pre-exercise

Banana bread

Banana+bread.jpg

This recipe is not really my own, it’s kind of a mix of a few different ones I have used over time – the great thing is that it seems to work out ok every time – no need to weigh your flour for this one, get it about right and it should be fine! 

Quick and easy to make, with staple ingredients from the fridge and cupboard, so as soon as you have a couple of brown looking bananas you can whip one up.

Yes, it has a bit of sugar, but still on the low side.  I make it often for my active kids and they love it as a snack.  At least it’s home-made, which means none of the additives that many of the store-bought varieties contain. 

Nice on it’s own, fresh from the oven, and also lasts a couple of days in an airtight container.  It might last longer but we never have any left to know!

Feel free to adjust recipe to suit tastes – you could add sultanas or change the topping to any sort of nuts or seeds.

 

Ingredients:

2-3 ripe bananas, mashed

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup wholemeal plain flour

¾ cup white plain flour

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp ground cinnamon

Chopped walnuts (optional)

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.  Line a loaf tin with baking paper. 

In a large bowl, combine mashed banana, eggs, brown sugar and olive oil.  In another bowl, sift flours (if you have time, mostly I don’t bother!) and mix well with bicarb of soda and cinnamon.  Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well.  Pour into prepared loaf tin. Top with chopped walnuts if desired.  Bake for ~45 minutes until golden brown and a cake skewer inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean

Remove from tin and cool on a wire rack.  Serve warm or cold.

Six of the best carbohydrate foods to improve your training and performance

Not all carbohydrate foods are equal.  For athletes, it’s not just about eating mounds of rice and pasta.  The quality of your carbs counts.  Smart carb choices can help athletes to feel great and perform at their best.  You can get more nutritional value from your fuel foods with selective choices.  It could be as simple as wild or brown rice sometimes instead of white all the time, or choosing a wholemeal pasta.  Or a wholegrain mix such as the one pictured above. 

Here are 6 of my favourite carbohydrate foods for athletes, to boost nutrition, health and performance.

Sweet potato

Sweet potato is a terrific carbohydrate source for training and energy levels.  Sweet potato has a lower glycemic index than white potato (remembering white potato is still good for you too!).  Sweet potato contains more carbohydrate than white potato, but lower in carbohydrate than rice, pasta, and many other grains (for example, the carbohydrate content of white potato is ~12g/100g cooked, sweet potato ~15g/100g cooked, brown rice ~30g/100g cooked). More benefits - fibre, vitamins such as Vitamins A (beta-carotene) and C, and taste!

Barley

Not a fancy expensive ancient grain, and when you think of barley you may be reminiscing about your grandmother’s lamb and barley soup!  But barley is now back in vogue and for good reason.  Barley is a low GI wholegrain, packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre.  Barley, like oats, contains beta-glucan, a soluble type of fibre applauded for its heart health benefits. 

Super versatile, barley goes well in soups, casseroles, breakfast dishes, cold in salads and great in risottos – there is a great Barley Risotto recipe in my book Eat Right for Your Life.

Sourdough rye bread

If you love to eat bread, make it sourdough.  Research is showing that sourdough bread, although it still contains gluten, can be more easily digested than regular wheat-based breads.  Try to select fresh baked sourdough from a local bakery and experiment with the different varieties to see what works for you – rye or spelt are terrific options for nutrition and low GI energy pre-training.

Bananas

A banana is the perfect portable pre-training snack – just enough carbs to fill that space in your tummy and give you an energy boost for the session ahead.  On their own, or part of a recovery smoothie or fruit/yoghurt/granola mix, bananas are a winner.

Sweetcorn

Sweetcorn is a sneaky source of nutritious carbohydrate, also packed with nutrients and fibre, and a similar carbohydrate content to white potato at ~13g/100g cooked.  Great in salads, soups, main meals or a cob of corn as a snack.

Oats

One of the cheapest and best carb options around are oats.  A small amount goes a long way and can keep your engine running for hours.  Rich in fibre and nutrients, and with a surprising protein content, you can find more detailed info in one of my more popular blog posts Oats vs quinoa for health, energy and performance.

