Over the past decade nutrition has emerged as one of the most important building blocks to athletic performance. Whilst athletes and coaches appreciate the need to optimize nutrition historically the focus was what to consume/drink on the bike. This then evolved to “the pre-race meal” and then we saw athletes walking around after races with a recovery drink. During this evolution adopting different nutritional theories and philosophies became the norm for the modern day athlete, from the recreational enthusiast to the professional sportsman.
Vegan, vegetarian, ketosis (fat adapted) and genetic blood type nutrition philosophies have all been thrown into the mix. A far cry from the eating plans of past icons such as the Comrades hero Wally Hayward and rugby’s Frik du Preez, both who would swear by a steak before their respective events.
Even if we look at the European pro peloton of riders, until quite recently many of them, in particular the Italians, were having pasta before their races. Now we see the likes of Chris Froome eating a combination of all macronutrients namely, fat, carbohydrates and protein and whilst the days of carbo-loading have largely disappeared for the professional cyclist, carbohydrates remain a key nutrient as they easily and quickly convert into energy. The old faithful “red ambulance” Coca Cola is still seen consumed in the pro cycling ranks as a quick fix of energy on a long hard day of riding.
However, a more individual strategic nutritional plan for off the bike has made its mark on the sporting fraternity. Although we still do have athletes consuming whatever comes their way and posting good performances, this may be due to their predisposed genetic talent.
Individual strategic nutrition looks at the athlete as a whole and takes into consideration a number of factors mainly genetics and environmental influences, and can be designed around a particular sporting event. One nutritional doctrine or theory may not be the answer particularly as individuals can have different physiological reactions to certain foods and man-made compositions.
Therefore blood type, ketosis and strategic carbohydrate intake should be considered and combined in a calculated way to provide the athlete with a nutritional platform for superior sustained energy, and importantly a less toxic and inflamed physiological outcome.
Sports nutrition and supplementation has become a huge business and the marketing has perhaps created a sporting community that may be less informed or more confused by the many different products and theories presented. Ticking the basic boxes like consuming whole foods and knowing your body, (blood type is a good thing to get checked) and its response to certain foods is more important than consuming the latest product on the market. Once you know the basics then a strategic nutritional plan can be formulated.
The old cliché “once size fits all” is no longer applicable in the world of optimal sports nutrition.