The saying goes, you are what you eat. But even though you may be eating healthy, you may not be eating smart. Whether you’re training for the NTC Tour, a half-marathon or simply to keep fit, the right fuel is vital. Case in point, elite athletes spend as much time on their meal plans as they do on the field.
I know what you’re thinking – where do I start and what foods should I be eating to fuel my body?
To find out, we decided to take a look at the diet of Australian soccer star Kyah Simon, who is currently training for the Rio Olympics. Then, we asked accredited sports dietician Margaret Mielczarek for her expert opinion on Kyah’s diet and also discovered how everyday athletes can make their diet more fit-focused.
“Within my career I’ve been able to recognise what my body can handle, what’s good fuel, what’s bad fuel and the different tolerances I have with certain foods. I think there is always room for improvement when it comes to dieting and different food intakes, tailored for different spikes within the year in terms of in and out of competition.”
Eggs on avocado and vegemite toast, with a skim flat white
A salad with protein (either chicken or fish)
Banana or protein bar
Salmon or chicken with veggies
Yogurt and fruit
“Overall, Kyah’s diet looks balanced, with foods from each of the food groups. Being a busy athlete demands some serious fuel. This is achieved through regular, balanced meals; balanced with lean protein for muscle growth and recovery, healthy fats, which are anti-inflammatory, and complex carbohydrates to restore fuel stores (muscle glycogen).
One of the best ways to start the day is with eggs and avocado. Eggs are a nutrition powerhouse and are filled with vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats, while avocado is a great source of healthy fats. I would suggest adding some vegetables here, such as spinach, tomatoes, capsicums and mushrooms and perhaps round it out with some smoked salmon for added healthy fats. Vegemite on toast can also be a great option to fuel training. Vegemite is a good source of B-vitamins for energy and sodium (salt) that will help to prevent muscle cramping. Ensuring your breakfast is well balanced and not loaded with processed sugar will help to control you blood glucose levels across the day (you won’t start on that blood glucose roller coaster), it will help to control your appetite and prevent over eating.
Dairy, such as yoghurt, is important for athletes. It’s a great source of calcium, which is important to maintain bone strength and prevent brittle bones, stress fractures and potential bone breaks. Dairy is also a good source of casein, a long acting protein. Having yoghurt with fruit is a healthy dessert option and is a great way to continue the recovery process over night. I would suggest though, making sure that you’re choosing natural or Greek yoghurt and avoid yoghurts flavoured with fruit as these tend to contain more sugar.”
1. A balanced diet is the key, along with an adequate intake of protein across the day to maintain lean body mass. Aim to eat regular 15-25g hits of protein across the day, at meals and snacks.
2. After a work out it’s important to refuel with carbs, to replenish fuel stores, protein for muscle growth and recovery, and healthy fats, which have anti-inflammatory properties. One of my favourite post-work out meals is poached eggs, smashed avocado on sourdough toast – delicious! But it’s important not to overeat starchy carbs as this may lead to unwanted weight gain, particularly around the middle.
3. Round out your meals with healthy fats. Healthy fats help to fill you up and keep you feeling fuller for longer, preventing over eating, weight gain and will help with staying lean.
4. It’s important for female athletes to be consuming iron-rich foods regularly. Good food sources of iron include lean meat, chicken, fish, green leafy veg, legumes and lentils.