In order to be successful in your training and race performance, you must pay attention to your food intake. There are no magic foods or perfect combinations, but you need to be familiar with nutrition. Applying it carefully is a great source of wellbeing and keeps your body in shape, as it is well stocked.
A balanced diet means getting nutrients in the right amounts for your tissues to maintain themselves, repair themselves and grow, as well as maintaining a balance of energy. An individual’s estimated need, therefore, should take into account various factors, such as sex, age, physical characteristics, daily energy usage and other extrinsic factors, such as differences in digestion, absorption and assimilation of various foods. The energy requirements of a particular sport should also be considered, as well as individual food preferences.
A runner obviously has different needs compared to someone who is sedentary, but also different needs compared to sportsmen and women in other disciplines or less heavy athletic specialisms.
There is not, therefore, one single diet for optimum physical exercise, but careful planning should follow the guidelines for healthy nutrition.
Let’s look at the most crucial points:
- Having a varied diet
- Balancing food consumption, and therefore calorie intake, depending on the type and intensity of training
- Choosing a diet rich in unprocessed vegetables, fruit and cereals
- Choosing a diet low in fat, saturated fatty acids and cholesterol (animal fats)
- Having a diet with low sodium and salt content
- Moderating alcohol consumption
- Choosing foods with a low/moderate glycaemic index: in the case of a high glycaemic index (e.g. pasta), try not to have too much and always accompany with other nutrients and fibre
With this in mind, using the food pyramid, which can be found on numerous specialist websites or publications about nutrition, is very helpful as a basis to plan your own diet.
In relation to pre- and post-race diets or using food during long distance races, there are some special factors you need to take into account, which we will look at in the near future.
Professor Augusto Innocenti, PhD – Nutritional Biologist, Professor at the University of Parma and the University of Pisa, and Massimo Santucci