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10 Steps to Becoming a High-Performance Athlete: Step 1 – Nutrition

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Nutrition

Firstly, let’s look at what makes up a balanced diet. A healthy, balanced diet should have around 60% carbohydrates, 15% protein and 35% fat.

Carbohydrates are converted by the body into glucose and glycogen. During exercise, our muscles are fuelled by the glucose in the blood and glycogen stored in the liver and in the muscles themselves. Glucose and glycogen are inter-convertible, meaning that if the body

has enough glucose, carbohydrates will be converted into glycogen and if there is a shortage, glycogen will be turned into glucose. The digestion of carbohydrates is incredibly important as it helps maintain the balance between the level of glucose in the blood and the stores of glycogen. Carbohydrates fuel all activities and it is important to choose correctly in order to avoid sugar peaks and troughs. Complex carbohydrates are starchy and fibrous whilst simple carbohydrates are simply sugars. A measure of how quickly the energy of carbohydrate is made available for use by the body is its glycaemic index (GI). Generally, high GI foods are digested quickly, which consequently releases their glucose quickly to produce a fast energy boost. Those with a lower GI take longer to break down and tend to increase glycogen reserves rather than meet instant energy needs.

#1. Foods with a low GI

  • Grains
  • Grain breads, seeded breads, sourdough and rye
  • All Bran, barley, buckwheat, bulgur wheat
  • Oats, pasta, rice noodles
  • Pulses and beans, including lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, baked beans, butter beans, haricot beans, kidney beans, lima beans, soya beans
  • Vegetables such as new potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, sweet corn, radishes
  • Lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes
  • Fruit, including apples, dried apples, bananas, cherries, dried apricots, grapefruit, grapes, kiwi fruit, oranges, peaches, pears, plums, prunes, strawberries and raspberries

#2. Foods with a medium GI

  • Grains
  • Arborio rice, basmati rice, brown rice
  • Couscous
  • Chapatti, pitta bread, wholemeal bread, melba toast
  • Pulses
  • Vegetables, including beetroot, broccoli, carrots, potatoes
  • Fruit, such as pineapple, mango, melon, apricots and dried figs

#3. Foods with a high GI:

  • Grains
  • Bread, baguettes, bagels, crackers
  • White rice, white pasta, tapioca
  • Crunchy Nut, Cornflakes, Coco Pops, Rice Krispies
  • Pulses
  • Vegetables, including broad beans, pumpkin, swedes, parsnips, jacket potatoes and mashed potatoes
  • Fruit, such as watermelon and dates
  • Now we’ve got a balanced diet dialled, the stages below will help you make sure you stay well nourished, ensuring you can stay on top of your game.

#4. Plan meals ahead of time.

Don’t get caught out feeling hungry then grabbing anything in sight! Plan accordingly.

#5. Aim for 6 meals a day.

This helps to keep blood sugar levels even to enable you to train longer and harder.

#6. Use suitable portion sizes.

Part of the planning of a balanced diet is portion control. This serves to ensure that you’re getting the nutrients you need while refraining from overloading the digestive system, which can lead to unnecessary weight gain.

#7. Make sure you’re getting enough protein.

Good quality protein will help build muscle, repair body tissue and balance blood sugar levels. It may also reduce food cravings. Don’t just stick to beef. Add the rainbow variety of vegetables with venison, lamb, duck, turkey, lentils, beans, nuts and seeds.

#8. Food is fuel.

How many people do you know who look after their cars better than they look after themselves?! They wouldn’t dream of putting inferior fuel in their cars, so why do they put inferior food in their stomach? Food is fuel, so make sure you choose it wisely so you can enjoy long-term health benefits as well as short-term fitness levels.

#9. Remember the 80/20 rule.

If you think you’ll find it hard being a nutritional saint, stick with the 80/20 rule – 80% very healthy and 20% ‘healthyish’!

#10. Keep a food diary.

Keeping a diary will enable you to monitor your food intake, hydration, weight, body measurements and energy levels. This will help you in busy and stressful times to look back and follow a plan that works. If things aren’t working, then the diary will show you what not to repeat!

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