The top 3 questions I’m asked about sports nutrition

I’m often asked about sports nutrition, and today I have published a new special report written by sports nutritionist, Jacky Hems, titled What is Optimum Sports Nutrition?

here. Jacky answers detailed questions around what and when to eat before and after exercise, particularly for those taking part in intense strength training, marathons, triathlons or distance cycling for example. For those who are taking part in less strenuous sports activity, here’s the top three questions I am often asked.

What do you recommend to improve sports performance?
Apart from practice, the two key requirements in sport are energy and focus. Both of these are affected by how well your blood sugar is balanced. Poor blood sugar balance is very common and causes fatigues, poor concentration, memory, mood and a craving for carbohydrates. To keep blood sugar levels stable, avoid refined carbohydrates, sugars and stimulants such as coffee, tea and sugary drinks. To keep energy and focus high, concentrate on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and high quality protein such as lean free-range chicken, fish and Tofu. Always have a good breakfast, lunch and dinner plus 2 snacks a day (a handful of seeds or nuts and a piece of fruit or a rice cake with hummus). Balance carbohydrates and proteins 2:1 and drink plenty of water.

What is the optimum diet to eat if I am doing regular exercise?
Eating less carbohydrates (and consequently a bit more protein) but choose the right kind of slow-releasing low GL/GI carbs – Only choose whole grain carbohydrates like raw oats, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, quinoa or sweet potatoes. Make sure to eat carbs and protein together. For example, at breakfast choose skimmed or soya milk, a boiled free range egg and whole grain rye bread for carbohydrate or yogurt for protein, and team it with a cup of raw oats topped with sliced apple, and berries. Add a dessertspoon of flax or pumpkin seeds for essential fats (which don’t impede fat burning). For dinner choose carbohydrates such as brown rice, sweet corn, broad beans or couscous with proteins like Tofu, cottage cheese, fish or lentils, and have double quantity of non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, kale, runner beans or tomatoes. This way you don’t flood your blood with glucose (the breakdown product of carbohydrate that our bodies use as fuel and convert to fat if there’s an excess). Drink plenty of water and avoid coffee, tea and sugary drinks, even diet versions which play havoc with blood sugar.

I’m running to improve my fitness, what should I eat?
Complex carbohydrates are the best fuels for the body, so eat plenty of vegetables and whole grains, some fruit is also good. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates, they’ll give you a rush but will leave you feeling more tired than you were before. Have a good breakfast every day – oats are best so go for muesli or porridge and eat small regular meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels even. Ensure you eat enough protein to repair fatigues muscles. This means at least half as much protein as at each meal and snack so have fruit with nuts and seeds, rice with fish or lentils, baked potato with beans or tuna salad. Remember that a more demanding exercise regime generates more oxidants so eat plenty of anti-oxidant rich foods – orange, red and blue fruit and vegetables are best, especially berries. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water – dehydration is the leading cause of fatigue. I’d also recommend supplementing with a high strength multivitamin, 2g of extra vitamin c every day and 5g of glutamine powder before bed to aid muscle recovery. Good Luck!