Sorry if I’ve missed your favourite, there are plenty of great carbohydrate-rich foods out there!  Performance isn’t just about carbs though - plan your meals and snacks to meet your day-to-day, training and performance nutrition needs.

For more performance nutrition info, check out my blog page.  You can also leave your details at http://www.lisamiddleton.com.au/thoughts-index/ if you would like me to send you freeperformance nutrition updates and recipes, plus you can fllow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

High performance snacks you should be eating at 3.30pm to get the best out of your post-work workout

Do you sometimes feel like you are working super hard at the gym, but not seeing the results you are after?   If you head straight to training after work, you may not have eaten since lunchtime, or maybe since breakfast!  Your fuel stores will be low, and heading into your session hungry and depleted will make it difficult to get the best results from your training.

Even if you are trying to lose weight, it can still be useful to have some fuel on board for energy, so you can work harder during your session.   If you are trying to gain muscle then you also need energy to lift, pull, push and build.  Regardless of your specific goals and whether you work out at the local gym or train as an elite athlete, nutrition can make a difference to training results and performance.

What to include in your pre-exercise snack

Protein

Protein is often the neglected nutrient when it comes to snacking, as many of our typical snacks are carbohydrate based (think fruit, biscuits, bars, etc.).  Including protein in a snack will keep you full for longer, help keep blood glucose levels stable, and assist with muscle growth and repair.  You can read more about protein in another post of mine Back to Basics Protein.

Carbohydrate

Carbohydrate provides fuel for muscles to work hard and for your brain to focus and get you through your session. Low GI foods are sometimes recommended before exercise for sustained energy levels, however many low GI foods are rich in fibre which can cause gut problems pre-running for some people.  Play around with it to work out the best types of nutrient-dense carbohydrate foods that sit well for you. Amount is important too - if your goal is to get fit and lose weight you won’t need as much carbohydrate as someone in heavy training for a marathon. For more on carbohydrate for exercise please click here.

Healthy fats

It's important to include healthy fats in your diet, however fat takes a while to digest, so it may be best not to over-do it pre-workout.  

Snacks for pre-exercise

Below are some pre-exercise snack ideas that will help to keep your energy levels high and your muscles firing.

* Fruit salad with natural/Greek yoghurt and chopped almonds         

* Rye or corn based dry biscuits with cheese and sliced tomato

* Fruit smoothie, made with dairy or soy milk, yoghurt and fruit (note – rice, oat, almond, coconut milks are low in high quality protein)

* Sushi roll

* Mountain bread wrap with turkey and salad

* Natural muesli with Greek yoghurt

* Vegetable sticks and wholegrain crackers with hommus dip         

* Rice paper roll

* Soup eg. chicken and vegetable or minestrone

* Chia pudding made with milk and topped with fruit

* Banana and a handful of nuts

If you love reading about nutrition for exercise and performance, I would love to offer you free nutrition updates and recipes, just leave your details on my Thoughts page and feel free to have a read of some of my other articles while you are there.

Need some help planning the best meals and snacks for you? Look up an Accredited Sports Dietitian near you at Sports Dietitians Australia.

Best snacks for before exercise to perform at your best

Is fruit on its own the best pre-exercise snack?

Is fruit on its own the best pre-exercise snack?

Performance nutrition is a topic I am lucky enough to talk about pretty much every day.  I love talking about exercise and nutrition, and helping people get the best out of their training efforts, whether they workout at the local gym or train as an elite athlete.  I find a lot of people feel like they have their nutrition mostly under control, but don’t seem to be getting the best out of their training.   A lack of appropriate nutrition before and after training may be contributing to this, and may especially be a problem if you train in the late afternoon.  I see a lot of clients who head straight to training after work or school, but haven’t eaten for 4 or 5 hours since lunchtime.  By then, your body will have digested and absorbed many of the nutrients from lunch and there may not be much left to fuel your training session.  If you are trying to lose weight, it can still be useful to have some fuel on board to provide the energy to train harder and burn more kilojoules.   If you are working hard in the gym to put on weight, then you need energy to lift, pull and push.  If you are going into your session fatigued and low on fuel, you can’t expect to get the best results from your training (unless you have a planned strategy to complete some sessions lower on carbohydrate, but I will save that for another post).

