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A healthy, balanced diet is essential for all athletes. It forms the basis of all good training regimes and helps improve performance.
A healthy, balanced diet is essential for athletes as it forms the basis of all good training regimes and helps improve performance. Some seemingly healthy foods are, in fact, junk food in disguise and not suitable for athletes. We've drawn up a list for you!
This is particularly the case with oleaginous fruits such as almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts. Although they are recommended to athletes for their satiating and fatigue-fighting properties, they should be eaten in moderation. "They're good for your health but they are high in calories. So a dozen almonds eaten throughout the day, is really the maximum" says Anne.
Another preconceived idea refuted by Anne: You need to eat a lot of pasta to produce energy."It's not true. Just because you're going to exercise, it doesn't mean you have to eat a lot; you need to gauge your needs and listen to your body," suggests the behavioural heath dietician. Her advice: pay attention to the quantity and cooking time (al dente, preferably) and alternate with other starchy foods. And what about meat? Anne makes the same observation here: you need to eat in moderation and make sure you alternate with plant protein such as lentils, chickpeas, dried beans and even quinoa.
Finally, the dietician advises against energy drinks in the context of exercise. They have an adverse effect on sporting performance. "If you have this kind of drink before exercising, your heart rate will immediately increase and you'll reach your peak capacity much earlier than if you hadn't had it!
It is, in fact, a minimally processed food, renowned for being a natural stimulant and for its energizing effect. And it has many benefits: "It elevates the heart rate, boosts muscle contraction, enhances reflexes and improves reaction time, decreases perception of pain and fatigue, has a fat-burning effect and helps stimulate the cardiac and respiratory systems," lists Géraldine.
However, an excess of caffeine can cause several adverse effects, such as insomnia and heart palpitations, an increase in blood pressure, heart rate as well as heartburn. Too high a dose increases dehydration which increases the risk of muscle strain or cramp.
So, as you'll have realised, coffee is excellent for boosting your sporting performance provided you moderate your consumption. But what constitutes moderate coffee consumption? "Three cups a day is really the limit, more than that is too much," suggests Anne, the behavioural health dietician, before adding: "For moderate physical activity, you can have your morning cup of coffee before you go training, to test your digestive tolerance!"
And Géraldine explains: "As far as I'm concerned, coffee is particularly useful for short distance endurance sports, if drunk one hour before exercising." In fact, coffee enters the bloodstream quickly so having coffee one hour before you exercise will help boost your performance. Finally, for long distance exercise, it can still be useful to have a coffee when combined with a carbohydrate source (such as a piece of fruit, stewed fruit, home-make granola etc) to delay the onset of breathlessness and fatigue!