Smart, whole food swaps for endurance athletesBack to Blog
25 October 2014
For those of us who are undergoing intense training for a race or (shock horror) for fun, we tend to eat whatever we want 'just to get the calories in'. However, sometimes we can feel uneasy/ queasy about the quantity of the foods we're consuming and suspect the quality could be better. We've interviewed the lovely Larina Robinson (wholefood dietitian, APD, AN) on her food philosophy and smarter swaps for people doing endurance sports.
Good Fuel Co: What are your favourite ways to keep fit?
Larina: I absolutely adore kickboxing, and occasionally running outside and reformer pilates.
Good Fuel Co: We’ve read you were considering becoming a personal trainer at one point in your career. What made you decide to go into nutrition instead?
Larina: For me, my real passion lies not in how the body moves, but how food fuels the body to support what we want to achieve everyday, and for our specific goals. The connection between food, our bodies and health completely fascinates me and I had to find out more!
Good Fuel Co: How did you come up with the name ‘The Body Dietetics’?
Larina: In my second year at university I was already planning how I would start my own business. I really just came up with it one day and it stuck, but I like it mainly for two reasons.
One - I always wanted to advocate for Dietitians. Not too many people know what our jobs entail, let alone can many spell or pronounce it correctly – at least it took me a while to get it right haha! So it can be tricky for people to say, but at the same time it’s creating awareness for Dietitians and Dietetics – the more clinical, chronic disease management side of food and nutrition. Most people aren’t aware that nutritionists can’t work in hospitals and medical centres. Only Accredited Practising Dietitians can as they have studied the dietetics aspect of nutrition, and have been taught the knowledge and skills needed to deal with complex clinical cases and the critically ill.
The second reason, I have to laugh now, is because I wanted to come up on Google when people searched for Elle Macpherson ‘The Body’ so I’d be the person they came to see to look like her! Haha. My advice does work, but I can’t promise you’ll morph into Elle! :)
Good Fuel Co: What’s the most rewarding thing about being a wholefood dietitian?
Larina: I love bringing people back to simple, delicious foods. They realize that food doesn’t have to be so complicated, and that they can still have flexibility, a social life, and variety whilst maintaining a lower body weight and a healthier lifestyle. Hearing feedback from my clients that they are enjoying their healthy diet and lifestyle and are achieving their personal goals is just the ultimate!
Not to mention the joy you get from hearing that they’ve saved so much money on unnecessary supplements and even get to stop taking many medications just from tweaking their diet and lifestyle. It’s amazing!
Good Fuel Co: Alot of endurance athletes have grown up believing that nutrition is just the sum of calories. What are the benefits of wholefood eating for someone whose goals are more performance-related?
Larina: Calories have been the focus of food and nutrition for far too long in my opinion. Yes it’s important to get adequate amounts for your needs. But more importantly is the amount of vitamins and minerals you get from the foods you choose to eat. Having a diet based on whole food sources e.g. food in its most natural state, will help you reach your daily targets.
When you’re an athlete, especially an endurance athlete, your body is put under a lot of stress and comes under attack by inflammation and free radical damage contributing to cell breakdown, premature aging and immune suppression. It’s very important to ensure you’re getting enough calories from wholefood sources so you meet your energy needs, as well as receive a host of nutrients to help repair your cells.
Many people believe protein, carbs and electrolytes are all you really need to recover from a long workout. While they are essential for recovery, vitamins and minerals are the ‘little helpers’ to ensure that your body can absorb, and utilize the macronutrients; supporting recovery processes including cell repair and immune support. Exercise depletes your stores of many vitamins and minerals including B vitamins that act as cofactor enzymes to unlock the energy from your food. It’s important to replenish these for optimal performance and a speedier recovery.
Good Fuel Co: Since endurance athletes tend to need more carbohydrates than the average person, what are some high quality carbohydrate sources you’d recommend to athletes who’d like to incorporate more whole foods into their diet?
Larina: Absolutely – quinoa, whole oats, rye, pearl barley, brown and basmati rice are all low GI grain options. Otherwise sweet potato, taro, corn, and beans are wholesome starchy options too. When you need a quicker burst of carbohydrates – dried fruits, honey and banana are great choices.
Good Fuel Co: Sugar has been a pretty hot topic lately and most people are aware they should cut back on refined sugar. What would you say to an athlete who feels they need some sort of sugar to get them through particularly long or hard training sessions?
Larina: Long hard training sessions deplete glycogen stores, and your body needs that glucose to replenish your muscles. Skip the micronutrient-lacking glucose gels and lollies though, and opt for dried fruits, dried fruit bars and honey or maple syrup instead.
