Diet Plans Are Not Just About Losing Weight PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 21 June 2011 17:23

By Graeme Turner

I coach a number of endurance athletes and most of them look at me quizzically when I suggest doing a diet review for them.

"Why do I need a diet plan?. I don't want to lose weight"

But most diet plans focus on far more factors than just weight loss and indeed a good diet plan can make an enormous difference in terms of realizing benefits from training and achieving your goals.

Supporting your training

A hard training session requires fuel. Imagine setting off for a drive in your car on an empty tank. It wont be long till your car stops before you reach your destination - your goal. The same is true for exercise. Your body needs an amount of fuel to allow you to complete the exercise session and create the necessary stressors on the body in order to improve and develop. Yes - there are some sessions that are best completed in a fasted state but they are after a specific adaptation. The diet plan allows the planned adaptation to be matched to the correct fueling strategy

Supporting recovery

Most people know that they require protein as the building blocks for recovery but very few people consume the correct amount. Supplement companies love to sell you big tubs of protein but this may not be necessary if your diet is balanced. In fact if you are consuming enough lean protein in your diet the additional scoops of protein powder are only really making one thing thinner - your wallet.

I often use the analogy that protein is like a load of brick for building a house. Do the bricks build the house? No - they need cement (good fats) and builders (good carbs) in order to be utilized. Working hard and not taking in enough good fats and carbs can be counter productive and cause a weakening of the muscle (catabolic state). A good diet plan ensures that the athlete is getting enough nutrients - protein, carbs and fats in the correct ratios.

Reducing Inflammation.

Inflammation is a process by which the body's white blood cells and chemicals protect us from infection and foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses however chronic inflammation has a number of serious conditions associated with it including Rheumatoid arthritis and tendinitis. In addition it has been associated with Fever, Chills, Fatigue/loss of energy, Headaches, Loss of appetite and Muscle stiffness

A number of these conditions can be common in athletes anyway so an inflammatory diet can only exacerbate these and delay recovery. In simple terms - better recovery equals better subsequent training which equals faster/better results. Some inflammatory foods are less obvious than others. For example grain fed meats can often introduce inflammation in the body. A simple change to grass fed meats can fix this. This is another factor a good diet plan looks at

Supporting the immune system.

For an athlete, illness can significantly impact their ability to train. The conundrum is that training - especially high volume endurance training, can strain the immune system making it more likely that the type of athlete who most wants to avoid illness is also the more likely to experience it. The inclusion of specific nutrients and minerals can help support a healthy immune system.

Saving you money.

The sports supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar industry with athlete X saying that they won a certain event because they took Product Y. They won the event because they trained hard, prepared well (including diet) and executed on the day. If they are displaying Product Y's logo on their apparel chances are that they are being paid by that company.

There are also numerous articles (which are really just advertorials) stating how Product Y was proven in a study to increase time to fatigue etc by some wonderful factor. But who paid for the study? Was it independently tested?

Yes there are roles for supplements especially when people have busy lifestyles however buying every product that is advertised can be expensive. A simple diet review can tell whether that product is truly of benefit or a waste of money. It is ironic that some people spend $300 a month on supplements but wont pay 1/3 that for a diet analysis..

You will note that none of these areas mention weight loss. A diet plan, especially for an athlete is far more than about achieving 'racing weight'. It is about providing the right environment, along with training and recovery, for the athlete to meet their goals. Indeed a number of athletes training almost perfectly yet fail to achieve their goals through poor diet.

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