Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fueling the Competitive Athlete - Young and Old(er)

We all know nutrtition plays an important role in the status of our health, the way our bodies function day to day and in determining the way we age.  On any given day, our nutrition is either benefiting or hindering our health.  Everything we put into our mouths will either enhance or worsen our health.  That applies to ALL of us.

For an athlete - especially a competitive athlete - those statements become paramount.  The decisions we make regarding our athletic nutrition; whether it's pre/during/post, can mean a difference between a PR or disappointing failure due to gastric distress, the horrific "bonk", or simply not having enough in our tank to fuel the demands we put on our bodies during a competition.

Race-day strategies aren't the only issues here.  As a matter of fact, the choices we make for each of our workouts - before, during and after - can and will impact how our competitive event will turn out.

If you're a competitive athlete, you've probably heard all of this before.  What you may not have heard of, is fueling your body with real food, food that does not come from Gu's, nutrtion bars,  or sugar-ladened sports drinks (gasp!).

As a former competitive swimmer and triathlete, my fuel came from the typical menu of nutrtion bars, gatorades, pastas, bagels, etc.  I did the usual carb-loading night before race day - mainly because everyone else did it and I assumed this was fueling me for a long race day.  I got the same gastric issues on race day like everyone else, so I assumed this was all normal - nerves/anxiety.   It wasn't until I switched to a cleaner way of eating (real food!), that I realized the GI tract doesn't have to react that way and, more importantly, it shouldn't react that way!  My training and performance improved, but what was noticed most of all was my body's ability to recover.  Decreased recovery time, muscle cramping vanished, extremely limited soreness and my energy levels didn't suffer 4-5 hours after competing (the word "nap" has not been part of my vocabulary since switching to Paleo!).

Feed your body with food that we are genetically meant to eat and you will begin to notice improved GI function, tweaked performance, incredible recovery rates and just plain feeling great.

Following is a great recipe to fuel yourself (or your young athletes at home!) before and, most certainly, after a tough workout.  I have also taken this with me during a long trail run that will last 2+ hours by putting it in a baggie (with a small opening snipped on the end) and squeezing the contents out when I'm ready to fuel.  It has a great source of carbs that are nutrient dense and the right amount of healthy fat - without the added preservatives and sugars that are commonly found in nutritional products.

1/2  Acorn Squash (or any other squash of preference) that has been roasted in 400 oven for 35-40 minutes (I like to brush a bit of coconut oil inside each half and sprinkle with cinnamon...mmmm)
1/2 banana (optional, but this gives it good flavor and younger athletes like it)
1 tsp almond butter
1 tblsp ground flaxseed (you can ground in a grinder yourself or, my young athlete at home likes it whole for added crunch)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (play around with the amount)

Put everything in food processor and puree as best you can, stirring if need be.  Serve.  You can even drizzle with a bit of pure maple syrup or raw honey (your choice) when you serve.  If having this for a meal like breakfast, I would serve some protein along side.  We like to have scrambled eggs or sausage.



  1. This is new information for me. I am quite happy to know this. Nutrition is always better for athletes.

  2. I am glad this information has been helpful!
    Thanks for the comment.