Eating well is an absolute essential for your health and well-being, as well as your athletic performance. Even though we all know this is the case, it can be a confusing topic and even harder to put into action. What we eat in the off season has a lot to do with how well we train and perform next season. Food provides us the energy and the necessary building blocks required to be healthy and fit for next season’s events. Before getting into what your diet should look like for the off season of Foundation building, let’s do a quick refresher on fuel for exercise.
Your body uses primary two fuel sources during exercise —carbohydrates and fats. If you could, you would prefer your body to use mostly fat, and regardless of how skinny you are, if you only used fat for energy you’d have plenty to keep you working out for days. By comparison, if you only used carbohydrates stored away in your muscles as glycogen and exercised hard, you’d probably only last about 90 minutes to two hours.
In reality, your body never uses just one of these two fuel sources. Your body is always using both sources, but the ratio of how much of each is used at any given time depends on the intensity of your workout, your diet and how aerobically fit you are. If you dial your diet in just right and also get your aerobic fitness right too, you will use a lot more fat and less glycogen, which is the preferred result. This brings me back to the subject of your diet and training during the winter Foundation period.
Foundation Training and Your Diet
Your diet and how fitness improves, (or not) during the off season directly linked with one another. One of your key objectives for your winter training program is to improve your aerobic capacity and your increase your body’s ability to use fat for fuel. Eating a diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and lean animal protein enhances your body’s ability to use fat for fuel. By comparison, eating lots of carbohydrates consisting of starches and sugar will detract from your aerobic fitness. Limiting the starches and simple sugars in your diet now will pay dividends next season.
There is more to the Foundation Training period than just improving your aerobic endurance. This is also the time of year when you should also be developing greater muscular endurance. If you’re a cyclist, typical ways of doing this is through weight training or pushing bigger gears. If you’re a runner, doing weights and running hill repeats will have the desired effect.
Given the increased muscular stress during this period of your training the importance of diet is particularly important, especially your protein intake. Including significant amounts of lean animal protein during meal time and a high quality Whey Protein Concentrate immediately after your work out will provide what your muscles need to become stronger. Without adequate recovery that includes protein in your diet, muscular gains will be compromised from what they otherwise could be. Additionally, sufficient protein in your diet will provide athletes and non-athletes the following benefits:
- Boost your immune system and ward off seasonal flu and cold bugs.
- Reduces food cravings and appetite
- Increases energy expenditures
- Increases your sleeping metabolic rate
Older Athlete’s Diet
If this kind of eating is important to building muscular endurance for younger athletes, its goes double for the older athletes who are concerned with loss of muscle mass. As we get older, our body’s internal systems have a tendency towards retaining acidity. And even a small increase in acidity within your blood can cause death. So the body maintains a healthy blood pH balance by stealing nitrogen from the muscles and calcium from bones to offset the higher acidity thereby compromising your performance as you age. This steeling of nitrogen and calcium from your muscles and bones may be great for preventing death, but it’s a “resource-costly” way to solve the problem. A better way to achieve the desired outcome would be to eat foods that are high in alkaline and therefore neutralize the acid and sparing your muscles and bones. Foods like leafy greens, vegetables and fruit are highly alkaline, so the older you get the more fruits and vegetables you should be eating in order to maintain muscle and bone mass (this practice of eating a slightly alkaline diet applies to people of ALL ages). Foods like dairy, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and meats are acidic and should be eaten with larger amounts of alkaline foods.
And a final note about Whey Protein. Ensure you ONLY purchase the Concentrate version, NOT the Isolate. Whey Protein Isolate is subjected to heating and an acid process to strip away the “healthy” fat making this form of Whey Protein extremely acidic and should be avoided.
Let me start off by saying, “I’m a big fan of ‘real’ food”. If you can find real food that meets your nutritional needs from your neighborhood grocery store, or local farmer’s market, this is always the preferred route for optimal health and fitness. That said, given how degraded today’s food supply has become, it’s become more and more difficult to receive all your nutrients to meet optimal health from traditional food supply choices. I recommend most people; especially athletes use supplements to fill the gaps in their diet. Mother Nature has been making real food for millions of years with great success. Scientists have been modifying it for about 30 years and in those three short decades; they’ve managed to mess up millions of years of Mother Nature’s good work.
I personally receive the vitamins and minerals to bridge my diet from a daily shot of YouthJuice and Progressive Organic Whey Protein. In addition to eating a health and well balanced diet, this combo in my daily fruit smoothie seems to meet my antioxidant and nutritional needs for optimal health and athletic recovery.
There’s no doubt a healthy diet will make you a better athlete. Focusing your Foundation Training period diet on foods that enhance aerobic endurance and muscular development will pay off with faster performances next season.
Enjoy the Ride….Rob