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The ideal time to adopt nutritional habits

Nutrition should be a highlighted topic during the 365 days of the year, but with the current situation, it acquires a prominent role because of the consequences not only in our physical performance but on our general health too. It is not about “improving our immunological system”, but consolidating some nutrition guidelines to face the present and future with certainty.

Small adjustments, huge progress

Now it can be a good time to adopt new habits and routines to optimize our wellbeing. We also have the chance to focus on what we had been lacking or want to improve. Nonetheless, one has to take into account that extreme changes are not highly recommended in exceptional circumstances like these ones, so the best thing to do would be to focus on laying the foundation of the change we want to make once this situation goes back to normal.

Small adjustments could be the implementation of a 30 minutes routine at the start or end of the day, a moment to spend a short time exclusively in things like meditation, reading or some easy stretches or bodyweight exercises. This will help us to stay proactive and start or end the day in a planned way, with the aim of optimizing the hours of sleep and recovery in general.

All under control

Adopting best practices before, during and after doing exercise is essential to ensure performance during the session and to help your body recover after the effort. Amaia Martioda, the dietist nutritionist of the Continental road team Kern Pharma, provides us some key takeaways about the hydration of athletes. For a cyclist on lockdown, exercise means periodical sessions on the home trainer, and if they want to complete the planned workout with full marks, it is not enough to drink only water, as it is necessary to complement it with a bottle of isotonic because the amount of sweat due to training indoors promotes a loss of electrolytes like sodium.

Hydration is still important after exercising, and knowing that our bodies digest faster liquids than solids, it is advisable to recover with shakes based on fruits and milk, dairy or non-dairy. Just as we closely follow the power or heartbeat values set by our virtual training platform, we encourage you to internalize the following formula; weight yourself before and after the workout, and multiply the weight loss by 1,5 to know the amount of liquid you have to recover. Fruits are mostly water, so eating a few pieces throughout the day we will get to our goal without realizing it.

A place at home we are probably spending more hours than what we are used to is the kitchen, and despite it isn’t necessarily bad, it would be advisable to take profit of that by adopting good habits such as meal timing and food quantities and proportions.

Boredom is one of our worst enemies, and it could be the reason for binge eating. In case you cannot resist the temptation, you at least will be able to choose how to fulfill your cravings, and high volume foods low in calories like fruits or even homemade popcorn could be a good choice. Spread your intake among 5 or 6 meals, including a protein dose in all of them, and you should be satiated for the day. Nonetheless, there is no reason to stress too much about your weight; it is already a difficult situation so restricting yourself will not be beneficial for your mood and general feelings.

Beyond pure performance

The truth is that we should also focus on what is beyond what your weight scale says or anything that has an impact on what is exclusively sports performance. Jackson Long, who is not only a sports nutritionist but a cross-country skiing and cycling coach too, is an advocate of the plant-based lifestyle and argues that food does also have a relevant role as regards wellbeing, the world’s sustainability, and ethics. This could be a good time to reconnect with the why of eating a certain way and making small changes to help establish a longer-term, positive relationship with food that transcends pure performance or weight loss.

With a nutrition plan primarily centered around foods coming from plants (grains, fruits and vegetables, pulse, nuts, seed and more) we will have all we need to maintain and improve our health and performance, but starting from this basis one can add what may be necessary to get closer to their goals, adding food of animal origin or prioritizing what contains the desired macro or micronutrients.

All those interested in ultra-distance cycling could see this time as an opportunity to transition into a diet less dependent on carbs by increasing the intake of healthy fats in order to turn these fats into the primary source of fuel, which has been shown to be beneficial if you are riding for a decent amount of hours. Once again, we remind you that these changes should be gradually made, avoiding anything extreme, as it is studied that glucose depletion has a negative effect in our immunologic system, our natural defense against bacteria and viruses.

If your training sessions, whether indoors or outdoors, are high in intensity, Jackson recommends us to incorporate in our post-workout meal some natural anti-inflammatories like turmeric and ginger. One way of mixing it all in a single meal is a smoothie bowl, with the possibility of adding whatever we want to make it as calorie-dense as we want. All of you that love Indian food are lucky, as these spices are commonly used to prepare the typical dishes.

However, during these weeks most of what we eat will be cooked by ourselves, so the choice of what to buy is in our hands. Frozen fruits and vegetables are a very good option when there are not fresh products available, and they are a potentially healthier option because they are immediately frozen after collecting them, maintaining all their fantastic nutritional properties.

Following these guidelines, you will see how quality nutrition has a much bigger effect on our sports performance and recovery than those crash diets or magic products that claim to be all we need to improve our weak points. Take a look at what you eat from another point of view and make all the necessary decisions to get closer to your objectives, which can be sports goals or personal ambitions on the whole.

Photos by: Kern Pharma, Brazo de Hierro, Jackson Long