An insight into nutrition for athletes
An athlete’s nutritional approach to optimal performance
Whether you’re exercising to improve your mental and physical health or at more of a professional athlete level, sports nutrition plays an important role in optimizing the beneficial effects of physical activity, no matter what type of movement workout you do.
Making the right choices with your nutrition and hydration may result in improved performance, injury prevention and quicker recovery. So, taking time to explore your options and find the right approach for you can work wonders in supporting your active lifestyle.
Olympic athlete, James Ellington, has recently shared his approach to nutrition with us. While he performs at a professional level and the nutritional intake will differ, he understands it’s important for everyone to consume the right balance of food and drink when taking part in regular exercise.
Read his interview below for insider insight into nutrition for a high-performing athlete.
How big a part does nutrition play in your performance and recovery?
As an athlete, nutrition plays a very important part in my performance. In terms of managing my weight, it’s relatively easy as when I train, I train hard so you can get away with eating as much as you want without putting on weight. My main reason to eating a healthy balanced diet is to support my recovery and hormone balance which makes it so important to be aware of what you’re putting into your body. If you’re not eating the right things, it can contribute to picking up illnesses.
Do you have specific nutrition guidelines?
Ultimately, I aim for balance with the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fats). I try to avoid having too many bad carbs as insulin spikes up and down. And my protein intake is highly important to me as it helps to repair and build muscles. Protein will always be a key focus for me when it comes to supplementation.
How do you assess your dietary needs?
Throughout my sporting years, I’ve had access to sports nutritionists and dieticians but it’s important to remember that everyone is different when it comes to your diet and it can affect people in different ways. The main piece of advice I’d give is to listen to your body. Your body is the best indicator on whether you’re eating right or eating wrong. Over the years I’ve picked up on the foods that have had a positive and negative effect on me.
What is your meal pattern?
It always comes down to how I feel. I tend to keep it basic in the morning with either a banana, avocado and protein smoothie or boiled eggs and then I see how I feel for the rest of the day. I don’t like to overthink with what I’m eating and sometimes as an athlete, you can get caught up in that. When I’m training super hard, my appetite is crazy.
Do you adjust your diet based on the type of workout you have?
Yes, preparation is key. When I have a track and gym session, I make sure I have my protein shake with berries and blended nuts that I can turn to between the sessions. It’s about having the right balance and not having something that’s too heavy before I go straight into a gym session. I’m now confident that I know what foods will have a positive or negative effect on my performance.
Does your diet or nutritional supplement intake change in the lead up to a big competition or now that you’re preparing for the Olympics?
Personally, I don’t like to make too many changes when I know what works for me and my body. I like to keep it balanced all year round.
Are there any foods you try to avoid from your diet which can impact your performance?
When I have too much milk or too many carbs, I personally feel it takes an edge off me when it comes to my training, my mental ability and focus. That applies to sugary foods and the negative effects it brings. So, I try to avoid them from my diet as much as possible. When I’m eating a healthy living diet and avoid those foods, my energy is consistent, with no highs and lows of tiredness.
Are there certain nutrients that you can’t sufficiently consume through your diet?
When you’re training at a high level and so regularly, it can be hard to get a sufficient amount of nutrition through foods alone. That’s why I find it so useful to be able to take my fish oil, zinc and protein intake through supplement form.
Which products have helped you?
I’ve never been an athlete that has a high nutritional supplement intake. I now know what my body needs and I’ve always been conscious with some of the ingredients that some sports nutrition products contain when buying off the shelf.
I find the Be by Lifeplus sports nutrition range so useful as it provides the solid foundation for the supplements you need. It offers me the amino acids and protein I need, as well as electrolytes. Electrolytes have always been important to me, even if I’ve just added a bit of salt to my water. While I understand nutrition, the simple 1-2-3-system helps people that don’t understand supplementation. The difficulty with sports nutrition products is that they have become so complex.
A nutritional approach that works for you
Your lifestyle, your goals, the type of movement workout you participate in and your current diet will all determine the nutritional approach that’s right for you. Whether you’re exercising to keep fit, to manage your weight or you’re a professional athlete, the approach is consistent. Take time to listen to your body to find the proper nutrition that fuels your body so you can perform at your best, every time.