Go Aussies go! The olympics have just passed and the paralympics are on their way, inspiring many of us to get active. This seems like an opportune time to hone in on some sports nutrition tips to help you along, whether at a recreational level or higher.
As I watched the Aussie 10 000m runner, Patrick Tiernan, stumbling his way to the finish line, it looked like he had exhausted his carbohydrate stores. Carbohydrates are our body’s preferred energy source. Carbohydrates are found in starchy vegetables, fruits, breads and cereals and some dairy products. If we are exercising for prolonged periods of 90 minutes or more (sometimes even 60 minutes), our carbohydrate stores can become depleted, resulting in fatigue. If you have watched any cycling, you would have seen the cyclists prioritising getting their snacks in during the race to top up their carbohydrates. If the carbohydrate stores become depleted, we can continue exercising, but our next best sources of energy (fat and protein) cannot be burned rapidly which translates to lethargy and poor performance. It also means our blood sugars become low, and this can also result in lightheadedness and weakness.
Has any of this happened to you?
Are you getting enough carbohydrates when you are exercising?
Next, lets take a look at protein. Proteins are made up of amino acids and are important for muscles and strength. Animal based foods provide all of the essential amino acids, while plant sources of amino acids, such as grains, legumes and nuts do not. In order to get all the amino acids from plant protein sources, you need to combine plant protein sources such as pairing grains, nuts or seeds with legumes. Or consume a soy product such as tempeh or tofu for an easy source of complete plant protein. It is important that if you are someone limiting your animal protein, that you are getting all the essential amino acids for building your muscles. One amino acid that is particularly notable for everyone is leucine, as it triggers protein formation. Great sources of leucine are whey, cheese, soybeans, beef, chicken, pork, nuts, seeds, fish, seafood, and beans. Include a variety of these foods in the diet daily to ensure muscle growth activation. If you are training intensely multiple times a week, your protein needs are likely double that of a person not trying to build muscle, so make sure during these times you are getting enough protein.
Are you getting enough of all the essential amino acids in your diet?
Do you eat protein-rich foods at every meal?
Dr Anna Roesler and Ms Rachel Armstrong
Larson-Meyer, D. E., & Ruscigno, M. (2019). Plant-based Sports Nutrition: Expert Fueling Strategies for Training, Recovery, and Performance. Human Kinetics Publishers.