Like all of us during lockdown, athletes are having to deal with change. For most this has not been an easy task especially when it has come to nutrition. Athletes are both deliberate with the training they undertake and the food they eat to maximise adaptations from the training, support health and wellness and optimise performance. As such, there are many lessons we can learn from the elite to stay in shape and support our health and wellness.
With a reduction in travel and office time for many, the opportunity to do home workouts or socially distanced outdoors exercise has become more achievable. The right amount and type of training can help us stay in shape, minimise the risk of injury and illness and help our psychological health. For most of us in COVID-19 times, regular activity at a moderate intensity can help us reduce the risk of illness. However, exercise which is too hard or intense for an extended period can increase the risk of upper respiratory tract infections. Thus, during lockdown for optimal immune function, exercising little and often is favourable.
One essential component that is often overlooked is the fundamental strategy of consuming the optimal number of calories for a desired goal. If you want to reduce body fat you need to consume less kcal than you expend with a deficit of approximately 500kcal per day or 3500kcal per week.
Fuelling health and performance
Elite athletes will plan their diet specific to their individual needs. This means meal-by-meal planning to manage carbohydrate and energy intake. In the Elite world this is often referred to as carbohydrate periodisation or “fuelling for the work required”. This way of thinking is relatable for all of us during lockdown. If during lockdown your physical activity has reduced (especially intense activity), then your individual requirements of carbohydrates will be reduced. However, carbohydrates play a pivotal role if you are undertaking intense or/prolonged activity to support energy and immune health. Carbohydrates remain a vital component of all of our diets during lockdown and consumption should be based around whole grain and fibre-rich sources.
After training elite athletes will have individualised nutrition strategies to replenish the glycogen utilised (carbohydrates), repair and promote muscle growth (protein) and rehydrate (fluid and electrolytes). Protein sources from meat, plants or fish play a crucial role in supporting muscle recovery and development. Protein ingestion and resistance training both stimulate new muscle protein synthesis and are synergistic when protein is consumed following exercise leading to enhanced muscle recovery and greater increases in muscle mass. The exact duration after exercise it would be beneficial to consume protein is unclear however the anabolic effect is long-lasting, but likely reduces with increasing time post-exercise.
If you would like more support on your nutrition plan, please contact us.