Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Eat for Performance - Energy & Recovery

We all have to eat to live, we do it for entertainment on a Saturday night.  Taste and flavor combinations can elevate any dish to a gourmet treat.  Special foods indicate special occasions.   Families and friends gather around the table, in the kitchen, outside by the grill.  Food plays a huge role in our lives.  One's relationship with food is important, and when its off, the individual suffers...every day...3 times a day.  Everyone knows and deals with food personally.  While in training for the MN Ironman Bike Race, I've been reading about what your body needs at different points in exercise. I don't have any answers or new tips to try, but a shift in focus as your mowin' down: What is your food doing for you?
What eat depends on what your needs are.  If you're building muscle, ingest protein to support that.  If you're going the distance, more potassium from bananas or potatoes.  If you're not doing much but going to work and then a happy hour, there's no need to carb load or eat that T-bone.  I've heard it too many times among my sailing crowd, about girl food and boy food.  I cant tell you in how many ways that makes my blood boil.  There's no such thing.  I did propose that in the middle of winter, while we work on serving and tarring foot ropes, that I didn't feel like a hamburger sandwich...but more of a chicken salad.  Still doing work, but not THAT much work. 
I think its also key to think about what your sources are for the nutrients you need.  For example:  you can get protein from nuts, beans, meat, cheese.  It boils down to plant or animal sources.  Fats can come from dairy, oil, vegetable, seeds, meat, but depending on one's needs, there is a best choice. Be smart about choosing your sources.  I've heard rumor that having some caffeine before exercise is beneficial.  Which doesn't mean go have a skinny vanilla mocha, it means make a cup of tea or a shot of coffee before you go out and play.

One of the best things about biking is that food is your fuel.  Think about stimulating your muscles, having a combination of energy that ready for your now, and some that will be there for you in an hour.  If you've got a kickball game in the park you need to think about keeping yourself agile, keeping your reactions quick, there's food for that...sweet, eh.

The other part of my query that has been an eye opener has been the focus on recovery. Its natural for you to focus on the work involved in an event, like biking 70 miles or running a 5k, but the pivotal difference is making it easy for your body to recover from the work so that it can do it again.  That, friends, is what I have learned in my brief training process for this race.  The average person does an activity once, a few times, but the athlete performs the work repeatedly,  and therefore needs to recover from the stress of the soccer practice...rest up before the big game.  What you eat can support that recovery and repair, making it easy on your body to mend the stress put on during practice.  It takes work to break down turkey in your body, there are a lot of chemistry that needs to happen to access the nutrition it provides.  Enzymes need to come to the scene and break down the protein then other stuff breaks it down further, and then your body gets to use the food.  Take it easy by eating things that have more accessible nutrition.  Its about creating the right chemistry in your body to support the things you like to do.

These principles need not only be applied to sports events, but to your life at large.  Moving day is a big day, eat for the occasion...but not so much it makes your sluggish, right? Long lasting energy with a few bursts for lifting the couch. 

That's all for now.  Thanks for tuning in.  See you in my yard for a BBQ on Sunday in prep for Race Day. 

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