fried.
Any fruits or vegetables with a deep orange color like carrots are also filled with nutrients. Fresh fruits make great snacks and frozen fruits (no sugar added) can be used in skim milk and soy milk smoothies. Try to include vegetable choices at both lunch and dinner, and even with snacks. Filling-up on fruits and vegetables also supports any weight loss goals you may have early in the season. Many studies also indicate that consuming plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables reduces risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
This is also a great time of year to experiment with new sports nutrition products, including those you carry during a race, and specific brands that are provided on the race course. Having a sports drink that you like, tolerate, and drink enough of during training and racing is essential for a successful race season. You can also check your any weight loss beforeand after training to see how closely your fluid intake matches sweat losses. Reassess your fluid needs as the season progresses and the weather turns warmer.
In addition to fine-tuning your sports drink choices and drinking strategies, you can also experiment with gels and energy bars. Most athletes needs 40 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour during training, though long races and ultra endurance events can push up these needs to over 100 g per hour. This is a good time to experiment with consuming and tolerating those higher carbohydrate amounts.
As your training builds, continue to place close attention to your immediate recovery nutrition needs. This starts the recovery process until the next training session, which can take place in 12 hours (or less), or 24 hours. Aim for 0.7 g carbohydrate per pound weight (1.5 g/kg), or 88 g for a 120 lb. athlete, or 115 g for a 165 lb. athlete, when glycogen resynthesis occurs at an accelerated rate. You can also add in some protein to the mix, at about 10 to 15 g. But consuming adequate carbohydrate is your priority. Some recovery sports nutrition products are convenient, but you can also make recovery smoothies and snacks.
For a high glycemic carbohydrate choice, which has some recovery advantages over lower glycemic choices, try a bagel with peanut butter and fruit. Energy bars are also quick and effective when eating on the run after training. Of course when consuming solid foods after training, you should also focus on rehydration efforts.
Monique Ryan, MS, RD, LDN is a nationally recognized nutritionist with over twenty-two years of experience and is owner of Personal Nutrition Designs, a Chicago based nutrition consulting company that provides nutrition programs for endurance athletes across North America. Monique consults with the Chicago Fire Soccer Team, and was the nutritionist for Saturn Cycling from 1994 to 2000. She has also consulted with the Volvo-Cannondale Mountain Bike Team, the Gary Fisher Mountain Bike Team, and the Rollerblade Racing Team. Monique has consulted with USA Cycling, and was a member of the Performance Enhancement Team for the Women’s Road Team leading to the 2004 Athens Olympics. She has also provided nutrition consultation services to USA Triathlon for coaching clinics, athlete clinics, and for the resident athlete team and was a member of the USAT Performance Enhancement Team for the 2004 Athens Olympics. Monique is the author of “SportsNutrition for Endurance Athletes,” 2nd edition (March 2007), from VeloPress,which provides sports specific nutrition for road cycling, mountain biking, running, triathlon, swimming, rowing, and adventure racing. She is also author of “PerformanceNutrition for Winter Sports” (PeakSports Press), “Performance Nutritionfor Team Sports” (PeakSports Press), and “Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition. Monique is a regular contributor to VeloNews, Inside Triathlon, Outside, and ACE Fitness Matters. Please send your questions to email@example.com.