Guest Post on SisuGirls: How should a female athlete fuel her pursuits?

I wrote this post a few weeks ago for SisuGirls “A global movement encouraging and inspiring girls to step into themselves through sport and adventure.” Naturally an organization that speaks to my heart.

If I could remind young girls and female athletes of one thing is to make sure they fuel themselves properly. Those teenage years and early 20’s shape your bone density and other important bodily functions, like lean muscle mass.

Check out what I wrote on SisuGirls:

Sisu Article

“As an athlete, fuelling yourself for your pursuits is of paramount importance. Your body is your engine, and it needs to function at the most optimum level possible. And that means fuelling it with food, and lots of it. But being a lean, middle distance runner, many people don’t believe how much I eat. Well, as my partner says, ‘they should come over and watch what you eat in a day!’

As athletes we need to be keenly aware of calories in vs. calories out; if we don’t eat enough after we exercise, we start to lose what we have tried so hard to build.

Below is an insight into how I eat to fuel my running, as well as some tips on how to properly fuel your pursuits too.

Protein
Before I go into how I eat in a day, first, a word about protein. Protein is the building blocks of an athlete. It is what helps us to get stronger; carbohydrates and fats, on the other hand, fuel us through workouts. You need to strike the right balance. But if you’re training a lot, it’s likely you’re going to need to up your protein intake.  Personally, I’ve been playing with the amount of protein I consume with each meal – I’m trying to increase my daily protein intake but limit how much protein I eat at each meal (to about a maximum of 20g of protein given my size).

After workouts, I make sure I fuel up properly consuming 1g of carbohydrate per kg of weight and protein at a ratio of 1g of protein to 3-4g of carbohydrate.

Breakfast
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I couldn’t agree more.  If you consume a proper breakfast, you have the advantage of starting your day out right.

On the theme of adding more protein to meals, I make sure I add protein to my breakfast. For instance, I will eat Greek yogurt, nut butter, or add an egg to my oatmeal, or extra protein to my smoothie. Whoever said the double portion of oatmeal will keep you fuller longer was wrong in my opinion; having a portion of protein will keep you satisfied longer.

Lunch and dinner
For lunch and dinner, I try to follow the same theme as breakfast: my protein hit is usually fish or lean meat. And I am known as the queen of greens around my house! I try to make sure I have a serving of some kind of green, leafy vegetable at every meal.

Of course, I add in either some form of potatoes, grains, or pasta at every meal to insure I’m consuming enough precious calories, but I can’t overestimate the importance of protein.

Snacks
I eat snacks as a form of recovery after my workouts – and I can’t stress enough how important recovery snacks are! The first 30 minutes after a workout is a crucial time to get in that recovery snack to maximize the gains you made in your workout. Like I mentioned above, I work in a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio after a meal, eating 1g of protein per kg.

Some people say you should snack regularly during the day, I say eat when you’re hungry; most days I have 3-6 snacks depending on what I’m doing. Anything from an apple, to a smoothie, a fresh made bowl of popcorn, a scoop of nut butter and a banana, the choice really are endless!

Some other helpful fuelling tips:

  • Liquid energy. Energy is best absorbed in liquid form. It’s already been partially broken down so your ready to absorb the nutrients and vitamins
  • Working out early? For early morning workouts I recommend a 250mL glass of fruit juice
  • The best recovery drink is…. Chocolate milk. Drink 250-500mL of chocolate milk make for an easy recovery drink  – it contains the magical 4:1 carb protein ratio (better than just regular milk).
  • Want your fruit on the go? Try baby food. I find that baby food packets don’t squish in your bag like regular fruit.
  • Protein bars are your friend. Following my theme above, protein bars are an excellent recovery snack and are very easy to transport

A word on fuelling younger athletes
When I work with younger athletes, I want them to see the all the benefits food offers us as athletes as an important, powerful fuel. Too often I think athletes, in particular young girls, can view food as the enemy. I would never say, ‘Don’t eat this or that’ when working with girls. What I tell them instead is about making good, responsible decisions. Sometimes your body craves a snack, and that’s more than okay. In fact, your body probably needs whatever it is craving.

Most importantly, I always remind young women that we are all individuals. What might work for me may not work for you. But more than anything I remind the young girls to always eat, and as long as you make responsible food choices you’ll be more than ok in the long run.