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Daily Nutrition Fixes

By Bob Seebohar

This article originally appeared in USA Triathlon Magazine.

fuel stationThe offseason is still upon us and with it comes many pledges to identify what can be done to fix any nutritional issues that arose throughout the year. It doesn’t matter whether your goal is to be healthier or to improve your performance. This article will highlight how to improve your daily nutrition plan to achieve optimal health and performance.

Daily Eating
The main goal for all athletes in their daily nutrition plan should be to balance blood sugar. This goal sounds simple, but many athletes have a tough time with it. I have devised two simple steps that if followed will have a positive impact on your health.

Step 1: Control blood sugar
I am a big proponent of teaching athletes about hunger and eating when their bodies need nutrients rather than eating out of habit or emotion. Blood sugar ebbs and flows about every three hours, so while it is important to eat frequently, it is more important to identify the hunger response and rely on your body cues.

By using a few basic nutrition concepts, this becomes simpler than you may think. The concept of macronutrient shifting provides a better satiety response, which will keep you fuller longer throughout the day. This also will regulate blood sugar levels better and provide a consistent amount of energy without the afternoon crash athletes often experience.

The basic message is to eat a lean protein, healthy fat, fruit and/or vegetable and a whole grain at every meal. The combination of the protein and fiber from fruits, vegetables and whole grains will stabilize blood sugar and will increase the satiety factor, leaving you fuller for a longer period of time.

Step 2: Reduce inflammation
Not many athletes think of inflammation until an injury happens, but the fact of the matter is that we have inflammation occurring at all times. Inflammation is the precursor in some disease states and is often associated with some illnesses. It also can decrease blood flow to and from muscles, thereby reducing nutrient and oxygen delivery and waste removal. The good news is that you can reduce the inflammatory response through smart nutrition, specifically by consuming the correct fats.

Saturated and unsaturated fatty acids are the two classifications of fat. Saturated fats are detrimental to heart health because they contribute to high levels of cholesterol in the body. Unsaturated fats (mono and polyunsaturated) have many health benefits. An inappropriate balance of essential, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) can contribute to the development of disease while a proper balance helps maintain and even improve health.

Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential PUFAs, which cannot be made from scratch by body cells, nor can the cells convert one to the other. They must be provided by the diet. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) have many very important functions, most notably as acting like hormones, regulating blood pressure, blood clot formation, blood lipids, the immune response and the inflammation response to injury and infection.

The omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid, is found in many popular vegetable oils and is consumed in excess in our society. This could lead to significant health problems because a high consumption of linoleic acid can lead to an increase in the production of eicosanoids that are involved in inflammatory, cardiovascular and immunological diseases.

Omega-3 fats are converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA, found primarily in cold-water fish such as tuna, salmon and mackerel, produce positive health outcomes. For most athletes, the easy take-home message is to eat cold-water fish 2-3 times per week or eat other omega-rich foods such as walnuts, tofu or flax products.

Paying a bit more attention to your daily nutrition plan and using real food to control your blood sugar will help improve your health and get you ready to improve your performance.

metabolic efficiency recipe book

Bob Seebohar was the 2008 Olympic sport dietitian, the personal sport dietitian for the USA Triathlon Olympic Team and currently owns Fuel4mance. Seebohar is an elite triathlon coach and the head coach of Kids that TRI (www.kidsthattri.org). Visit www.fuel4mance.com to learn more about his book, “Metabolic Efficiency Training: Teaching the Body to Use Fat,” or contact him at coachbob@fuel4mance.com.

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