What is a diet? What does the word “diet” actually mean?
A simple google search will render millions of definitions and millions of different options from what athletes eat, what celebrities have eaten to achieve their “amazing figure” or what “personal trainer” is selling on the latest fat loss show. But how do we as athletes define or decide what a “diet” actually is to us. To athletes! Who do we ask?
Oxford Dictionary defines “Diet” as:
a special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight or for medical reasons:
So by this Oxford definition, I don’t actually have a goal of “losing weight” nor do I eat certain foods for “medical reasons” So why would I not call it, “eating for performance”
When I searched google using the terms, “elite sport nutrition” all I got was pictures of supplement stores, proteins and other various images of bodybuilders with 3% body fat. Hardly educational.
For me the world diet is short term. I prefer to think of the way I eat as a conscious lifestyle choice. A behaviour that I can continue for the length of my sporting career. I don’t try and eat well sometimes. 90% of the time I try and consider what kind of performance I can expect from what I put in my mouth.
This article will give you a few examples of how a typical training day looks for me in the way of meals.
Things to note:
I am currently 118kgs
I am 199cm
I am taking zero supplements at present
I am not trying to lose weight or gain weight.
I am not allergic to any foods nor do I have any intolerances.
Knowing that I am going to have 2 sessions on this day, I need to be smart about my recovery and think about energy expenditure.
2 fried eggs.
Whole grain rye bread
Light cheddar cheese.
Porridge with coconut oil, flaxseed, milk and lingonberry jam.
Coconut water, blueberries, lemon and mind juice
Its important to note the following things when constructing your own eating plan:
The average human can only process 30gm of protein every 3hrs.
Carbohydrate is necessary for all athletes recovery not just endurance specific athletes.
Training emergency food:
I am guessing we have all been in the situation where our blood sugar plummets during training and we start to lose our concentration and feel a little light headed. For this reason I always have some “emergency food” in my bag. Most of the time that is a banana (straight out in the blood) or a bar of some sort. If you are training longer than 90mins this is a must. Also think about competition. Your bag should be loaded with emergency foods just in case!
Post training snack timing is important! Normally after I finish a session, i’m home and hungry in 45min. To give myself a little time to prepare a good meal (usually I cook all my meals in advance which you will see later) I will eat a small snack. Always keeping in mind: value and recovery.
The fact that most Australian kids are taught that bread and sandwiches with “cheese and vegi” is a suitable lunch is a massive concern for me. Having lived in Europe for a some years and seeing the eating habits of many different nations that have far less obesity issues makes me wonder how we get it so backward!
Lunch splits our day into halves. We are awake and active, yet bread seems to be a smart choice to ensure productivity throughout the remaining daylight hours!? Lunch should be our largest meal of the day. Proteins and carbs, minerals and vegetables! Especially if you are an athlete.
Keeping this in mind my lunch usually looks like:
30g of protein in chicken (there is roughly 22g of protein in 100g of chicken), Zucchini pasta salad (takes 3 mins to make), Focaccia bread and butter (for extra carbs) and a glass of light milk.
Lean mince spaghetti bolognese and spinach salad, 2 pieces of hard rye bread with cheese and cucumber and a glass of water.
Pre Training mid-afternoon snack.
Usually after lunch ill do some work and have around a 45min power nap. I’m usually lifting in the afternoon so I have to make sure I arrive ready and with a full tank of fuel. Most of the time i’ll turn on the coffee machine before I sleep so I can wake up and the boiler is hot and ready for a nice latte.
This is one of my favourite snacks:
Chai pudding, flaxseed, greek yoghurt, muesli with low sugar content (less than 10g) and cloudberry jam complemented with a nice latte.
Not only does this taste amazing, that and the coffee make me feel great mentally. I know i’ve topped up my energy stores and 9 times out of 10 i’ll sing myself into go mode in the car on the way to training!
Hands up if you are tired? Me too!
This is usually why I will do a big cook up earlier in the week so when I arrive home and all I want to do is pass out on the couch I can just defrost one of my meals.
This time however, I decided to cook an omelet because I had some chicken left over from lunch.
Chicken omelette with 4 eggs, jalapino leaf salad, hard rye bread and a glass of water.
If you notice there isn’t really enough carbohydrate in this meal. A little bit naughty of me here but I did top it up right before bed.
Pre Sleep Top Up
I used to sit up way too late but now I know how important sleep really is and how much it can change how I feel when I wake up in the morning and the quality of my session. The best thing is, it costs nothing. So GO TO BED! but before you do, remember that for 8-9 hrs you wont be eating a thing. Give your body a chance to have adequate fuel, even when you are sleeping.
Greek yoghurt with grain cereal with the least sugar content you can find (no simple carbs the blood sugar spikes and crashes too quickly) The cereal I choose is 6.9g/100g
No time to cook? No problem!
There is always time. Find it somewhere. For me its usually Sunday afternoon. I do a grocery shop put on some sweet sweet reggae and get my cook on. I thank myself every time I feel like I couldn’t be bothered especially when I get home from training at night. It makes making a smart decision easier. (#trainsmart)
Chicken Green Curry-Freezes well!
Spaghetti Bolognese- Also freezes well.
This might not be the perfect way for YOU to eat. Its just an example of what I do to keep myself fueled for high performance training. I enjoy cooking which makes it easier for me to enjoy a good meal. When I get to a major champs I always ask myself the same question: Could I have done any better with my preparation? Did I give my best ALL THE TIME? Being able to answer that question gives me great confidence.
A short note worth mentioning:
Before christmas I was walking down the lollie isle at my local supermarket and here was a father with his maybe 6 year old daughter. She asks, “Dad can I have a bag of lollies” to which he replies, “I’ll do you a deal, if you can read the first 5 ingredients on the label you can have them” and off she went. As you can imagine she was having some degree of difficulty with that and I thought to myself, “this guy needs to win Dad of the year” what a great lesson!
So here are some points for you to take away:
- Our bodies can only use 30g of protein every 3 hrs. You do not need to eat more. It just becomes expensive trips to the toilet.
- All athletes need carbohydrate for recovery.
- Think about what you eat as parcels of energy. If its quick in, its quick out. Try and keep your energy levels consistent throughout the day (and night)
- If you are still hungry after getting your requirements in try eating things like more greens. It will satisfy your hunger and not negatively effect your nutrition.
- Eating well is EASY. If its not simple then you must be overcomplicating things.
- Avoid things like fad diets, they are not designed for athletes.
- Good choice emergency food in the bag always.
- Read the labels. Use the “per 100g” Learn to know what you are eating.
- If you cannot read the first 5 ingredients on the label its probably not good for you!
- Eat for train not train to eat.