The dried fruits contain a little protein and fibre, as well as essential micronutrients such as iron for energy production; vitamin A and antioxidants to help fight free radical damage, and help protect skin and mucous membranes, and Vitamin K to strengthen bone structure. They also contain varying amounts of copper, manganese, magnesium and B vitamins that act as cofactor enzymes to help break down the energy and nutrients from the protein, fat and carbohydrates that we eat.
Good Fuel Co: Athletes tend to be quite time-poor and often turn to pre-packaged sports nutrition products to ‘get the calories in’. What are some smarter whole food swaps for the following common options?
Larina: After your workout - a smoothie mixed with banana, milk, nuts/chia seeds, berries, cinnamon, and a small pinch of sea salt.
b.Energy gels or bars
Larina: Dried fruit, raw food bars, a squeeze of honey
Larina: For convenience, a smoothie the same as above without the salt. Or Greek yoghurt with berries, a tin of tuna, 3 eggs, or if a protein powder is simply a must, choose grass-fed whey protein or pea protein (it has all the essential amino acids, and is quite high in BCAAs!).
Good Fuel Co: Most endurance sports require lots of training time but it’s hard when you’re still hurting from the previous day’s session! What are some good foods to aid recovery and reduce muscle soreness, if any?
Larina: During endurance exercise, consuming adequate glucose can help prolong your body’s need to tap into your muscle proteins as energy. Having protein before and after exercise is also important to help repair muscle damage – it won’t stop the soreness, but it will help you perform better the next day.
Anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats and antioxidants also help fight free radical damage to cells. So eating plenty of fresh fruits including berries and cherries, vegetables, fish, nuts and nutrient-rich carbohydrates like quinoa, sweet potato and honey is highly beneficial.
Plus adequate hydration, and electrolyte replacement, as well as avoidance of alcohol as it inhibits muscle protein synthesis. Sleep is also crucial!
Good Fuel Co: There seems to be alot of nutrition ‘advice’ out there in the mainstream media. What are some food myths circulating right now that, you wish people were more informed about?
Larina: Ooo, the one that sticks around the most, is that low carb is the best way to lose weight. This isn’t exactly incorrect; it’s more so what people perceive a low carb diet to be. What many people don’t realize (or conveniently forget) is that fruit, vegetables, and legumes are carbs too – so they’re often just cutting out grains, processed foods, and junk food, and eating more veggies, which in turn typically results in a calorie deficit and weight loss. That’s just healthier eating.
The other is that dried fruit is not a healthy snack because of its fructose content. I completely beg to differ! This is a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. For some people, fructose can upset their stomachs causing digestive complaints. For the rest of us, we can tolerate fructose in normal amounts just fine. Fructose is the natural sugar found in fruits and has a very low GI. The fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in dried fruit make them an extremely portable, nutritious snack.
Larina Robinson is a Wholefood Dietitian, APD, AN, Author and owner of The Body Dietetics. She firmly believes in the link between what we eat, our energy levels and our moods, as well as the anti-aging and healing properties of whole foods. Larina regularly contributes to various magazines and online publications including Sporteluxe and Women’s Health and Fitness. Strongly believing in a whole food, individualised approach to diet and health - Larina helps individuals find the diet that suits their lifestyles, health status and unique circumstances; whilst still enjoying delicious, nourishing food and a social life!
Larina has also included her very own delicious recipe at the end for "Hot-smoked Salmon with Black Bean Spaghetti" which would make a fantastic post-workout recovery meal for any hungry athlete.
Hot Smoked Salmon on Black Bean Spaghetti
Naturally high in protein from salmon and the black bean spaghetti. A good source of omega-3s from salmon and skin loving fats from avocado. Plus it's packed with fibre from the avocado and the spaghetti too! The tomatoes lycopene content gets a boost too since its more accessible to us once cooked! A deliciously tasty, satisfying dish.
Gluten free. Dairy free. Sugar free. High protein. High fibre.
- 150g of plain hot smoked salmon (no added sugar), broken into pieces or 2 fillets
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 1 small Spanish onion, chopped
- 1 bunch mini asparagus
- 1 tbsp oil (infused with truffle if not using truffle salt)
- Truffle salt
- 2 dollops of piri piri avocado crème
- ¼ packet of Explore Asian black bean gluten free spaghetti
- Prepare the avocado crème.
- Cook spaghetti according to directions. Set aside.
- In a medium-high heat pan, sauté onion in oil. Add asparagus and cook until asparagus begins to char and onion is soft. Add tomato and salt. Toss until tomato is just cooked.
- Combine the spaghetti with sautéed veggies. Top with half the salmon. Add a dollop of avocado crème. Serve warm.
Piri piri avocado crème
- 1 medium avocado
- 3 tbsp crushed garlic
- juice ½ lemon
- 10-12 medium heat, birds eye chillies, finely diced
- 80ml extra virgin olive oil
- 3-4 tbsp of unsweetened almond milk
- Sea salt to taste
Blitz using a hand blender till smooth and creamy.