Gender plays a large part in our dietary needs, so this post will focus on men and what they can do to live a long and healthy life. We will have a chat with one of Australia's elite cross-country skiers to find out what he eats to meet his energy needs. Then we will have a look at the ever-popular protein powder, and finish off with the common question of "Should I drink sports drinks after exercising?".
Conversation with Nick
This month I chatted with Nick. He is one of Australia's elite cross-country skiers, which is one of the worlds most demanding sports from a cardio perspective. He is 22 years old and a student in Melbourne. Nick does a fair bit of his own cooking, so can control what he eats quite well. He does not smoke, as he says it would undo all of his training, and drinks very little alcohol.
1. So Nick, what is a typical day of food for you?
Breakfast always starts with muesli that I make myself (oats, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, mixed natural nuts) with quark (a German cottage cheese) and natural yoghurt.
Continuing the European theme, I normally have some cottage cheese on toast, with a whole stack of whatever salad things I feel like on top – usually mushroom, capsicum, cucumber and spinach. I then top it off with an apple, banana and a coffee.
Lunch is something different every day depending on where I am. Often it’s a salad, sandwich, soup or a big plate of something hot like pasta or curry. My main training session is usually in the morning so it’s important I have plenty to eat afterwards!
When I’m training in Europe I often have a cold dinner like they do, but at home it’s often curry, stir-fry, pasta or steak/chicken/fish and veg.
I generally don’t eat sugar, except that in 90% dark chocolate, natural sugars in yoghurt and fruit. This means honey, dried fruit, and dessert are out, but I don’t really find it that difficult. A good supply of nuts, some natural peanut butter and plenty of fruit help to satisfy the occasional cravings.
2. How much exercise do you do?
I train and race roughly 800 hours a year as a member of the Australian XC (cross-country) Ski Team. This means I have some weeks of 22-30 hours during pre-season, about 15 hours a week while I am racing, and as much or as little as I want in the (very short) off season. We also monitor our morning resting heart rate and weight, so we can tell if we’ve recovered from the previous day’s training, and if we’ve eaten too much the night before!
3. What are your tips for staying healthy?
My training takes care of my exercise requirements, but it’s settled that smoking, too much sun and alcohol, and obesity are bad, so I’ll try to take care of those!
What could Nick change?
Well, being an elite athlete Nick is very aware of what his body needs to stay fit and healthy and in fact has some great suggestions for healthy meals. The only thing I would suggest is making sure that Nick does not cut out any whole food groups, because this can cause health issues down the track. It is great that he is watching his sugar intake, but a little treat every now and then would be fine too.
Also, for some great adventure stories from Nick, check out his blog https://halfanadventure.wordpress.com/.
Product review - Protein Powder
Protein powder is often used after working out. However, a lot of people who use protein powders are unaware of what it is actually doing in their body. Protein in the power form is rapidly digested by the body and helps to increase the levels of protein (specifically amino acids) in the blood. The amino acids are transported from the blood into muscles. The muscles use the amino acids to repair and build muscle cells that were damaged during exercise. Some people think protein powder will alter their hormones (like steroids), this is untrue as it purely a nutritional supplement.
Protein powders are generally made of whey protein, although casein (milk), soy, egg, hemp, rice, and pea protein powders are also available. Protein powders also come with widely varying price tags. The less expensive, more commercially available protein powders, offer the average person the same benefits as the expensive versions.
So, should you use protein powders?
Most people, even athletes, can get everything the powders offer by eating sources of lean protein like meat, fish, chicken, and dairy products. There are few reasons for the average person to use protein powders. These are some:
* When you’re a growing teenager. A teenager might need more protein to fuel their workouts initially because their body uses more protein in general.
* When you’re starting a program. If working out is new to you and you’re trying to build muscle, you’ll require more protein than you normally would. But, your diet often covers this too.
* When you’re increasing up your workouts. If you normally work out for half an hour a few times a week, but now you’ve decide to train for a half-marathon, your body will need more protein. Increased protein in your diet should suffice too.
* When you’re recovering from an injury. Athletes with sports injuries frequently need more protein to help them heal. It is important to seek advice after an injury, as diet can really assist.
However, quantities vary greatly for each individual. If you are thinking of using protein powder, or currently using protein powder but are unsure about the quantity you should be using, book an appointment with a nutritionist to seek the right advice.
Q. Should I drink sports drinks after exercising?
A. Sports drinks are designed to replace fluids, supply calories for energy, and replace lost sodium and potassium from sweating. However, most people don't need them unless they are exercising really hard for more than an hour at a time. Even then, in most cases water would be sufficient.
1. are more diluted than juice and soft drinks, so the fluid can be quickly absorbed and used by the body. However, water is normally absorbed quickly enough to replenish the bodies requirements.
2. provide glucose to give the body immediate fuel, but remember that this is extra calories. Generally, the average person will get enough fuel from their diet not to require extra calories from a sports drink.
3. supply sodium and other electrolytes. As you sweat you lose small amounts of these, and for most people normal meals and snacks replace what is lost. The exception to this rule would be exercising in high heat or humidity.
4. offer to supply extra vitamins. You do not lose vitamins when you sweat, so this is just a marketing gimmick.