While many of us are aware of the need to eat more fresh fruits and veggies, drink more water and choose low fat foods, the reality is that within busy lifestyles it can be exceptionally useful to know a few of the key foods you can target in your diet to get the most nutrition bang for your bite.
Surprisingly, it is not uncommon for busy recreational athletes to be eating relatively well but actually missing some of their key nutrient groups including iron, zinc and calcium; low intakes of which can leave you vulnerable to illness and injury. So before you become obsessed with the intricacies of sports nutrition to optimise performance, it may be an idea to make sure you are getting enough of the basic nutrients you need, every day.
Now, you may think that you are a carnivore but if you fail to include lean red meat in your diet at least three times each week, you are unlikely to be getting the adequate amounts of iron that your body will require for optimal immune functioning and hormone regulation. Such a scenario occurs when meat eaters only eat the red stuff a couple of times each week which does not give the body access to the amounts of well absorbed iron it requires to allow for optimal iron absorption. So, when making dinner and lunchtime choices be mindful of choosing beef, pork or lamb at least every second day. You do not need a lot, but the body does need to be exposed to a small amount of well absorbed iron regularly to maintain its stores, particularly for individuals training a number of hours each week.
Zinc is an often forgotten nutrient but a crucial one as zinc has a number of important roles in the body, including immune functioning, healing, and hormone production and for generation of new cells. Lean red meat is a good source of zinc, as are wholegrain breads and breakfast cereals. But by far and away the winner when it comes to zinc is shellfish. A single serve of mussels or oysters will provide almost your entire daily requirement of zinc as well as the mineral iodine which is also thought to be lacking in the diet of Australians. So, if you are a constant victim of coughs, cold and flu or a bad healer, it may be time to indulge in shellfish a little more frequently.
There will be a number of readers who plan to skip this section, as calcium is a nutrient that many of us take for granted as it is assumed we get enough. If though, you do not eat yoghurt or enjoy plain black coffee, it is highly likely that you are not getting enough calcium to support optimal bone health given training load. Remember, an adult will need three to four serves of dairy rich food each day to get their recommended intake of calcium.
Non milk drinkers are naturally at highest risk, followed by poor eaters during the day that will not be eating enough in total to get all of their key nutrients. Try adding a milk based coffee such as a Latte or Flat White to your day. Or, if you do not like milk, try calcium enriched soy or fortified drinks such as Up & Go Energise. Or there are even calcium enriched ice creams such as Paddle Pop MOO which will give you 1/3 of your entire daily intake of calcium via a calorie controlled dessert favourite.
You may think that simply because you eat tuna regularly that you are getting enough good fat but if you consider that low fat tins of tuna have had most of their good fat removed, it may be time to take a closer look at your fat intake. Ideally we need three to four serves of good fat each day, but we need a balance of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats to get all the health benefits. To achieve this balance, aim for just one or two serves of olive oil and avocado, but bump up your intake of polyunsaturated fats by actively adding fatty fish, grain bread and oily salmon or tuna into your daily food choices to ensure you have your own fat balance correct.
Top Foods for Cyclists
– Red meat
– Oysters or mussels
– Go Natural Nut Delight Bar
– Sanitarium Up & Go Energise
– Paddle Pop MOO
– Tuna in oil
– Tip Top grain bread with pumpkin seeds