If you're training a lot you need to ensure your body is fuelled properly to cope with it all – and that means getting the right nutrients. The benefits are many, such as improved quality of training, less chance of becoming ill or injured, and improved recovery times – all leading to better performance.
It’s fair to say there isn’t a lot milk doesn’t do. It helps you to recover from hard training sessions, it rehydrates after a long ride, looks after your bones, helps sore muscles recover faster, supports the immune system and might even help you to adapt to training. It can help you to loose fat mass while maintaining muscle if you’re trying to lose weight. It’s pretty easy to get one or two pints per day into your diet: add it to cereal, tea, coffee, make a smoothie (maybe with frozen berries) or just drink it on its own.
Mixed Frozen Berries
You may have heard about cherries and beetroot enhancing recovery and performance. Well, one component of both of these is a group of nutrients called polyphenols. These are really potent antioxidants that support the immune system and, in the case of cherries, help recovery. There are even some polyphenols that can help adaptation to training. Keeping berries in the freezer is an easy way to have them to hand; you can defrost some for dessert and mix them with Greek yoghurt, or you could melt them into your morning porridge.
Jumbo Porridge Oats
Start the day off well with some jumbo oats made into a nice hot porridge. They release their carbohydrates slowly (particularly if you make the porridge with milk) and keep you feeling full for longer. They also contain beta glucan, which has been shown to support your immune system during times of stress, like during hard training. Of course, you don’t have to have oats as a breakfast cereal – you can make a mean energy bar out of them (who doesn’t like a flapjack?) or you could put them in a food processor along with some good quality butter and herbs and use as a topping for salmon.
Salmon is one of the best sources of omega 3 fats. These good fats do everything from lowering blood pressure to supporting your immune system. Omega 3s have been shown to enhance muscle protein synthesis; this is the way in which the body builds new muscle. Protein does this too, so with salmon you get a double hit. Salmon can be cooked quite simply: just add some Cajun spices, grill until cooked on both sides and serve with some salad and quinoa.
This is one of the few complete proteins found outside animal sources, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids. For a grain it also has a relatively high protein content; this makes it a great option for vegetarians, but also for athletes because it’s a great source of low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates. It is also relatively high in iron, an essential nutrient for endurance training. If you fancy a change at breakfast, you can make a lovely quinoa porridge with milk and maybe even mix in some melted dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids)
Chocolate can be good for you, but we’re talking about the dark stuff (and we mean the really dark stuff). You need to choose something with at least 70 per cent cocoa content – only then will it contain those magical polyphenols. It’s been shown that eating 40g of dark chocolate per day reduces the stress on the immune system caused by a training session, and it also makes you more efficient at using fat as a fuel. Dark chocolate is great in many savoury sauces – try adding it to a chilli con carne, for example. For something a little different, make a chilli and dark chocolate sauce and pour it over prawns before serving.
These are an amazing source of protein, the key to any cyclist’s diet. They are also a good source of the amino acid beta-alanine. Beta-alanine is a precursor of the buffer carnosine found within muscle. Carnosine ‘grabs’ onto acid as it is produced within the muscle and stops it from decreasing muscle function. Research has shown that a higher beta-alanine intake can improve sprint performance at the end of a two-hour race. Make some simple ‘surf and turf’ with king prawns and a great steak served with a fresh green salad and sweet potato fries.
This is only a distant relative of the common potato, but whatever you can do with a potato you can do with a sweet potato. Sweet potato chips are incredible. They are also nutritionally superior to a potato, as they release their carbs very slowly, which will fuel you and help weight management. They are a great source of vitamin C, and have incredible amounts of vitamin A. They also contain anthocyanins, a type of polyphenol that acts as a good source of antioxidants. Why not cook a beef and onion pie with a sweet potato topping?
Humble beef mince, you say? There is nothing humble about beef mince – especially if it’s a good quality lean steak mince. Beef is a great source of protein and one of the best sources of iron, that all-important endurance nutrient, as well as B vitamins, selenium and phosphorus. It packs a great nutritional punch and when minced it’s very versatile and can be used in all sorts of dishes from Bolognese to burger.
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