 So what should you look for in a pre-exercise snack?

Protein

Protein is often the neglected nutrient when it comes to snacking, as many of our typical snacks are carbohydrate based (think fruit, biscuits, flour-based products).  Including protein in a snack means it will keep you full for longer, but can also help manage blood glucose levels, and is an essential nutrient for muscle growth and repair.  If you are doing a lighter cardio session then the protein is probably less important and you may be fine with a small carbohydrate snack (if anything), but for longer, heavier sessions there are benefits from including protein.

Carbohydrate

Low-glycemic index carbohydrate foods are those that are more slowly absorbed over time, resulting in more stable blood glucose levels and potential benefits for energy levels.  However many low GI foods are also high in fibre, and too much fibre pre-exercise can cause stomach upset for some people (especially runners).  Include carbohydrate in pre-exercise snacks, and choose low-GI if you tolerate it.  But the total amount of carbohydrate is potentially more important than the glycemic index, so it is a matter of working out which carbohydrate foods sit best for you before you train.

Healthy fats

It's important to include healthy fats in your diet if you are fit and active.  Fat can take a while to digest, so you may be better to add more of your healthy fats and oils to meals after exercise rather than before .  Avocado, nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil and fish all provide healthy fats.  

Snacks for pre-exercise 

Below are some pre-exercise snack ideas that will help to keep your energy levels high, contain some protein but not too much fat.  The serving size that is best for you will vary according to your goals, the type of training you do, and individual needs. 

* Soup eg. chicken and vegetable or minestrone

* Chopped fresh fruit with natural yoghurt and chopped almonds         

* Quinoa tabouli with chickpeas

* Rye or corn based dry biscuits with low-fat cheese and sliced tomato

Fruit smoothie, made with low-fat dairy or soy milk, yoghurt and fruit (most other milks are low in high quality protein eg. rice, oat, coconut, almond)

* Bean and rice salad

* Sushi handroll

* Greek yoghurt with berries

* Mountain bread with turkey and salad

* Tuna with rice and vegetables

 Natural muesli with low-fat natural yoghurt

* Vegetable sticks and wholegrain crackers with hommus dip         

 * Home-made popcorn (mix in some almonds)

 * Fruit/grain toast spread with ricotta cheese

* Rice paper roll

* Corn Thin with smoked salmon, low-fat cream cheese and dill

Trail mix - almond, walnuts, cashews and sun-dried apricots

Chia pudding made with milk and topped with fruit

* Toast or wholegrain crackers with avocado and salmon

 If you are unsure about the best type of snacks and amounts for your needs, talk to an Accredited Sports Dietitian who can help you plan your daily meals and snacks to meet your nutrition and training requirements.  To find a dietitian in your area, go to Sports Dietitians Australia.

If you are interested in learning more about nutrition for exercise, training and sport, please sign up for my free newsletter at the bottom of this page, and you can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more nutrition updates.

 

 

 

Best fluids for hydration - look no further than soup

Image courtesy of  Bec Doyle Photography

Image courtesy of Bec Doyle Photography

There is nothing better than a piping hot bowl of soup to warm you up on a cold winter's day.   If you are an athlete, that delicious bowl of goodness can be functional too.  Soup is one of the most hydrating fluids you will find and with the right mix of ingredients can tick all the boxes for recovery.  Different types of soup can provide different benefits, and you can create your own soup to match your specific recovery needs.  Did I mention soup can be a great option for weight loss too?

Soup for Hydration

The best way for our body to cool down during exercise is to sweat.  Some people sweat more than others.  Hydration is important for performance, however in winter we may not sweat quite as much and tend to neglect our fluid intake in comparison to the thirsty summer months.  What do athletes usually drink to hydrate?  Water, sports drinks and electrolyte replacement supplements immediately come to mind.  These provide fluid as a priority, but also contain various amounts of carbohydrate for fuel and electrolytes for hydration.  Sports drinks are often designed to provide both carbohydrates and electrolytes, while electrolyte replacement supplements focus more on electrolytes and less on carbohydrate.  Both sports drinks and electrolyte supplements can be beneficial under certain exercise conditions, and can be particularly useful for during training and competition of long duration.  But if you are looking for a pre- or post-exercise option for hydration you really can't go past soup. 

