Olympian and Vhi Ambassador David Gillick shares some food for thought when it comes to fuelling for exercise.
As a former elite athlete and now parkrunner, I regularly get asked questions about food.
It’s a really interesting topic regardless of their level, especially as it affects both health and performance. For someone who is passionate about food and its effects on the body I’m only too willing to share my thoughts, especially as many of you are implementing some lifestyle changes as part of The parkrun Resolution, and diet might be a part of this.
The first point to emphasise is that nutrition is very individual and dictated by a person’s goals, preferences, tolerances and physiology.
What to eat before exercise?
This depends on the person. Some people can’t stomach food early in the morning and feel better exercising on an empty stomach, others like to exercise having eaten something. Personally, if I am running at 9am I try to eat an hour before, any later I get cramps. Porridge is my go-to with some natural protein rich yogurt topped with fruit and nuts. If I’m pushed for time, I’ll throw it in a blender with some milk and make a smoothie. However, do be aware of fibre, it is a key nutrient in a healthy diet and something the majority of us can do with more of, but if you consume a lot of fibre pre exercise it can cause some stomach issues for some people.
Is hydration important?
This is a big area that is often neglected. Of course, drinking water throughout the day is important but it is also important to avoid drinking too much, as this can lead to other problems connected to the dilution of your electrolytes. Why not add a slice of lemon to your glass of water to give it a lift!
Do I need to eat something straight after exercise?
Again, this is very individual. After a run I try to consume foods rich in protein and carbohydrate within the first 30 minutes of finishing the run, to aid my recovery. I like yogurt, smoothies, milk or a homemade oat and nut bar.
Do I need to eat certain foods?
I aim to eat balanced meals and snacks each day. “Quarter, quarter, half” is what I try to go by, a quarter of the plate protein, a quarter carbohydrate and half the plate with fresh vegetables, but I know some people prefer to experiment with this and have more or less of one food group in relation to the others. I eat at regular times over the course of the day which I find helps cut any sweet cravings. Ultimately, it’s important to find out what works for you, and keeping a food diary alongside a training and ‘mood’ diary (where you record how you feel emotionally and mentally) can really help with this.
Overall, food is a big part of our lives, so try to enjoy it! I’m not one to cut specific food groups from my diet, I try to keep it varied and practical, and that works for me. I’ve also got a busy house with small children, so I’m a fan of one pot meals, batch cooking and using the freezer to make life easier.
Why not make some small changes as part of your parkrun Resolution and maybe share this article to encourage your friends and family to do the same!
Congratulations to De O’Connor who has been selected as the final winner of the #Vhi parkrun social media competition. De has won a pair of wireless Apple AirPods headphones, which will no doubt come in handy for all her future runs! De is living in Dublin, and her local parkrun is St Anne’s…
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