Eating on the move – real foods as fuel
On-the-Go Food for Athletes…..
What do Formula Ones Nico Rosberg and Sky Pro cyclist Chris Froome have in common?
This weekend the current leader of the Formula One points table, Nico Rosberg, was clearly seen eating boiled potatoes in the garage before his race and members of the successful Sky Pro Cycling Team including Chris Froome have often seen seen eating white rice on tour. Is this the start of a real food revolution ?
Over the last decade an entire pre-packaged processed sports nutrition industry has grown up to provide athletes and budding athletes with handy foods, bars, gels and drinks, that are designed to fuel performance in a handy portable way. The problem is that in the quest for convenience, we may have lost sight of the fact that just because it’s convenient and designed, it does not mean that it is better and there is growing evidence that athletes feel much healthier and perform just as well when they eat carefully chosen real foods.
Historically, the problem with real food is that it can be difficult to transport and eat on the go. Working with cyclists who often have to re-fuel on the move and are away from home for long periods, physiologist Allen Lim and the chef Biju Thomas have come up with a way for athletes to literally have their cake and eat it. With their book ‘Feed Zone Portables – a ‘cookbook of on-the-go food’ for athletes, they aim to change the way athletes look at sports nutrition.
Feed Zone Portables contains 250 pages of both sweet and savory recipes all of which are easy to pack up and take with you. It also contains a detailed explanation of how to calculate the amount you need to eat, emphasising that many people currently munching sports snacks and gels maybe over estimating the amount they need. The book is beautifully written and even has a section showing you how to wrap your ‘portables’ so they are easy to carry and easy to eat.
So that’s food sorted but what about drink…..
Plain water may well be perfectly adequate hydration for most sports, in most circumstances but research shows that taking in carbohydrates during exercise can improve speed, accuracy and endurance and that flavoured waters improve rehydration, encouraging individuals to drink more. Feed Zone Portables also has a detailed chapter on hydration strategies, discussing the benefits of taking in ‘food’ and drink together or apart. The authors do have their own, all natural sports drink brand – Skratch Labs, but suggest that the best thing to do is experiment and see what works for you. Manufactured sports drinks are ok but it is possible to tailor something for yourself, that is fresh and nutritious, cheaper and better.
There are lots of sports drink recipes on the web including this great list from the BBC. Top nutritionist Nigel Mitchell who works with UK cyclists has said “if their not drinking pure water and you see the guys with the bottles of pale, coloured liquid, it’s usually pineapple juice”.