You are what you eat, but fast food won’t make you quicker

Everything in moderation is a good rule of thumb, but it is important to reward yourself

A boiled egg makes an excellent mid-morning snack.

A boiled egg makes an excellent mid-morning snack.

 

When training or increasing your overall level of exercise, it is really important to alter your food intake accordingly.

A healthy, well-fuelled body will be best placed to cope with increased training and exercise. I think that if you are serious about following a healthy lifestyle, a mindful diet is crucial.

I’m a big believer in eating real food and aim to get all my essential nutrients through eating fresh, varied produce. There are endless tips on social media around what type of diet is best to follow but for me it is simple: eat real food; avoid eating processed food; eat carbs, protein and fat. Your body needs all three, but avoid added sugar as much as possible.

I always aim to choose the lowest sugar content if buying anything with added sugar. Foods that can fool you with high-sugar content are yoghurts and granola. Greek yoghurts with the lowest sugar content I can find are Fage and Libertas.

Try to get lots of vegetables (especially greens) into your diet. Aim to have some protein with every meal as this way you are certainly fuller for longer and will be less inclined to reach for sugary snacks. Drink water and eat fibre.

A sample of what I eat on a day when triathlon training can look something like this:

  • Post-morning swim – porridge with seeds, berries and some Greek yoghurt with coffee;
  • Mid-morning snack – a boiled egg or possibly almonds or fruit (apple or orange) with coffee;
  • Lunch – chicken salad;
  • Afternoon snack – hummus and oatcakes;
  • Dinner – salmon and vegetable stir fry with brown rice or quinoa;
  • Evening snack – Greek yoghurt, fruit and dark chocolate.

After a training session I always aim to have recovery food available straight away, whether it is a pitta bread with an egg or a pot of granola and Greek yoghurt with a banana or berries or a carton of chocolate milk. Refuelling quickly after a training session is key to replenishing your body with calories spent and when hoping to train again the following day (or even later that day), refuelling is even more important.

It goes without saying that excessive alcohol intake is not good for anyone. I certainly enjoy having a couple of glasses of wine but when I am in a serious training block I try to cut alcohol out completely. I really don’t deny myself completely of treats as everything taken in moderation is usually a good motto to follow and it is important to reward yourself when you deserve it.

I have over the years developed a love for dark chocolate. In general, the higher the cocoa content the lower the sugar content. It also satisfies a craving for something sweet without having to eat an entire bar. There are some really nice sugar-free chocolate options on the market now such as Dr Coy’s chocolate. I generally avoid drinking too many energy drinks while training and leave these for race day.

What I mostly aim to achieve is to side step the overly sugary option where possible. This is easier said than done and I regularly fail.

Sometimes I just need a bit of sugar!

  • Aileen Flynn is a clinical specialist physiotherapist in musculoskeletal care at Beacon Hospital and a triathlete. She is competing in the IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii on October 14th.
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