Please forgive my boasting, but I just qualified to represent my age group for Team GB at the ETU Champions 2017! To me this is an amazing feat considering when I left university 3 years ago I felt self-conscious running a mile due to lack of fitness. This just shows everyone has the potential to be an athlete if they get out of bed, the thing is many people fail to do this. Fitting training around work has been brutal at times but my addictive personality has paid its dividend.
Often the biggest challenge confronting amateur athletes is time, ergo preparing optimum pre- and post-training nutrition is easily overlooked. That is why this month I am sharing how I try to manage this vital ingredient in my training plan.
Generally I train before work, even if it means rising at 4am. This way I am not lethargic from work, am not pulled away by unforeseeable crises and get to socialise. However, where possible, I attend a late night swim squad once a week. Like me, fellow squad members struggle to work out how to fuel these sessions. Eat dinner before and you risk feeling sluggish or even sick, yet not enough fuel means nothing is in the tank. Until my recent job change, having a proper meal before training was not an option. Working shifts on a shop floor meant there was no time. Regardless, a full meal shortly before training makes me uncomfortable. I prefer having a filling, slow release carbohydrate lunch such as baked beans with wholemeal bread or a starchy salad (containing cauliflower or butternut squash for instance) and then having a MuleBar energy bar (Jimmy’s Choc Orange is my fave) 60-30mins before getting in the pool. I choose MuleBar products for these reasons:
*They taste a lot better than the cardboard often sold as “sports nutrition”.
*I am energised without having that shaky feeling you can get from chemical pumped products.
*I actually know what the ingredients are; products are made using natural ingredients and where possible they are also Fairtrade.
*Products come in compostable wrappers so your consumption leaves no trace.
*MuleBar is part of the 1% For The Planet scheme.
Finishing at 10pm my fellow swimmers then weigh up the recovery nutrition options. Your muscles need to absorb nutrients shortly after intense training to repair and recover into a stronger state but large volumes of food undigested in the stomach can lead to an uncomfortable night’s sleep. Having previously had a very active job I also needed the calories. My solution is to have a recovery bar or seed and fruit mix from Tribe on the train back to my flat to feed the muscles then get in the calories once home. Now, I have to admit a personal interest in Tribe as one of my oldest family friends set up this nutrition and running community with a couple of his chums following and epic journey of 39 marathons in just 30 days across 9 countries, watch their story. The Tribe premise is that if you are training regularly you require regular food to support it so instead of buying a bulk of one product in one flavour you subscribe to receive weekly, fortnightly or monthly packages of five different snacks. Tribe is not simply a nutrition brand but an intimate running community meeting for strength, yoga and running sessions which are usually rounded off with a cleansing fuel stop.
What I love about Tribe (besides my friend Rob):
* Products are made from all natural ingredients in their least processed, refined or adulterated forms.
*Tribe is not a marketer’s dream or simply a product, it is a community and lifestyle. Each product for instance is named after a beloved run route.
* 10p from each Tribe pack sold goes to the brand’s charity ‘Tribe for Good’. Tribe runners decide which project to support at the end of each quarter.
It is around 11pm when I walk through the door of my flat following training so my dinner cannot require much assembling yet needs maximum nutritional value. Being a lover of sweet things and considering the smoothie bowl rage has been roaring long enough I have begun dipping my nutritional toe in to this trend. I still think the concept was created by people who loathe washing blenders after making smoothies but apparently the difference is that they are thicker than their drinkable counterparts.
My first smoothie bowl trial was this Almond Cashew Milk Chocolate Bowl. It tastes like a treat yet also supplies the post-training ingredients you need.
Cacao powder-The cacao bean is rich in magnesium, an energy mineral and vital electrolyte and prevents sunburn (which may matter if you are training outside more now it is Summer and don’t happen to live in the UK right now).
Casein powder- I replaced the maca powder in the recipe with casein powder, an ideal substitute if you are making this late at night, as my nutritionist Jo Scott-Dalgleish explains “Casein is one of the proteins found in milk and it is slow acting, making it good to take at night, when your levels of growth hormone are highest.”
Honey (instead of coconut nectar)- For thousands of years and in multiple cultures honey has been lauded. Significant for athletes though is Ancient Olympic athletes would eat honey and dried figs to enhance their performance. This has now been verified with modern studies, showing that it is superior in maintaining glycogen levels and improving recovery time than other sweeteners.
Almond milk- almonds top you up on important minerals such as manganese, which helps the body form strong bones and regulates blood sugar and magnesium, which is essential for organ, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and regulating blood pressure.
Banana-whether using fresh or frozen, the potassium helps maintain muscles.
The toppings of your choice make the meal so much sweeter. When healthy food tastes great you forget it is healthy; so there is no need to punish your culinary life.
When pressed for time how do you fuel your workouts?