Nutrition in Lockdown
The current lockdown requirements worldwide have directly affected your ability to maintain your regular training sessions.
With a change in routine, it is important to establish a new routine, plan your workouts, work on your self-development, remain focussed on what you can do and most of all look after yourself.
Looking after yourself includes your physical, mental and nutritional wellbeing.
This article, we will look at Nutrition.
Like all your lockdown training, nutritional needs really need to be planned and organised. To ensure you eat well, some basic tips include –
- Fill your cupboards with wholesome food
When grocery shopping, avoid buying food with low nutritional value. If you don’t have it in your house, you can’t eat it.
- Plan your weekly meals
Planning your meals will help to ensure you are eating correctly. Take time to work out and adjust meals so you are eating enough calories on the days you are training more.
- Be mindful about what you are eating
Your indoor training program adjustments may mean your training volumes are also reduced. As a result of this, your requirement for calories may also be reduced. Your appetite will somewhat compensate for this but boredom may kick in and draw you towards food treats. Treat yourself by all means, but be mindful about what you eat, steering clear of high calorie foods such as sugary or fatty foods.
Remember to maintain balance, you need to eat according to what your body needs.
- Stay Balanced
As is the case with training, there is no one single food or food type that will enable you to train better indoors. Keep everything in balance.
As an elite Triathlete, nutrition was paramount to my performances, whether it was in season, the off season or during injury times. It is important to remember that when your training routine has changed drastically and you have had to adjust your training venue, training volume and intensity, then you need to adjust your nutrition needs too.
Below are some simple yet key nutritional tips from World Triathlon Development Coach, Facilitator and Nutritionalist – Claudia Beristain (MEX)
With the lockdown situation currently, the 4 key areas to focus your adjusted nutritional plans should focus on the maintaining the following –
- a healthy hydration status as training indoors increases your hydration needs;
- a healthy diet that allows for the optimal function from the immune system;
- your muscle mass, and if possible, without compromising your health;
- your body weight or lower it if needed.
If you have scales at home weight yourself with no clothes on before a training session and then again after you have finished the session. Any 1 kilogram of weight loss will require 1 litre of fluids to maintain hydration.
- If a training session is up to an hour (0-60minutes) – water should be sufficient
- If a training session is longer than an hour – consider adding electrolytes to your fluid intake.
- If a training session is longer than 2 hours (intensity zone of 3, using the scale of 5 zones below), you should consider adding 50 grams/carb/hour.
|Zone 1: Regeneration Aerobics|
|Zone 2: Extensive Aerobics LT-1|
|Zone 3: Intensive Aerobics|
|Zone 4: LT-2 “Threshold”|
|Zone 5: V02max|
Training Zones – World Triathlon Coaching L1 and L2, Measuring Fitness.
Immune system Function and Nutrition
Your immune system protects your body from viruses and bacteria. A strong immune system will better detect your body’s cells and alien cells, allowing it to destroy any that could be potentially harmful.
In the current Covid-19 pandemic environment therefore, a diet which supports and strengthens your immune system is very important.
“Optimal nutrition for the best immunological outcomes would be nutrition, which supports the functions of immune cells allowing them to initiate effective responses against pathogens but also to resolve the response rapidly when necessary and to avoid any underlying chronic inflammation”. ( Childs, Calder and Miles, 2019).
Given the result of studies, nutritionalists agree that in order to boost your immune system and reduce inflammation in the body, diets rich in vegetables, legumes, fruits and nuts should be followed.
An example of this type of diet is the Mediterranean diet rich in polyphenols (compounds found in fruits and vegetables), which can be immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory (Pandey and Rizvi, 2009).
Endurance athletes during acute endurance exercise or intermittent endurance exercise with variable intensity (which happens usually in our sport) tend to oxidize body protein. In order to maintain their muscle mass and replenish the protein lost during training, the recommendation for males and females is to consume 1.7 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
(That is, a 60 kg athlete requires 120 grams of protein, and a 50kg athlete requires 100 grams of protein per day).
