Most athletes have a good understanding of eating healthy food to match their healthy lifestyle. One of the most common areas an athlete needs to focus on to support their performance is the timing of their meals around training times.
Timing is especially important for nutrient delivery and energy availability to deliver the fuel needed to make the body work and to recover effectively. Paralympian Madison de Rozario uses HelloFresh to assist her in preparing food for her training requirements.
De Rozario, who won the London Marathon Women’s Wheelchair event this year, needs to be mindful of the amount of time since her last meal to ensure she has adequate energy and feels her best during training.
“Timing is one of the biggest struggles I have when it comes to eating,” says de Rozario.
“It can be very tricky in my particular sport where there is such a long period of time before getting in the race chair where I can’t eat at all.
“This can be difficult to work around when I’m training for marathons & needing to eat about six times a day.”
When the body is active, blood flow moves away from the gut to the working muscles, which means eating around exercise or during exercise can be tough for some athletes. If there is a large amount of partially digested food in the gut, it can potentially sit there and cause discomfort.
The pushing action in de Rozario’s race chair causes her to compress her stomach as she bends forward for the most powerful push. This means there is little room for a big meal to be working its way through the digestive system at this time.
The amount of food that an athlete can have in their stomach before training will vary depending on their level of comfort. With any nutrition strategy to aid performance, individualising the plan to suit the needs of the athlete is important.
“Low-processed foods are really important to me. I want to know exactly what it is that I’m putting in my body.”
A strategy to approach eating around exercise might be to eat a lighter meal that is lower in fats and fibre so it’s more easily digested. Or you could instead have a fluid option like a smoothie, sports drink or coconut water, which is especially good for training sessions that are first thing in the morning.
If training later in the day, each meal throughout the day counts towards preparing your energy stores for physical activity.
Having smaller, more frequent meals rather than one large meal closer to training helps aid digestion, balance blood glucose levels and eases gut discomfort. De Rozario does just that.
After she prepares her HelloFresh meals, de Rozario splits them up into smaller portions to provide appropriately sized main meals and mid meals during the day. These smaller but more frequent energy intakes allow her to have nutritious meals which suits her needs and fuels her training.
“We demand so much of our bodies as athletes. We really need to treat them well and have a lot of respect for them. One of the biggest parts of that is providing our bodies with the energy to do the things we need of them. Making sure your body gets the right food for fuel is essential.”