10 Nutrition Commandments

Posted on Posted in Blog

Whilst training is important, making a few simple changes to your diet can really boost your results, but with all the conflicting information we see in the media regarding diet, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here, I’ve outlined some ‘Nutrition Commandments’ which I preach to the athletes I work with.

  1. Take a ‘Food First’ approach – Don’t be tempted to waste your money on lots of supplements, powders or shake diets. If you think of a pyramid, then fresh, quality foods should form the base and supplements should only make up the uppermost part.

    Diagram showing that a balanced diet forms the base, Sports nutrition is the centre, and supplements are at the top of the nutrition pyramid.
    Nutrition Pyramid
  2. Eat regularly, every 3 to 4 hours – To provide muscles with fuel for performance and facilitate recovery you should aim to consume food every 3 to 4 hours throughout the day.
  3. Choose fresh over manufactured – Your body will run better on high-quality fuel. Avoid cheap processed foods or fast-food and instead choose fresh ingredients from local sources if you can. Eat mostly wholesome, natural foods such as vegetables, meats, fruit, dairy and healthy fats 80% of the time, but allow yourself some treats now and again.
  4. Eat your protein – proteins are the building blocks of muscle and the soreness you feel after a hard day on the bike is caused by a breakdown of that muscle. To help rebuild and repair this breakdown, quality sources of protein should be eaten at every meal, including breakfast and snacks. Quality sources include meats, fish and poultry, eggs or dairy for example.
  5. Eat your rainbow – Try to eat a range of colourful fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Each colour contains an array of vitamins and minerals essential for health, well-being, and optimal performance. A diet deficient in vitamins and minerals could leave you feeling fatigued and negatively affect your performance.
  6. Keep hydrated – Sweating causes you lose important fluids and minerals from your body. Hydration is important for both physical and mental performance, so make sure you start your workout properly hydrated. For shorter (60-90 mins), lower intensity workouts (below threshold), water with added electrolytes will be sufficient. For harder or longer workouts, adding 30-60 grams of carbohydrates may help with performance.
  7. Try swapping instead of cutting out – making a few healthy swaps is a great way to cut down on calories and help lose some weight. Try swapping fizzy drinks and cordials for sugar-free versions.  Instead of packing crisps and chocolate, take some fruit, mixed nuts and Greek yoghurt. Swap the chips or bread for larger portions of vegetables, some boiled potatoes or a wholemeal wrap. I’ve seen this approach work better than cutting out foods altogether.
  8. Supplement wisely – Ask yourself: is my diet as good as it can be? Am I getting 8 hours of sleep a night? If you’re not getting the basics right, then supplements shouldn’t be a priority. I’m not big on supplements, but I generally recommend a high-quality fish-oil, vitamin D, probiotic and a good multi-vitamin.
  9. Carbs aren’t the enemy – Carbohydrates are an important fuel for energy during high intensity activity. During periods of hard training, particularly if you are training twice per day, it’s important to refill your muscle’s store of carbohydrate (called glycogen), so they perform just as well the next day. A good balanced meal at the end of race day, containing carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes or pasta will help your body refuel overnight.
  10. Think before you drink – fizzy drinks, energy drinks, cordials and alcoholic drinks can contain a lot of calories but have little or no nutritional benefit. Also, be weary of caffeine, a lot of fizzy drinks contain caffeine which could lead to a bad night’s sleep, negatively affecting your recovery.