This is part 1 of a two part series on how to take care of yourself adequately during training. A lot goes into training for big sporting events. The self-care is just as important as the actual exercise routine. I’ve learned a lot over the last couple of months undertaking rigorous training and although it is specific for each individual and depends on the sporting event you're training for, I'd like to share my top tips on how to take care of your body during this intense time. It is important to remember that everyone is unique and people will respond differently to various self-care techniques. Part 1 incorporates internal self-care and part 2 details external self-care.
Optimal nutrition is especially important during training in order to meet the increased demands of exercise and ensure rapid refuelling and overall recovery. Your training diet depends a lot on your goal, your physiology and the type of training but here are some general guidelines.
Your body burns glucose for energy, carbohydrates are the easiest macro-nutrient to convert to glucose for fuel. If you're planning on doing a high intensity work out for less than an hour it may be best to eat slow releasing carbohydrates prior to starting. These include:
Fruit (berries, melons, cherries, apples, plums, pears)
Vegetables (spinach, kale, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, onions, asparagus and sweet potato) (this list isn't exhaustive).
Try these oats for breakfast.
If you're planning on doing low intensity training for longer than an hour your body will burn out the glucose and the glucose reserves (glycogen) and start burning fat. This is when you hit the proverbial wall and once you bypass that your body is in the fat-burning phase.
Your muscles are most susceptible to absorbing nutrients around 45 minutes post workout. They don’t completely close after that, but they absorb at a much slower rate. To help your muscles recover and to replace their glycogen stores, eat a meal that contains both carbohydrates and protein within two hours of your exercise session. Good post workout food choices include:
Yogurt and fruit
Peanut butter on whole grain bread
Smoothie (spinach, berries, protein powder, nuts, seeds, almond milk)
Turkey on whole-grain bread with vegetables
Try a pea or hemp protein powder which contains all natural ingredients.
Water is crucial for maintaining blood volume, regulating body temperature and allowing muscle contractions to occur. Dehydration increases the heart rate and body temperature, and the perception of how hard the exercise feels, especially when exercising in the heat. The loss of fluid equal to 2% of body mass is sufficient to cause a notable decrease in performance (that’s a 1.4 kg loss in a 70 kg athlete). Dehydration of greater than 2% loss of body weight increases the risk of nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea during exercise. Delaying fluid replacement may lead to bloating and feeling sick. It is impossible to ‘train’ or ‘toughen’ your body to handle dehydration.
Develop a plan for drinking water during exercise based on your own sweat rates.
3. Cherry Juice
Sipping cherry juice pre-workout may ease muscle soreness as it contains anti-inflammatory anthocyanins. Cherry juice also has several health benefits: they fight free radicals, help with weight loss and boosts melatonin levels which supports a healthy sleep cycle.
4. Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol affects your sleep cycle, this can lower your performance by up to 25%. It reduces your body's ability to store glycogen, a crucial energy source required for endurance. An altered sleep cycle can also increase the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, slowing down healing. Cortisol significantly lowers growth hormone levels, which builds and repairs muscle tissue. Alcohol also reduces testosterone, a hormone responsible for muscle growth and regeneration. It can severely dehydrate your body which may put you at a greater risk of sustaining musculoskeletal injuries such as cramps, muscle pulls and strains. It impacts muscle protein synthesis, reducing it by up to a third. This is where muscle cells generate new proteins, necessary for the skeletal muscles to benefit from training by recovering, growing and adapting. Without this, you would never improve and be constantly injury-prone.
Intense exercise can be very traumatic on the body, leading to inflammation in the muscles. Omega-3 can improve recovery time by decreasing inflammation in the muscles.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Exercise can put added strain on your joints and cartilage. Glucosamine sulphate is a popular joint care nutrient. Chondroitin sulphate is an important structural component of cartilage. It provides cartilage with resistance to compression by attracting fluid into the cartilage and thereby enhancing its elasticity.
You can purchase a combination supplement.
Alpha-lipoic acid and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)
Antioxidants may be an effective nutritional strategy for preventing or minimising the detrimental effects of free radicals (FRs) generated by strenuous exercise. The chronic exposure to FRs is linked to the development of certain diseases, such as cardiovascular, metabolic, inflammatory, neurogenerative, cancer, muscle atrophy and the ageing process. Exercise-produced FRs may impair performance and muscle force production. It may also contribute to muscle damage and further promote inflammatory responses after exercise, thereby interfering with recovery. Alpha-lipoic acid and NAC are very powerful antioxidants.
You can purchase a combination supplement or buy them separately.
See part 2.