Nutrition advice for starting endurance sports

So you made the first step and decided that you are going to train regularly. By choosing this route you are now actively taking care of your health and according to the NHS, “exercise can reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50% and lower your risk of early death by up to 30%.”1

Regular exercise is also known to have similar beneficial effects to the use of anti-depressants, therefore it can be very favourable for those with even a mild form or a family history of anxiety or depression.2

If you want to give yourself the best chance to succeed in your newly chosen sporting activity, following these steps will help you.

Make sure you feed your body with real nutrients

What does this mean exactly? I want to highlight the importance of eating nutrient-rich food versus simply calorie-rich food. It’s only natural that once someone starts training regularly and more frequently, there will need to be more calorie consumption. But calories are not created equally and it does matter what type of nutrients you are consuming. Diversity and quality is key when it comes to eating a healthy diet. The right combination of nutrients will enhance the body’s energy metabolism, and support the immune system and recovery potential.

Be careful with the supplements

Supplements can be really helpful at times, but solely relying on them and putting the diet second is not the best approach. It is a common mistake at the start to stock up on all sorts of supplements without actually assessing the individual needs. It can be a waste of money – and worse, it can do some harm as well. For example, iron is often supplemented without testing and most people are not aware that excess iron can cause serious illnesses. It doesn’t help that many supplement brands are advertising the beneficial effects of iron everywhere, making people feel it is an elixir for tiredness and fatigue.

If you feel you are not getting enough energy from your diet then I suggest to consult with a nutritionist or visit your GP and request a few blood tests to define what it is that you are missing. Supplementation should only come after diet changes and health assessment, in order to give you a personalised plan.

Don’t forget about recovery

Often people get into a new routine and want to do their best to prove they are not going to give it up and to achieve their aims. This is definitely a winning mentality, but the body doesn’t work like a machine and it needs time to recover after training. Depending on your individual genetic settings, your level of fitness and your diet, this can be shorter or longer but it is required for everyone. It is a good idea to eat protein-containing food within 2 hours after you have finished exercising to help with muscle recovery. Eggs, lean meat or pulses are great examples of healthy protein rich food.3

Make sure you balance training sessions with rest days

Make sure you balance training sessions with rest days

Including rest days in your new routine is essential because it gives a chance for your body to completely recover and to maintain your overall health. Have you heard of overtraining syndrome? It occurs in athletes who train vigorously, yet their performance deteriorates. They will notice they have lowered immunity, because they will get colds more frequently.4 You can avoid this if you make sure you have enough recovery time built into your routine.

Think about doing other types of exercise as well

You decided you want to get engaged in endurance sports, so you are running/cycling/swimming every week. Do you ever break this routine with a different type of exercise like yoga or Pilates or a power session in the gym? It is advisable to do different types of activities as well as your usual ones because it helps to build your body in different ways. In the long run (no pun intended!) it helps to achieve greater success in your chosen field. Yoga and Pilates also help to strengthen your core and improve your flexibility, which will prove beneficial and could be a game changer at your next race!

References

  1. "Benefits Of Exercise - Live Well - NHS Choices". nhs.uk. N.p., 2017. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
  2. Dinas, P. C., Y. Koutedakis, and A. D. Flouris. "Effects Of Exercise And Physical Activity On Depression". Irish Journal of Medical Science 180.2 (2010): 319-325.
  3. Phillips, Stuart M. "Dietary Protein Requirements And Adaptive Advantages In Athletes". British Journal of Nutrition 108.S2 (2012): S158-S167.
  4. Lakier Smith, Lucille. "Overtraining, Excessive Exercise, And Altered Immunity". Sports Medicine 33.5 (2003): 347-364.