What is so magical about soup??  The main electrolyte in sports drinks and electrolyte replacement powders/tablets/drinks is sodium.  If you look at the nutrition composition of soup it is clear that most soups contains significantly greater amounts of sodium compared to electrolyte replacement supplements.  Why?  Because soup is often high in salt, which is high in sodium.  So unless you are following a low-salt diet for health reasons* and making home-made low-salt soups, you will find that most soups are high in sodium (although it does vary between styles of soup and the exact amount of salt added).  Soup might not always be the first choice of fluid to drink DURING exercise, however it can be well suited to many types of training and competition.  For example, ultra-endurance pursuits where exercise intensity is lower and there may be more opportunity to consume a wider variety of foods/fluids.  Intake during exercise doesn't always have to be sweet!  If soup is not your thing during exercise, it could be worth trying pre- or post-training or an event.  

Check out these figures for sodium and other nutrients, per 100ml of fluid:

Nutrient information per 100ml of fluid.     Ranges provided take into account different brands and preparation techniques, and are estimates only.  Exact composition of specific soups will vary accordingly . For more detailed nutrition composition data for soups in Australia, have a look at the  product comparison  chart by Dietitian Connection.

Nutrient information per 100ml of fluid.

Ranges provided take into account different brands and preparation techniques, and are estimates only.  Exact composition of specific soups will vary accordingly. For more detailed nutrition composition data for soups in Australia, have a look at the product comparison chart by Dietitian Connection.

* Some people need to reduce salt intake for health reasons, however I find that athletes often restrict sodium believing it is good for them, when in fact many athletes require additional sodium to address their losses via sweat.  If you have a health condition that requires a reduced salt intake then it is important to follow guidelines provided by your health practitioner, but if you are unsure of your individual salt and sodium requirements speak to an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, in conjunction with your GP.

Some soups are extremely high in sodium.  I am not advocating for excessively high salt intakes.  The salt content is high in many processed foods, as you have probably noted from the table above.  Many people get more than enough sodium through food and drinks.  However if you are eating mostly fresh and minimally processed foods, and you lose sodium via sweating during exercise, you may need to consider strategies for adequate sodium intake, particularly around exercise.  It can be difficult to work out exactly how much sodium you need to consume to account for sodium losses, if you unsure about your individual needs have a chat with a Sports Dietitian to help you plan your intake safely and effectively. 

Soup for Pre-exercise

Soup provides fluid, fuel and electrolytes as a perfect pre-exercise package.  Soup can be easy to digest and terrific for stomachs that feel the effects of nerves.  Some people find a solid meal prior to exercise a little hard to manage, so a liquid option can solve the problem.  Smoothies are great too, but if hydration is a priority and heavy sweating is on horizon, then the additional sodium can be useful.  Milk contains sodium too, around the same amount as many sports drinks, but soup tops smoothies for electrolytes. The great thing about soup is that you can tailor it to exercise needs.  Add in some barley or noodles for carbohydrate if fuel requirements are high and try using low GI ingredients such as sweet potato and quinoa if you are looking for sustaining carbohydrates.  Or use rice if you want something quickly digested.  You can also adjust the salt to your taste and hydration needs.  If your training or competition is demanding or lengthy, add extra protein or carbohydrate for a more sustaining chunky style soup.  Or keep it light for before easier sessions where fuel needs are not as high.

Great soups for pre-exercise:

Sweet potato soup, Quinoa and vegetable, Chicken and Sweetcorn, Won Ton soup with noodles

Soup for Recovery

Time to add the protein and carbohydrate for a soup that will help your body re-hydrate, refuel and repair.  Fluid and salt will help you rehydrate.  Ensure recovery soups also contain a decent amount of high quality protein such as meat, chicken or fish to start the muscle recovery process. You may need some extra carbohydrate too, as most soups contain more water and vegetables than carbohydrate.  Choose a soup with a potato/sweet potato, noodle or quinoa base or a minestrone style with pasta and beans.  You may need some bread or crackers too, depending on your carbohydrate requirements.

