Any athlete will be tired and beat-up after a long season, so it is important to recover during the off-season.
Athletes should use their recovery periods as an opportunity to regain their health, and good food forms a crucial part of that process.
This is according to Ian Craig, a nutritional scientist from Exercise Solutions who has recently been enlisted by Nedbank to serve as part of their Ring of Steel initiative, which aims to provide Ke Yona Team Search players with the guidance and support they need to reach their full potential.
When it comes to training and healthy eating, Craig recommends that players not view life as either black or white. “Extreme perfection in training and eating during the season and then just completely letting go in the off-season can do some serious harm to your body. For an athlete, there is a shade of grey that allows you to still enjoy life, while retaining fitness and health during recovery from a hard season,” he explains. “The path to a healthy lifestyle and optimum performance is based on your habits and daily decisions. In trying to achieve the best you that you can, I would recommend applying moderation to the choices you make in terms of training and to eat healthily on a daily basis.”
Even though Craig suggests that players adopt an 80:20 principle – 80% of this time a player should eat well and 20% of their time they can relax with their nutrition patterns a bit – he says that for a player who has been following a healthy training and eating schedule, he should preferably go for a good quality pizza and perhaps a craft beer as opposed to a whole crate of cheap beer when he is being more relaxed.
“This is because, over time, when a player is eating correctly and training well, his taste buds improve and his body craves quality as opposed to quantity,” says Craig.
The following tips offered by Craig are aimed at optimising recovery:
- When you take time off from your schedule, use it constructively: Explore new places to do your shopping or to eat out. There are some shops and markets that focus on seasonal, organic produce that isn’t contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and growth enhancers that negatively affect an athlete’s health, and they also taste so much better and positively impact health and recovery.
- Try a few superfood smoothies: Instead of commercial recovery shakes used after training, opt for using a plain whey protein isolate (from grass fed cows) to create a delicious smoothie that is high in antioxidants. Use 20-30g whey isolate, one teaspoon baobab, one teaspoon camu camu (both superfoods), a chopped banana, a handful of frozen berries, a tablespoon of macadamia nut butter, a teaspoon of raw honey, and some authentic probiotic yoghurt, then whizz it up with a little water and enjoy.
- Poor recovery is associated with inflammation and excess oxidative stress: In addition to the antioxidant smoothie, add ginger and turmeric into your diet wherever possible. This could include adding to homemade curries (made with coconut oil) or including some ginger into a daily fresh juice. Add some beetroot into the juice, too, if you can. It has been proven to help with endurance performance. Adding carrots will provide another source of antioxidants.
- Use your slow cooker to make stocks through the winter: These can be added into soups, stews and curries. Bone and joint stocks (cooked in the slow cooker for two days) offers a huge density of minerals, collagen and gelatine, which helps with gut health, joint health, bone health and overall health.
- Eat your fats: Oil from fish and nuts and seeds offer potential anti-inflammatory benefits to the body.