News - 10th November 2021
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Ask David: nutrition

Vhi roadshow at Griffeen parkrun

Each month we’re putting your questions to Olympian and Vhi ambassador David Gillick. This week, he focuses on your questions around nutrition.


The great thing about parkrun is that it’s open to everyone. As a result, there will be people keen to make weekly improvements and others who simply enjoy getting out on a Saturday morning for some exercise, social interaction and a post-parkrun coffee.


As a former elite athlete and now parkrunner, I regularly get asked questions about food. It’s an interesting topic for many regardless of their level. For someone who is passionate about food I’m only too willing to share. Firstly, I do have to say that nutrition can be very individual and can also be dictated by an individual’s personal goals. Secondly, I’m not a dietician and my views are from my own personal experiences. If you have any concerns, I would strongly advise consulting a professionally qualified dietician or nutritionist.


Diets are very individual and should be based on you and your lifestyle. For many it’s about supporting a healthy lifestyle, for others it could be body composition related or wanting to run personal bests. The key thing is that its individual to you, and your nutritional requirements will be different to others.


What to eat before a parkrun?

This really depends on the person, some can’t stomach food early in morning and feel better on an empty stomach, others like to run with something in there. Personally, I try to eat around 8am, 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 more of, but if you dramatically increase in a meal pre exercise it can cause some stomach issues. Best to keep it simple to you.


Is hydration important?

This is a big area that is often neglected. Make sure to hydrate yourself. It plays a big role in exercise performance and helps support healthy muscles and joints, and these do come in handy when out running. I know it’s not all about personal bests etc but keeping yourself hydrated on a daily basis is important regardless of exercise level. I always aim to drink a pint of water in the mornings, throw in a slice of lemon to give it a lift.


What foods to help you feel full?

Satiety is a term used to explain the feeling of fullness. Certain foods rich in protein and fibre can help give you a feeling of fullness. Trying to include meals with protein, carbohydrates and vegetables. “Quarter, quarter, half” is what I try to go by for my meals, a quarter of the plate protein, a quarter carbohydrate and half the plate with vegetables.

A great tip is a protein rich soup, perfect for a lunch meal with an evening exercise session in mind, or a snack such as greek yogurt, nuts and some fruit is a great mid-morning or afternoon top up!


What about supplements?

Supplements can become part of one’s diet if training or exercise load is high, to meet certain body composition goals or if you are low or deficit in a particular vitamin, mineral or macronutrient, i.e. protein.

We should be able to get what we need through the food you eat. The key is to keep foods varied and aim to eat plenty of vegetables, fruit and consume less processed foods.

Your GP, through regular checkups, would be able to guide you if there are any issues. In Ireland, common issues may arise around low iron, vitamin D3 and fibre.


Overall, I try to keep it varied and practical, and that works for me. I eat at regular times over the course of the day which I find helps cut cravings and overeating. 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.

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