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Sports nutrition advice to supercharge your week: 7 tips for 7 days

Summer is on the horizon so there’s no better time to take control of your diet.

Image: Shutterstock/udra11

LAOIS-BORN LAURA Mahony works with some of the country’s top athletes on a daily basis.

As a performance nutritionist, she’s employed by the Sports Institute of Northern Ireland where her clients include, amongst others, the Irish men’s hockey team and a number of Olympics-bound boxers.

She’s seen it all in terms of pitfalls that sportspeople make but her ‘seven tips for seven days’ could help you eradicate some.

Monday

Map your food intake for the week (or at least 1-2 days ahead). The reason most people tend to make poor food choices is because they’re not prepared.

Athletes/sportspeople will always plan their training and the contents of their gear bag but may not plan what their pre and post-training meals will be.

If you are going to drive straight from work to training have you brought a bigger lunch and mid-afternoon snack with you? Do you have a water bottle for the journey?

Spend 5-10 minutes mapping out your food intake/lunch bag/shopping list and it will pay dividends to your nutrition.

Tuesday

Three vegetable, three colour dinners. The more variety and colour on your plate the more minerals, vitamins, fibre and antioxidants you will be eating, all of which are necessary for good health.

For example, green/red/yellow/white/orange veg via spinach, broccoli, red peppers, sweetcorn, cauliflower and carrots. The list is endless.

shutterstock_137524538 Source: Shutterstock/svry

Wednesday

White fish day. This is a good source of protein, is low in fat and a healthy alternative to processed meats.

A healthy diet should include at least two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily (see Friday).

Steam, bake or grill and try cod, haddock, plaice, pollock, or coley.

Thursday

Time your food intake to support your training. This is one area where a lot of sports people can improve on.

If you don’t fuel your session correctly you may not get the benefits of the training session.

Typical mistakes are going to training starving or going to training after eating a large meal and suffering stomach cramps or ‘toilet issues’.

shutterstock_160379219 Source: Shutterstock/Sebastian Duda

Make sure to plan your meal based on what time you will be training at.

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The same goes for recovering after training, a lot of people don’t feel hungry after a hard training session, but actually this is one of the most important times to get some nutrients into your body.

Make use of liquids. Milk is one of the best recovery drinks there is – why? Because it rehydrates (fluid & electrolytes), refuels (carbohydrates) and repairs (protein) all at once, (the three key R’s of recovery)

Friday

Fish day – oily fish this time to get your essential omega-3 fatty acids.

This leads to a reduced risk of heart disease and reduced levels of inflammation. Oily fish include trout, salmon, mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna and kippers.

Saturday

Split your protein into 4-5 equal portions over the course of the day. Do this instead of the traditional approach of little or no at breakfast, some at lunch and biggest portion at dinner.

Muscles are constantly needing a supply of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) to repair and regenerate.

They can do this best if they get a small, regular supply of protein.

This could simply involve changing your breakfast from tea and toast to milky porridge or eggs and toast or adding in a snack of nuts or Greek yogurt mid-afternoon.

Another idea is splitting your meat portion at dinner into two more equal sizes for lunch and dinner.

shutterstock_283178207 Source: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

Sunday

Supplements. These do exactly as the name suggests – they supplement your diet. They are not there to Band-Aid/fix a poor diet.

Do you really need that multivitamin or the cherry juice or the extra protein shake? That will depend on how much training you are doing and how good your basic day-to-day diet is.

You are never going to get extra gains from supplements if the foundations are not already in place. Food for thought?

Laura Mahony is a performance nutritionist and registered dietitian. She works at the Sports Institute Northern Ireland and works – or has worked with sportspeople from a range of disciplines.
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