Great soups for recovery:

Lamb and barley soup, Minestrone soup with beef, Asian style noodle soup with seafood, Chicken and chickpea soup

Soup for Weight Loss

Talk about multi-talented, soup can not only fuel, hydrate and repair, but can help you lose weight too.  The best type of soups for weight loss incorporate broth style rather than cream or carbohydrate base.  Pack as many vegetables in as you can for filling fibre, plus some lean protein, for a low-kilojoule, satisfying and nutritious meal option.  You don't need to have soup 3 meals per day, but maybe take for lunch or a quick and easy dinner.  Make soup in big batches and freeze in individual portions for fuss-free preparation. 

Great soups for weight loss:

Spring vegetable soup, Broccoli soup, Broth style soup with vegetables, Beef and vegetable soup

Want more good news about soup - it's a great way to use up your leftover vegies and add cheap and cheerful legumes for maximum nutrition at minimal cost.  Pull out your biggest pot and make some soup today!

 

The recipe for my Pumpkin and Lentil Soup as pictured, is from my book Eat Right for Your Life

AFL Grand Final nutrition - what and when the players will be eating and drinking

Game day nutrition plans are usually well practiced and refined by the time grand final day arrives, but on the big day these strategies are often challenged by a number of September factors.  I cannot claim to know the exact nutrition plans for the Hawthorn and Sydney FC players this week, but I can write from my previous experiences with finals football.  I have been fortunate enough to work with AFL teams in five grand finals, including the week leading up to the game, and at the ground as the players arrive for their last warm up for the year.  I have seen nutrition strategies work well but have also seen some on shaky ground due to factors which are largely difficult to control but need to be considered and planned for.

Grand final week is a week like no other for an AFL player.  In fact, it may be the only time they experience grand final week from a player perspective in their entire life.  During the season, nutrition plans are created and trialed to ensure optimal fuelling, recovery, health and body composition and most players have a fine-tuned pre-game nutrition routine that is flexible depending on game times and location but reasonably consistent week-to-week.  Players work with an accredited sports dietitian at most clubs to determine what works best for them the day before a game and then on game day.  Players will have different requirements in terms of the type of foods, nutrients and timing depending on a number of factors including playing position, body weight, individual hydration considerations, climate and travel.  By the end of the season it should all be pretty well rehearsed.  Often things do run pretty smoothly up to preliminary finals, but those 7-8 days prior to the grand final bring various challenges.  Of course the club tries to keep things as normal as possible and treat it as just another week and another game, but it obviously isn't.   In terms of nutrition, a grand final brings significant challenges that are not always controllable.  There are additional activities that are compulsory for the players and quite unlike a normal week, in particular  the Grand Final parade which is scheduled just over 24 hours pre-game.  Who came up with this concept I am not sure....it is great for building the excitement in the city, and for the wider community and supporters who can't get to the game because of all the corporates, plus a great activity for kids on school holidays, but in terms of preparation it is probably less than ideal for the players!  Players have to travel into the city, wait around for the parade to start, then sit in the trays of utes (often out in the blazing sun), all when they could be relaxing and preparing.  Considering that usually on the day before a game players have their own individual routine that might be quiet and low-key, with no restrictions on timing of meals and fluids, players need to be organized to ensure adequate nutrition and fluids during this time.   

Speaking of fluids, September in Melbourne is ridiculous when it comes to weather.  I recall one grand final I was involved with was hot and windy, another winter-like conditions and rain.  If it is hot, it can often be the hottest day for 6 months and players are not accustomed to playing, and drinking, in that type of heat.  At least players from both teams are subjected to the same conditions but how it is managed in terms of cooling and hydration strategies could become important.  So, the weather can impact on hydration but there is a bigger factor that can play havoc with the best laid nutrition plans, and this is not specific just to AFL football but any major sporting events - nerves (for want of a more technical description).

