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Guest Blog: Optimising Health, Performace and Recovery with Nutrition

TriBlogsby TriBlogsApr 15th 2013
Today's Brilliant Guest Blog is written by Zoe Gray a Nutritional Therapist at ZNutrition & NLP Coaching Practitioner.

Zoe offers a unique integrative view of people¬'s health and well being; giving people the tools to achieve peek sport performance, prevent injury and fatigue, as well as preventing and mediating a range of health conditions and symptoms. Optimal health is needed for optimal performance and training increases demand on the body which can increase the risk of ill health.

Eating for Health

Food becomes the physical structures of the body and is also used to run those physical structures and so it is possible to use nutrition and lifestyle manipulation to support the body in its function in a variety of ways. I work with the understanding that when there is a greater state of health, there is less room for disease. So I am going to explain the key aspects of nutrition relevant to training along with some tips to support you in your training, because we really are what we eat.
Guest Blog: Optimising Health, Performace and Recovery with Nutrition
At this time of year when you are training for a triathlon, your aim is to achieve as much physical progress as your body and your lifestyle allows. It is important to consider that as fitness increases, often immunity decreases. Many athletes find themselves fatigued and vulnerable to coughs, colds and infections during the later stages of training or post triathlon. In order to train effectively without risking your health or an injury, and then perform at your best at the event - it is necessary to acknowledge the state of systemic health that is required and in particular, adrenal health.

Your adrenal glands sit just above your kidneys and one of their jobs is to secrete the hormone cortisol. Cortisol encourages a greater blood flow to the muscles in our arms and legs, increases heart rate and reduces sensitivity to pain; it also reduces gut function and lowers immunity. All of this is helpful during physical activity either though improving performance or by being ¬'energy efficient¬', as it is more important to run away from a threat then it is to react to a cut. However, we are designed to experience stress short term. Long term training and long events can be seen as a long term stress for the body, and so cortisol levels can remain high for long periods of time. This can disrupt sleep patterns, digestive health, emotional health, immunity and risk injury and/or burn out. When cortisol levels stay high for a long period of time we can become desensitised to it and/or stop producing it due to exhaustion. So having too much or too little cortisol can be detrimental to performance and recovery.

Cortisol Production:

Guest Blog: Optimising Health, Performace and Recovery with Nutrition
The above diagram shows how cortisol is made in the adrenal glands, this also explains why stress and over training can reduce fertility as sex hormones production can become diminished. Notice the precursor is cholesterol, the substance we are told to avoid by over simplified science. Cholesterol found in food such as eggs, prawns and good quality red meats is nutritious and helps us to produce cortisol as well as help our immune systems to function.

There are many nutrients needed to produce cortisol, I have highlighted the main ones below. Eating these foods can help to prevent adrenal fatigue as well knowing what your body can cope with training wise. There are also strategies to lower levels of cortisol which can help endurance training, such as eating more the old fashioned offal meats. Testing, in combination with information about your health history can help determine which stage of the stress response you are at. However, at any stage it is important to give your body the nutrients it needs to produce cortisol and for the immune system to work effectively.

Foods that can help your body deal better with stress include:
  • Protein:. Eggs, meat, fish, seafood, nuts, seeds, dairy produce, pulses or beans (especially sprouted) combined with wholegrains, tempeh (vegetarian fermented soya).
  • B Vitamins: Nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, vegetables especially green leafy, avocados, brown rice, millet, quinoa, eggs, fish, prawns, seaweed (kelp, nori) and meat.
  • Magnesium: Wholegrains, beans, pulses, nuts & seeds, blackstrap molasses, spinach, quinoa
  • Zinc: Nuts, seeds, meats (especially offal cuts), fish, seafood, eggs, oats, yoghurt.
    Vitamin C Berries, papaya, tomatoes, apples, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, orange, melon, kiwi, kale and pineapple.
It is also really important to have a diet rich in vegetables and moderate fruit to provide your body with the antioxidant protection against the increase in your metabolism due to high intensity exercise. Having a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables is important for this reason. Antioxidants also help to ensure our immune system functions appropriately. We can all do something to improve our diet, however big or small; but above all it is important you embrace changes and enjoy it!

Happy training!
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