The health and fitness industry is rife with misconceptions and conflicting information. And while in some areas of health there certainly shades of grey, when it comes to basic sports nutrition there are a number of facts that are pretty black and white.
- There is more to body composition than calories in vs calories out – while for some people, adjusting the number of kilojoules they consume each day is all they need to do to achieve their weight loss or body composition goals, for the many this is not the case. Other factors to consider include:
- Hormones – mainly stress hormones and reproductive hormones. When these are out of balance our body can retain fluid, deposit or hold onto fat, or even change our appetite and food cravings (as well as mood and motivation!)
- Sleep – this also influences the functioning of our hormones as well as our sensitivity to insulin
- Basal metabolic rate – this is essentially the speed of your metabolism when the body is at rest, and will be influenced by genetics, body composition (muscle/fat/fluid) as well as the type of macronutrients you are eating – protein and fat will increase metabolism more than carbohydrates
- Micronutrient status – not all calories are created equal. 100kJ of broccoli for example, is obviously more nutritious than 100kJ of ice-cream. Trying to eat a variety of wholefoods across a wide spectrum of colours will ensure you are getting a great balance of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
- Eating protein doesn’t automatically create muscle mass – Protein is vital for tissue repair (including muscle, skin, bone and organs, nails, hair), but in order to create muscle mass you need to train effectively and also consume the appropriate amount of carbohydrate. Amino acids (the building blocks of protein) also coordinate hormone production, regulate metabolism, build enzymes and make antibodies and immune system molecules. Furthermore, by eating protein with every meal you will have improved blood sugar balance and energy levels
- Fat does not make you fat – in fact it is more likely sugar and excess carbohydrate. Fats are vital for providing an energy reserve, assisting the body in using proteins, carbohydrates and some vitamins effectively as well as balancing blood sugar levels and building hormones. Recent research has encouraged a swing back towards saturated fats (such as butter, ghee and coconut oil) due to their stability which makes them great for cooking, as well as other health benefits including supporting the immune system, thyroid health and being an efficient energy source.
- Carbohydrate must be consumed ideally within 30 minutes post training. While this window of time will differ from person to person, I generally encourage clients who do a large amount of training to eat within 30 minutes of finishing. This is due to the fact that muscle glycogen (stored energy) needs to be replenished, and the muscles are most sensitive to insulin during this window (the sensitivity does continue, but tapers off in the 24 hours post training). Due to this sensitivity, it is also the best time to include higher GI carbohydrates (such as dried fruit, honey, white rice or fresh juices) as they will not cause such a spike in blood sugar levels. Including carbohydrate as well as protein immediately post training will help to fight fatigue and increase endurance in future sessions.
Looking for a great post workout shake that is nutritionally balanced and delicious? One of my favourite recipes is:
- 250mL water
- 1 Scoop Clean Lean Protein
- 1 medium banana
- 1 tbsp cacao powder
- 2 tbsp nut butter of choice
- 1 tbsp flaxseed oil
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!