In many ways a grand final is just another game, but in other ways it is not.  If you play in a grand final and your team wins, you are a premiership player for life.  If your team loses, you are not, simple really. The winners will be recognized for life and earn a coveted medal that all AFL players crave.  I am certainly not a psychologist, but it is clear that there is both internal and external pressure created, and some players manage this better than others.  I have frequently heard athletes say that if they don't feel nervous they won't perform well, so butterflies in the stomach can be helpful, perhaps because if you feel anxious it means whatever you are nervous about means a lot to you and you really want to do well.  Some players thrive on the 'big-game' pressure and it brings out their best, others may be terribly nervous but can turn this around into a positive, and others can have a terrible time that interferes with them performing at their best.   These nervous feelings can have a psychological impact, but also a physical impact that can impact on nutrition and hydration strategies. 

A common side-effect is stomach upset, which can impact on appetite and make it difficult to consume regular pre-game intake both the night before and on game day itself.  This effect is not exclusive to AFL.  I see a lot of elite and recreational athletes who train for events such as a marathon or ironman triathlon, events difficult to simulate in training and that require extensive preparation for that one day, whose nutrition plans are severely impacted by nervousness on the day.  The type of foods that are usually consumed may need to be altered, for example a change from a dense oat-based cereal breakfast to a lighter toast option, lower-fibre options and avoidance of dairy for improved gastrointestinal comfort.  

Often nutrients are more easily tolerated via fluids rather than solid foods, so these can be a good option for athletes who struggle to eat pre-event.  But over-drinking can be another concern.  Fluid intake can easily be over-done pre-game when nerves are involved, with players taking sip after sip as they count down the minutes to game-time, so fluid intake should be monitored so players don't feel bloated and racing to the toilet all the time.   If gastrointestinal symptoms are severe, players may struggle to eat much at all.  I will always remember one grand final where we were providing regular small doses of lemonade, rice crackers and electrolytes throughout a game to one player who was really struggling and it was all he could manage.  Not quite the usual theoretical sports nutrition recommendations, but it worked for that player on that day, sometimes you have to compromise and be creative. 

Of course not all players experience disruptive physical symptoms, but they still have the challenge of timing their nutrition on the day.  Ideally it would be good to wake at the usual time and stick to the usual breakfast then snack and/or light lunch before heading to an afternoon game. But players always like to make sure they get to the ground in plenty of time on Grand Final day, so with a 2.30pm start it means that players are likely to be in transit in that 2-3 hours prior to the game, when theory indicates is an ideal time for pre-event nutrition.  With lots of things on a player's mind on the day, prior organization is paramount to ensure optimal fuelling in those critical hours.

As important as nutrition is, it is one of a number of factors that contribute to performance.  Never is this more evident than on grand final day.  Just think of those players who are injured and play out the game with a broken hand or finger, those who have ran and ran all day but still find that extra few metres of speed, and those who I have observed that you know would literally have no fuel left in the tank but still, somehow, manage to reach the contest and punch the ball away.  It's why we love sport and why we love Australian Football.  The psychological drive seems to be able to over-ride a lot of the physical aspects that would normally limit us (happy for any experts who may have research papers on this to chip in here!).  That quest for a premiership....an individual medal, but more importantly a win with your team who have worked so hard all year, and for your club, to be remembered in history for years to come.   A premiership win is the ultimate for AFL players, and although it may seem like I am over-dramatizing a little, for AFL players on grand final day, and many other athletes at their pinnacle events, they are playing for their lives.  Not playing to stay alive (well perhaps to keep their career alive), but playing to achieve something that to date they have dedicated their whole life to. 

Even if the parade and grand final day means nutrition is not always perfect in terms of sports nutrition strategies, any potential benefit that nutrition can still bring makes me feel happy!  We know that pre-game and during the game nutrition can often be slightly different for a grand final, but what about recovery on grand final day?  There are no specific recovery strategies on grand final day because there is nothing immediate to recover for.  But one thing is certain, after the siren sounds, half the players on the ground will be swallowing tears of utter joy and jubilation, and the other half will be stuck with tears of absolute disappointment and despair.  Let's hope all the players in this years Grand Final can manage their nerves and nutrition as best they can and play their best game for the year.

*Photo courtesy of www.sherrin.com.au