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FOOD FOR SPORTS PERFORMANCE

Family dinner table can bring anxiety, temptation and bad food choices. These can result in both short-term consequences (perhaps upsetting competition performance) and long-term problems (upsetting training nutrition goals). The experience of a swimmer we’ll call Sara shows how these challenges can be overcome.

Since he’d been invited to train with the elite swim squad in his home town, much of Nick’s day was spent staring at the black line on the bottom of the pool. This new squad trained twice a day, so he was now doing twelve training sessions a week, twice as many as he had done at his previous club. At first he coped with the extra training load, but by the end of the second month he was feeling fatigued.

Not only were his times beginning to drop off, but his schoolwork had started to get the better of him as well. He was anxious to please his new coach, but despite his efforts to show enthusiasm, his times and his lactate levels told a different story. To cap it all off, his weight was going down despite his introduction to a resistance-training program (three sessions a week in the gym) and the fact that he was outgrowing his shoes every couple of months.

Nick could not really afford to lose any more body fat—his skinfold measurements were already the lowest in the squad. Nick’s mother encouraged him to eat a larger serve of meat at the evening meal, but by that time of the night he was often too tired to do more than pick at it. A sports dietitian listened to Nick’s story and examined his diet.

She told him he needed extra kilojoules to cover the increase in his training volume, and that a lot of these needed to come from carbohydrate-rich foods—an important source of the fuel burned in training. Chronic depletion of muscle glycogen stores was the likely cause of his fatigue problems and explained why he was unable to complete a test set of repeated high-intensity swims.

Conclusion

It also explained his low blood lactate levels after trying to do these sets: glycogen provides the quickly turned over source of fuel that leaves lactate as a by-product. At 70 kg, he should aim for a daily intake of 500–700 g of carbohydrate, but his present diet lagged considerably behind that

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