Eat your way through winter training
Stay Fit and Healthy and Fuel your Winter Training
Now we are well into winter and the emphasis for all runners is how to survive the rigorous hard winter training that will take you through to springtime to emerge stronger, fitter, and faster. However, you need to get through the dark winter nights first without illness or injury.
Here’s a guide to supporting your immune system and digestion and staying injury free this season to ensure your health stays in tip-top condition.
Your diet and lifestyle
Eat of a wide variety of foods from all food groups and plenty of colourful fruit and vegetables. If you are vegetarian use a wide variety of different pulses rather than sticking to the same format, for example pinto beans, aduki beans, kidney beans, haricot and lentils. The more diverse you are with foods, the more you will benefit from the antioxidants that these foods give to support both your nervous and immune system.
Benefits of a rainbow diet
Colourful vegetables supply so many good nutrients to support your well-being. Vitamin A is important to help support our mucous membranes. Ensure a good supply from fruit and vegetables, such as carrots, spinach, broccoli, kales, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, swede, tomatoes, peaches, prunes, apricots. All of these are a good sources of beta carotene which gets converted to vitamin A in the body. Other sources of vitamin A are liver and eggs, oily fish and cheese.
Zinc is needed for the immune system, for repair and energy pathways, and is also needed for the body to utilise vitamin A. Found in fish, seafood, eggs, and although it can be found in cereals and nuts too, the phytic acid in these foods can make it difficult for the body to absorb. Low levels will affect wound healing, immune suppression and loss of taste, skin problems, just to name a few.
Vitamin C, is rapidly depleted at times of stress and infection, so it’s really important you keep levels topped up during winter. Good sources of Vitamin C are red, green and yellow peppers, which are higher in vitamin C than oranges. Other sources include cherries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, tomatoes and broccoli. Vitamin C is used in at least 300 processes in the body, and at times of stress, both physical and mental, will be used up quickly. You may benefit from taking a powder supplement of vitamin C during the winter months to support these systems.
Limit your sugar intake
You don’t have to ban sweet treats altogether, but if you take on too much sugar this will compromise your immune system and may well lay you open to infections. 70% of our immune system is located in the lining of our gut, so it is very important to support the gut flora. Good food choices for supporting the gut include fermented products such as live yoghurts, sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir. Aim to replace some sugary snacks with nuts, seeds, sugar free bars from the ‘free from section’ in the supermarkets, fresh fruit, live mini yoghurts, and try making your own low sugar flap jacks. Excess sugars can also feed unwanted bacteria and yeasts which can be found in the gut, upsetting the healthy flora.
Kick-start your immune system
Beta -glucans are naturally occurring polysaccharides which play an important role in kick starting the body’s immune army when infection starts. These are found in oats, barley, plant foods, yeasts and algae, the latter can be bought from supermarkets in the form of sea vegetables.
For enhanced immunity, research shows omega 3 from fish oil can help. Make sure you have at least 2 portions each week or add a fish oil supplement to your daily diet. If you are vegetarian, then you can substitute this with flax oil or hemp oil drizzled onto salads.
Another mineral which athletes often become short of is magnesium. It is used in the energy pathways of the body, as well as for relaxation of muscles so it is vital that you include it in your diet every day. When training hard you might need an additional magnesium supplement as tight muscles are more prone to injury and cramps. Sources of magnesium are dark green leafy vegetables, brown rice, almonds, seafoods, cereals.
Herbs are an anti-inflammatory, so try to use in cooking. Curcumin and oregano can help ward off viruses, bacteria and yeast overgrowth. Add herbs to add flavour whilst also supporting your immune and inflammatory pathways.
Finally, don’t forget to keep hydrated, it’s easy to forget on cold days, but 2% dehydration can cause a 20% drop in physical and mental activity and can contribute to injury.