A Professional Athlete on Nutrition

‘Recovery’ is the focal point of my last post, but this week I’ll delve into nutritional strategies in the life of an elite endurance athlete. It’s safe to say that nutrition and energy availability play a significant role in adaptation, growth and success in preparation for performance. Without the proper nutritional and supplemental intake, an athlete can become vulnerable to injury, illness and counteract all the hard work put into a specific training session or cycle.

I recently learned that this was, in fact, one of the possible contributing factors to my recent diagnosis of a stress fracture. My nutritional support team had a look at two-weeks’ worth of food intake aligned with training sessions and found that I was operating in a deficit. Although I generally felt that I was getting in enough carbs, proteins, fats, etc., it turned out that I was continually missing the mark to offset the physical demands and training loads. The deficit may have been small at the end of the day, but over time, all those days add up to a larger, more impactful loss. Take a look at this food-log example pre-stress fracture:

Although this generally meets most daily nutritional needs, it still does not cover the calories burned over the course of a 4.5–5-hour training day in addition to the calories burned by my resting metabolic rate. Doubling the amount of sports drink, upping the morning orange juice, and adding in a peanut-butter & jelly sandwich or cereal bar mid-ride are all strategies to help offset some of the deficit and actually help the body recover quicker for the next session on tap. And while a PB&J might not be the ideal food for a non-endurance athlete, I often rely on these foods because of how easy they convert to sugar and energy during a training session.

Likewise, it’s also important to consider supplement value-adds for optimal vitamin absorption. As a female endurance athlete, iron, vitamin C and vitamin D are some of the most foundational to maintain health under training stress. I also find Calcium and BodyBio’s PC to be valuable in enhancing my bone and cellular regeneration, especially in recovery from injury. It’s challenging to get all of the nutrients and energy in during a day so I find it helpful with some assistance by trusted supplements.

Timing of intake, nutrient density foods, supplements and flexibility around managing food strategies are all key components in the creation of a healthy, balanced & fortified diet as an elite athlete. It’s important to alter your diet relative to the physical demands of the day — whether you’re an athlete, working a desk job, or an active retiree. I know I’m continually working on improving my strategies in order to optimize those 1%-ers that make all the difference in performance on the day. And I’m a strong believer that everyone can do the same in order to optimize those 1%-ers in life!