In The Media > Choose your fuel wisely

19 Jun 2011

In order to maximise your performance when exercising or competing it is important to focus on your diet.  The food consumed around your workouts and games is vital to optimise your preparation both physically and mentally.

Whilst meeting your nutritional needs is often easier whilse at home, it is important to be aware of the right foods choices to make when eating out or travelling.  It is up to you to choose wisely as it will affect your physical performance.

Most restaurants cater for all dietary requirements so don't feel embarrassed to ask what you want or need ... after all, you are the customer and as the old saying goes "the customer is always right".

Choose foods that are ...

* High in unrefined carbohydrates - to supply the energy required to fuel high intensity exercise and optimise recovery

 Sources should be low fat, unrefined and highly nutritious, ie. basmati/brown/wholemeal rice, granary bread, potatoes with skin, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes/parsnips/carrots, wholemeal pasta, wholemeal pita bread, wholemeal wraps, pulses, oats and grains, bulgur wheat, quinoa, cous cous, all vegetables and fruit.

Ask for granary crusty bread, not white bread.

Avoid options that are high in refined sugar, ie. white bread, sugary cereals, cakes, biscuits, garlic white bread

* High in lean protein - to promote muscles recovery and rebuilding.  High protein foods are slowly digested, as such are not a good option prior to excercising or competition

Sources must be lean, ie. chicken, turkey, a range of fish such tuna, cod, sole, sea bass and salmon, lean beef mince and kangaroo.

If red meat is served at lunch it should be part of a composite meal, ie. beef and been stir fry, stew with vegetables or ravioli or spaghetti bologanise.

All excess fat must be removed.

Pick dishes with legumes to increase the protein value and promote slower release of energy.

Ensure that all dairy products including cheese are low fat.

Avoid sauces high in cheese

* Low in fat - to optimise your energy bank with nutritious foods from carbohydrate and protein sources.  Fat is not used as an energy source in high intensity excercise.  Fat can lead to an increase in your body fat and be detrimental to your performance.  Fat is slowly digested and as such not a good option prior to exercise or competition.

Include unsaturated fat options, ie. oily fish such as salmon, fresh tuna, trout mackerel, sardines, or avocado, nuts and seeds.

Do not add butter or oil to vegetables or sauces.

Keep use of spreads to a minimum, choosing very light margarine that is high in omega fatty acids, such as Flora Pro Active Low Fat spread.

* High in vitamins and minerals - stress of training and competitions increases your needs.

Steam vegetables and use vegetable and pulses in most dishes and soups.

Ensure you have a vegetable or salads portion each meal.

* Fluid must be replaced at all meals

Ask for large glasses when eating out.

Use semi-skimmed, skinny or low fat soy milk.

Ask for iced water, or fresh juice or fruit juice with no added sugar.

Hot drinks such as coffee, teas, either green, earl grey and peppermint will also add to your fluid bank.

Some other points to remember ...

- Allow your meals to be varied to avoid boredom and provide a range of nutrients, however, it's worthwhile not trying anthing new near competition.

- Avoid spicy options or anything overly adventurous as this can often lead to gastric upset.

- Be familiar with your choice of foods, this is important psyschologically, aiding comfort and confidence.

- It's often said that humans eat with their eyes, so keep it colourful and well presented to fulfil a healthy appetitie and keep moral high.

- Flavour your meals with herbs and natural flavourings, keeping salt to a minimum unless you are a heavy sweater and need to replace sodium.

- And finally ... it can be tasty!

Lorraine Cullen is a Sports Dietician for the Sydney Swans, and has previously worked with the Scottish Rugby Union Team, Glasgow Ranger in the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Institute of Sport