Eating well is something that more and more of us strive to do as part of our daily life, but food becomes particularly relevant when you’re doing a lot of exercise. You need to make sure you’re taking on the right fuel in order to get the best performance during training as well as for any event, match or game.
Just a couple of weeks after Christmas we’ll see some of the world’s best tennis players in action in Melbourne for the Australian Open, and Djokovic, the current men’s singles title holder is a great example of someone who saw their performance improve with a change in diet. The Czech player gained the world number one ranking shortly after he removed gluten from his diet in 2010 and he’s retained that position fairly consistently since then. Djokovic has won the Australian Open five times and is already making an impact in the betting odds (4/5 when this article was produced) to win the tournament in 2016.
While Djokovic clearly had specific intolerance issues with gluten, there are some guidelines that all people who exercise should follow. Read on to find out how to get the best out of your workout and ensure a quick recovery following exertion.
by Peter Mooney
Refuel after exercise to speed up muscle recovery
- Stay hydrated. We all know the importance of staying hydrated during exercise, but you should consume enough water the rest of the time as well. American Olympic athletes are advised to consume 1oz of water for every pound of their bodyweight every day. It’s also a good idea to drink the same energy drink or other beverage during training as you do at any race or event, so that your body is used to it.
- Stock up on iron. A lack of iron in your diet could lead to injury risk and slower speeds. Make sure your diet includes iron-rich foods such as red meat, spinach, and oats to allow for muscle repair and a top-up on energy.
- Load carbs, but over time. Carb-loading is a tried and tested formula for athletes who want to ensure good energy levels during an event. However, leaving it until the morning of the match or event isn’t the right strategy. You need to start with a carbohydrate-rich meal the night before, but don’t overdo it as if you eat too many carbs in one sitting your body will store what it can’t use as fat. An easy way to get the right amount is by replacing just one protein or vegetable portion with another lot of carbs. On the day of your event, a high-carb and low protein breakfast (like a bowl of cereal) is all you need to top off your carbohydrate levels. And, of course, remember to drink plenty of water and electrolyte drinks.
- Refuel after any high-intensity workout. When you’ve warmed down or stretched out, within half an hour of finishing an event or race, speed up muscle recovery with a mix of protein and carbs; a protein shake or chocolate milk are good choices. And before an hour’s passed, eat something like a meat, egg or cheese sandwich. Of course, you’ll need to make sure you top up on fluids immediately after the event too.
by Lori Greig