For this week’s blog post, I want to focus on the subject of fuelling – specifically in relation to sport. I don’t do “what I eat in a day” videos or posts because I worry that they can lead to unhealthy comparison between people. However, I also want to be transparent with you all because I think social media transparency could help prevent a lot of this dangerous comparison. If you’re a bit confused, then read on – it will all make sense (I hope) in a minute. Oh, and also: YOU STILL NEED TO EAT IN LOCKDOWN. No restriction please!
Before properly getting into this post, I want to take you all back a bit. Just over a year ago, I completely burnt out in running. This was mainly due to inadequate fuelling which, at the time, I was unaware of. I was suffering from RED-S (or relative energy deficiency in sport). My parents, always so supportive, got in touch with Jess Piasecki from RunScience and I’ve been working with her ever since. She has helped me to fuel myself like an athlete and therefore be able to train to my full potential (despite being injured – which I believe is linked to my long period of RED-S). So a lot of what I’m going to share with you now is advice I was given by her, a sports nutritionist and coach.
A day on my plate
Right, so I’m not going to show exactly what & when I eat but I’m going to give you a rough idea of my day on a plate. Hopefully this will help rather than hinder you; I’m not saying this is the right way to eat, just what I do & what works for me. It changes depending on whether I’m at uni or home so I’ll give both to make it clear.
#1: Uni version
- Early pre-training snack (usually 1-2 energy bars depending on how big they are)
- Post-session protein & oat/ banana shake
- Breakfast (nicecream/ porridge/ chia pudding etc)
- Afternoon snack (3-4 rice cakes with nut butter & banana are standard)
- Evening snack/ dessert (usually a yoghurt bowl with fruit, raisins, cereal & granola)
- Chocolate & sometimes date(s) stuffed with nut butter depending on how hungry I am
#2: Home version
- Pre-training snack
- Post-session shake
- Afternoon snack
- Evening snack/ dessert
- Chocolate etc
Basically, the same thing but spaced differently because I do my training early at uni and later at home (lie-in life!). The rough routine I follow though is 3 meals, 3 snacks, a post-session protein & carb shake and some bits and bobs in between depending on hunger levels (e.g. handful of nuts, dried fruit, ritz crackers etc).
For the protein, I’m really enjoying Bulk Powders vegan protein at the moment. They have a great range of flavours (caramel latte is my fav so far), biodegradable packaging and affordable prices. If you buy using my link you get 35% off your first order (yay) and I get £10 off mine (thanks haha). No pressure obviously but I would be eternally grateful 🙂
One of the main things I learnt from Jess was that when and how often you eat is just as important as what you eat. If you have three meals and no snacks, chances are you leave about 5-6 hours between meals. In which case your blood sugar levels will drop dramatically and you won’t be able to push yourself in training as much as you would otherwise. The post-session protein & carb shakes (within 30mins of finishing) help maximise the gains you make from a session/ workout, prevent bone resorption and feed the body when it is craving it. I’m no scientist so feel free to do the research yourself but it works for me!
This brings me nicely onto the topic of snacking. I never used to be much of a snacker per se, often using the excuse that I didn’t get hungry between meals. Maybe I didn’t or maybe this was just my restrictive mentality telling me this. Either way, implementing snacks has been key to getting me back on track. And I treat them like a workout in that I would never skip a session (unless I’m ill or otherwise), so I won’t skip a snack. Even if I don’t feel like it, I know my body needs it, so I have it. Once you get used to snacking between meals & treat it like a training tool, your body will start to crave and expect it. No slacking on snacking whilst in quarantine please!
It might seem counter-intuitive to eat when not hungry, but if you allow yourself to tune into your body’s hunger signals then soon, I promise you won’t feel this discomfort anymore. Whilst intuitive eating sounds like a great idea in theory, for a lot of athletes it simply isn’t feasible. Because the amount you need to eat for your training doesn’t correlate to your hunger levels, and you probably wont be as hungry as your body actually is. So don’t let these narratives of “only eat when you’re hungry” prevent you from fuelling your body right. We’re all different, and as an athlete you have to acknowledge that you most likely need to eat more than the average person. Also, I’m just going to say it: intuitive eating, to me, often seems to just be a glamorised excuse to skip meals.
Another thing I want to address is all the “extras” that I, and probably most, eat during the day that I typically won’t show on social. Why? Because it would be tedious and boring (for me and you) to photograph every handful of nuts/ dried fruit/ crackers etc that I snack on randomly when I’m peckish. So remember that when you watch anyone’s “full day of eating” videos. Hence, again, why I don’t do them.
Anyway, I hope this post has been useful to you – whether you consider yourself to be an athlete or not. Take everything you see/ read on social media with a hefty pinch of salt, take care of yourself, stay home and stay safe.