Some examples of good sources of protein:
½ cup of legumes (lentils, peas, chickpeas, beans,) = 7 grams of protein.
1 cup of vegetables cooked (not starchy) = 4 grams of protein
90 grams of animal protein (chicken, fish, meat)= 28 grams
1 egg (50g )= 7 grams
1 cup milk (low fat) = 8 grams
1 cup yogurt plain low fat = 12.9 grams
30 grams gouda cheese = 7 grams.
If you would like more information on specific foods, you can visit this link: https://nutritiondata.self.com/
In order to maintain your body weight, there should be a good balance between calories consumed (what you eat) and caloric expenditure (what you use).
To fulfil the nutritional objectives above, you need a diet that is high in vegetables and legumes, with enough protein, that can offset inflammatory responses to exercise while also providing sufficient energy for your training load.
The energy requirements are calculated by the basal metabolic rate BMR (the energy the athlete needs for living) and the energy used in the training session.
- BMR calculations – As an average, females have a BMR of 1200 and males of 1600. Read more here – https://exrx.net/Calculators/CalRequire
- Energy Used in Training – On average 60 min of endurance exercise use 600 kcal. This changes, depending on intensity and the body weight of the athlete If you want read more here – https://exrx.net/Calculators/Calories
A simple and Practical way to calculate your nutritional needs
An easy way to track how much you should eat of each food group in a way that promotes healthy eating is the following.
- Start with 16 points for females and 21 points for males.
- This would cover your BMR requirements.
- For each hour of continuous exercise, you earn 6 points on 1-2 training zones and 8 for 3-5 training zones. (use World Triathlon 5 Training zones above)
- Food Groups
- Vegetables 1 cup = 1 point
- Legumes and Seeds ½ cup = 2 points
- Fruits ½ cup = 3 points
- Meat and animal products (low fat or skim) 90 grams = 4 points
- Meat and animal products (normal) 90 grams = 5 points
- Milk and dairy products ½ cup = 3 points
- Cereal whole grain and starchy foods ½ cup ( oatmeal, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes) = 3 points
- Nuts 30 grams = 3 points
- Processed foods = 5 points ( pasta, bread, muesli, cereal),
- Candy, dessert, juice, cake, cookies, soda, alcoholic beverages, sugar 1 ration= 8 points.
Nutritional baseline requirements for Women
- Eat at least 5 points of vegetables, plus
- Vegetarians – 10 points of legumes and 3 points of cereals
- 5 points of legumes and 6 points of meat products to assure a correct protein consumption.
Nutritional baseline requirements for Men
- eat 5 points of vegetables, plus
- Vegetarians – 12 points of legumes and 3 points of cereals
- 6 points of legumes and 6 points of meat products to assure a correct protein consumption.
Remaining Nutritional Needs for Women and Men
- The rest of your nutritional points are added according to your training zone. You can select from any any food group.
- Be aware that food groups that promote an anti-inflammatory response are ‘less expensive’ than groups that would produce inflammation.
With some spare time on your hands in lockdown, you can have a look at different combinations of food groups and how they can affect your ‘point’ score. You may also want to have a look at how you may be able to plan your nutritional needs for travel by combining different foods from different regions of the world that all combine to give you the same nutritional score.
In conclusion, while your training requires adjusting to a new routine, now is a time to plan and work on your nutritional needs so you can develop a strong understanding of what your body requires to perform well.
Some further reading on the nutrition topics covered can be found here:
Childs, C. E., Calder, P. C., & Miles, E. A. (2019). Diet and Immune Function. Nutrients, 11(8), 1933. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11081933
Pandey, K. B., & Rizvi, S. I. (2009). Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2(5), 270–278. https://doi.org/10.4161/oxim.2.5.9498
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017 Nov;49(11):2297-2304. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001366.
Increased Protein Requirements in Female Athletes after Variable-Intensity Exercise.