It’s London 2012 and by now you’re either eagerly dusting off your gym shoes or completely exhausted from wondering how those athletes maintain their toned bodies.
But what if you were to get off the couch? What would you need and where would you start? Well, carbohydrates give us the energy to exercise, fats allow us to exercise for longer periods and proteins help repair the muscles we’ve strained and pulled (just thinking about all this exercise)!
CARBOHYDRATES ARE NOT THE ENEMY! They have the biggest impact on your performance and Olympic athletes consume between 5 and 12 grams per kilogram of body weight, per day. Nutrient-rich carbs include fruit and yoghurts, smoothies, stir-fry’s with rice or noodles and pastas. Athletes are also encouraged to eat moderate to high GI carbs like most types of rice, white and brown bread, potatoes, jam and honey, sports drinks and cold drinks.
FATS AND WEIGHT CONTROL
Even though Olympic athletes have high energy requirements, excess calories are a major no-no. Drastically cutting down on calories can also have detrimental effects. Bad fats are the saturated and trans fats – those that increase your waistline and clog your arteries (think full cream dairy products, butter, fatty meats, commercially baked goods, fried foods and sugar-laden sweet treats). Good fats like the monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and omega-3s in things like avocados, nuts like almonds, macadamia’s and walnuts, fatty fish like salmon and sardines, soymilk and tofu, have the opposite effect. They play a huge role in helping to manage your mood, stay on top of your mental game, fight fatigue and assist with weight control. The answer isn’t cutting out fat, it’s about choosing the right ones and a great place to start is by reading labels.
Protein’s main function is to build and repair. Choose lean proteins like eggs, lean beef, pork tenderloin, salmon, canned tuna in water and low fat cottage cheese. Protein shakes should be limited as some contain harmful and banned substances. Excess protein can also increase body fat and protein eaten instead of carbohydrates may compromise fuel availability and performance.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
The approach usually suggested whilst training is to follow a low-fat diet focusing on carbohydrate and protein. But for those who follow Professor Tim Noakes’ recent controversial advice, you should read our blog post about the Carbohydrate Conundrum.