For weeks now many of us have been on reduced hours, or have not even been able to work at all. This is stressful for everyone affected & has given time for people to think about things they may not have previously had time for, or realised should play a more important role in their day to day lives. This could be family, friends, health etc.
Whilst there may be some small light at the end of the tunnel, I think it is safe to say it will be a long time before things will return to ‘normal’. Therefore, as the final part of this series on home training, allow me to share with you some thoughts on nutrition during this time of lockdown in order to support your health & training performance.
Be Kind to Yourself
Firstly, be kind to yourself. New situations take time to adapt to. Whilst there is nothing wrong in striving to optimise things in life, whether that is nutrition, training, or work-life balance; Things do not always go to plan & whilst this may seem demoralising, it is important not to dwell; take time to reflect, re-focus & move on.
Have a Plan
If you are one of the many that have been affected, this is likely to mean that your day to day physical activity has been reduced & subsequently your nutritional requirements will also be altered.
Having a plan or some guidelines to follow will help you structure your nutrition. This can take many forms, from measured amounts to estimations, all are valid based on what works for you but remember point number one… be kind to yourself. Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. Consistency is the key to progress.
The series of points below are suggestions of things to focus on:
- Regular protein feeding 20 – 30g, 4 – 6x per day
- Highly satiating (makes you feel full)
- Supports maintenance of muscle mass
- Increased thermic effect of food; more energy is required to digest protein over other macronutrients
- Vegetables & Fruits
- You can obtain a range of micronutrients, phytonutrients, & fibre
- Important for bodily processes, immune function, & gut health, amongst others
- Aim for a large variety of types & colours of vegetables
- Add fresh or dried herbs, as well as produce like chilli & garlic. Not only does this add flavour to dishes, it will increase the number of favourable phytonutrients in the diet.
- Carbohydrate (CHO)
- Potentially a reduced requirement at this time, especially if you have a reduced physical activity.
- But remember, CHO is the primary fuel your body requires for training & climbing.
- It may be a good idea to consume a small CHO containing snack 30 – 60mins before your training session
- Opt for high quality sources of fats such as: extra virgin olive oil & rapeseed oil. Coconut oil & butter are also a good choice, but be careful to use all fats sparingly.
- 60 – 100g is an average daily amount of fat, but this should be individualised.
- Be cautious with snacking. Typically, active individuals are encouraged to consume relatively higher amounts of Kcals to better fuel for their activity, but in this time of potentially reduced activity then it is likely that your snacking needs will also be reduced.
- Be honest about how active you are being & focus additional intake on days where you are more active.
- However… be careful about being restrictive. If you feel like having your favourite snack of choice, then go for it. It is just about being conscious about what we are consuming. Back to point one… be kind to yourself.
- Have Fun
- Use this time to learn new skills, try new foods & drinks. Be creative whilst increasing the nutritional value of your diet.
Attempt to maintain physical activity where possible & think about maximising non-exercise physical activity, such as cleaning, gardening, etc.
Think about inventive ways in which you can replace your usual training throughout the week. If you are used to doing several 2 – 3hr climbing sessions per week, then it is unrealistic to think that this can be replaced like for like. However, a combination of walking, running, cycling, bodyweight training, & fingerboarding can make all the difference in keeping you psyched for climbing & in a generally more positive mood. If you are one of the lucky ones that has a woody at home, then this is likely to be too intense to be able to climb on as much as you would a typical session down the wall (i.e. doing 3hr sessions several times a week). The last thing anyone wants is an injury during home training, limiting your options even further. The fingerboard can provide a great source of alternate exercises, but again do not just think about max hangs & ‘getting stronger’. There is a whole host of strength-endurance & endurance exercises that are possible, as well as climbing simulation. Essentially it all comes down to varying the volume, intensity & not overdoing it (for fingerboarding ideas see the previous posts in this home training series).
Energy Availability (EA)
It is worth considering energy availability as a way of monitoring the balance between the exercise you are doing & your dietary intake. Energy availability is the difference between energy intake & exercise energy expenditure in relation to your fat free mass (FFM). Working out your energy availability takes some time & effort, but once you have, it can be a good guide to working out how much exercise you are doing vs. how much you are consuming. You can find energy availability calculators online. You will need to be able to estimate your body fat %, daily caloric intake, & exercise energy expenditure. Once you have done this the calculator will return a value that ideally should be ≥40 (kcal/kg FFM/day) for males & ≥45 for females.
It is important to have an EA at or over these values to avoid a negative energy balance. Long term low EA can lead to the body to create a new ‘set point’ of energy expenditure; for want of a better term… a slower metabolism. In chronic cases, individuals can be affected systemically. Impaired skeletal health, negative effects on hormonal release & even psychological issues can all result.
Adopt a positive focus on fuelling correctly for health, exercise, & recovery. Greater gains are to be had from fuelling & training to improve physical performance, than by trying to lose weight or restricting.
An often-forgotten part of nutrition is hydration. Getting enough fluids on board is key for bodily processes, as well as exercise performance. Hydration needs are individualised the same as food intake, however the general guidelines are that individuals should consume 8 glasses of fluid per day. Furthermore, 250mL per hour is advisable during exercise with additional electrolytes a good option if you are prone to heavy sweating, the exercise is strenuous, or it is a hot day.
Download the free guide attached for a practical summary of the advice in this article. It also includes a list of useful ‘go to’ foodstuffs that represent high quality & easy to access sources of nutrition.
I hope you have enjoyed reading the articles in this home training series. This is the last instalment for now although there is plenty more content to come in the future.
If you have found this information useful then please consider sharing it with others & helping spread the word about GB Performance & Nutrition, it is very much appreciated.
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It must be noted that this nutritional advice covers broad guidelines & is not designed to be specific to all individuals. Furthermore, the advice is not designed to improve or cure any medical requirement.
For further guidance seek a consultation with a specialist dietician or registered nutritionist.
If medical help is required, contact your GP.
For individualised nutrition coaching you can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org