Words by Andrew Hill
I’ve always believed our bodies always respond to the nutrients we put in, especially when you’re training for that next race or the upcoming this becomes even more apparent. Someone explained to me once that our bodies are like an elastic band which stretches and rebounds every time we exercise and stress ourselves. This is fine if we can recover properly but each time we don’t get the nutrients needed its like tying a knot in the elastic band. This process can happen time and time again but eventually the knots get more and more thereby reducing the elasticity, then it finally snaps and has no more stretch. Its at this point where we as athletes get sick, injured and burnt out with adrenal fatigue. I’ve seen this happen to other athletes but more importantly I’ve experienced it myself.
Goal driven and determined people are all wired in a way that allows us to push the norms and not be average, this can sometimes be our downfall in a sense of burning the candle at both ends. This drive often makes us over look the signs of fatigue and we see them as some sort of weakness we need to work more at. This can be devastating to say the least from a physical and emotional point of view.
How can we make sure we don’t slip into this spiral and rabbit hole?
Firstly we need to listen more closely to our bodies and then respond with the necessary steps. Listening to your body isn’t some “guru” type intervention, no its taking note of changes over a period of time. Usually this can be done by keeping a training diary either using tangible metrics such as resting heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), time trial tests or the perceived rate of exertion scale to map your efforts and recovery. It is here where you can take note of the changes, possible imbalances or decreases in performance. How do we fix the problem?
If your training is well balanced and you are not ramping up the volume or intensity at unsustainable levels, then the problem often lies in one of the most basic inputs, nutrients! I know especially with endurance sports such as cycling or running the repetition of hours on the road or trail can be a slippery slope and before you know it you’ve depleted nutritional stores by not putting back what your body needs. This is how I’ve remedied this problem.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have access to the knowledge and expertise of Jane Mackenzie from Heavenly Harmony. We’ve worked closely during this MTB racing year to identify the nutritional shortfalls and nutritional aspects that could improve my performance. The process started with an in-depth food diary analysis and needs assessment. This was easy as I was able to recall the foods I eat with use of an app on my phone which gives me a breakdown of what my current diet contains. We then worked this into a SCIO biofeedback session to corroborate and have a baseline of the nutrients required. The baseline has allowed us to look at various input strategies and thereby document results on and off the bike with relative ease. This is very specific to the individual athlete but there are many key principals we identified that will work with most athletes.
The inputs that have made a huge difference to me and are key to most athletes include:
- GUT health is the first starting point. Critically before we eat something, we need to take cognisance of whether it will positively or negatively affect our gut. The gut is our first line of defence against anything harmful that we may swallow, and having a robust, healthy and balanced gut micro-biome is critical for our immune system, overall health and peak performance.The first steps towards building peak performance would be eating high-quality, nutrient-rich food that feeds both us and our good gut bacteria by removing foods that are gut damagers. Consuming a whole foods diet with plenty of gut-friendly, anti-inflammatory foods is a great way to keep me and my good bacteria happy. In addition to my diet I’ve added a good liquid probiotic prescribed by Jane called Micro-biome reset.This has helped dramatically get the gut to work properly when under stress of racing and training in order to get all the nutrients out of the food I’m eating.
- Super foods is a work that gets chucked about to much these days but the nutrient rich foods Jane prescribed to help bolster what I was already eating during times of greater training load included a mineral and nutrient rich stress defence mix based on raw cocoa with a number of alkalising balancing and energising nutrients. The mix is call Stress Defence Shield and comes in capsules or a smoothie mix you can add to your recovery or breakfast.
- MSM is another tool in the toolbox often overlooked by athletes, we added MSM as a good anti-inflammatory base to the list of critical items as its a well documented and tested product that really works.
- Oxygen is crucial for everyone but especially athletes looking to gain power and endurance, for this we added Magnesium Dioxide to the items used during heavy training and racing.
- In order to help the immune system more during times of stress Jane added dietary nucleotides, which are basically peptides usually found in animal meat and bakers yeasts to help maintain muscle and immure function. These bolster the food we are already eating and especially when leading up to an event where getting sick is not an option.
The results have been noticeable in many facets of my training and racing but more importantly I’ve noted with the combination of these foods and minerals the number of sick days I’ve experienced this year has been dramatically lower then previously. This is key, as the more you can train and recover in healthy periods, the more you can improve your overall performance. Real food nutrients and minerals in a state your body can recognise and assimilate is where all the information I’ve mentioned is based. Its paramount to cover all the basics first, like those mentioned above, before looking for a magic bullet to improving as an athlete. I really recommend having a chat with Jane or trying some of the products I’ve been using to help be your best.