Exercise places greater needs on the body not only for macronutrients (especially carbohydrates and protein) but for micronutrients too. So often the focus is on protein, protein, protein. High protein shakes (highly flavoured, there’s even a birthday cake flavour), are often hyped at boosting lean muscle and being essential to consume within that one hour window after training (research into this is ongoing about the optimum anabolic window).
Often in practice I’ve worked with PTs and those that train regularly who consume large amounts of protein drinks and bars (with some dubious ingredients) and I question whether the amount of protein is actually being absorbed efficiently. Increased protein places extra demands on the digestive system! I also question whether we need 20g of protein in a protein bar (often full of sweeteners and non-foods) after we’ve been at the gym for an hour?
I firmly believe it is more healthful to gain your protein from real food; food that will not only supply you with essential amino acids to build lean muscle, but also other nutrients such as carbohydrates (needed to get the protein to the muscles) as well as omega 3, vitamins and minerals. This is the premise behind our Sport Elixir – it only contains 4g of vegan plant protein, only 4g I hear you cry!! But the protein isn’t the focus – it also contains carbohydrates and vital immune boosting nutrients such as Vit C all from easy to digest plants and berries to help with recovery and repair. I also believe that mixing it with almond mylk, nuts, seeds, blueberries and avocado will naturally boost your protein without the need for these high protein, highly processed protein powders.
I very much advocate the ‘real food’ approach to sport’s nutrition based on the principle that optimum fitness is not possible without optimum health and that to flood your body with micronutrients is more important than copious amounts of protein. Lets face it, if your recovery is slow or your immune system sluggish, then your performance is likely to be too.
Here are my top 5 tips for a ‘real food approach’ to help boost stamina, strength, recovery and repair:
- Use ‘real foods’ for pre and post-training meals and snacks, rather than using energy bars and protein shakes. Too often people take protein shakes with high amounts of protein in them (and often a lot of fillers, preservatives and sweeteners too) that can be hard for the body to digest. Pre training foods include: fresh fruit, dried fruit, probiotic plain yogurt with added fruit beetroot juice; post training: smoothies with plant protein (see our recipe below), trail mix, home-made seed flapjacks or nut and seed protein balls.
- The harder you train, the more you need the nutrients found in vegetables and fruit. Energy production, whether aerobically or anaerobically, is dependent on many vitamins and minerals. Poor performance may mean an inadequate intake of micronutrients or that your requirement is higher than your current intake.
- Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables contain lots of phytonutrients too, great for tissue repair and the immune system – they help protect plants from disease, fungi and toxins, and do the same for us too!
- Boost you bone and joint health to help prevent injury. Micronutrients such as boron, magnesium, Vitamin D and zinc are also needed for healthy bones – not just calcium! Also plenty of Omega 3 from oily fish (also a great source of protein and energising B vitamins) will help keep joints supple and help reduce inflammation.
- Juice and smoothie making. Smoothies are particularly good for nourishing the digestive system and giving us energy. If making a juice then opt for vegetable based. Beetroot juice (taken 2-3 hours prior to exercise) is a great source of nitrates that research has shown increases blood flow and muscle reaction. Our Sport Elixir Strong Finish Smoothie will help build on that post-workout buzz!