Have you, a high-level or regular athlete, ever had the idea of limiting your diet with the restrictive diet to be more alert?
My name is Magalie Rameaux and I am nutritionist dietitianspecialized in various sectors including nutrition for endurance athletes.
My daily life? Meet new patients, whether sporty or not, who are unfortunately exhausted by restrictive eating habits. My goal is to prevent the deleterious effects of these practices on physical and mental health.
I understand the process of my patients. Wanting to be more efficient, more athletic, or sharper is entirely legitimate. You have to admit, it feels good to feel good in your trainers!
However, controlling one’s diet, sometimes drastically, can become a source of daily suffering.
What happens when you eat below your short-term energy needs?
During exercise, your body primarily uses its source of glycogen (sugar stores in the liver and muscles). At the same time it also uses its stock of fatty tissue (adipocytes). These two units work together. In case your glycogen supply is low (low starch diet), your body will then use its fat tissues. Owl you say!
=> In fact, in the short term, the reserves of adipocytes decrease and this leads to a reduction in fat mass.
Attention! If your head is ecstatic, your body experiences this experience as a real trauma: to make up for the deficit, it is forced to transform its adipose tissue into sugar and then into carbon.
It is exhausting work which, during effort, will induce a drop in energy and a loss of stamina. However, your mind is so strong that you will resist, and that’s extraordinary!
Uncontrolled and insatiable hunger can occur after activity, even 3 days after exercise. Survival instinct kicks in right away! It sends you a multitude of hunger signals, obsessing over eating high-fat meals. shrewd!
And in the long run?
I regularly hear my patients say: « Roh la la Magalie, after sport, I ate half a Reblochon and a packet of crisps before going to dinner! ». Let’s cut it down now! It’s normal.
Trauma induced by insufficient glycogen stores activates your body’s « survival » mode and drives you to binge eating urges. All without feeling full and up to having a stomach ache. Hello guilt!
=> Finally, your body is preparing to deal with the next trauma. It recovers the lost fat and increases the size of your fat cells and therefore its storage capacity.
In addition to possible weight gain, it also affects your self-confidence and body image. Also, your cognitive abilities are impaired and you develop a sensitivity to eating disorders.
For example, playing sports for the sole purpose of burning the calories you just ingested. The risk is to enter a hellish circle without being able to get out!
I am athletic with a balanced diet but sometimes I have these « food urges », is it serious?
If you have a balanced diet but sometimes have an uncontrolled food intake after exercise: it doesn’t matter! Indeed, you may have underestimated your nutritional needs in the face of a more intense effort than expected, thus creating an energy deficit. This remains normal because your body is thirsty for life and wants to recover the energy it was lacking. Let yourself be carried away by these impulses to fill the void once and for all. Next, start with a non-restrictive and adapted diet!
You got it right, to maintain your energy and healthy weight, food restriction doesn’t work. Regularity is the key to success!
My food approach
Let’s address the needs of the athlete:
During your physical or sporting activity, your body has to replenish all its organs but also compensate for its losses:
Water: on average 1.5 to 4 liters of water per day. For intense activities, I advise you to drink 25 cl of water every 30 minutes. After the effort, favor waters containing bicarbonate to reduce the lactic acid produced by the muscle. This reduces muscle fatigue and promotes good recovery.
Carbohydrates: Glucose is a sugar used by the body for fuel. The recommended daily allowance for an athlete is 5 to 10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight. Our body stores this famous sugar as glycogen in the liver and muscles. However, it is possible that your metabolism is very fast with nutritional needs exceeding the recommendations. We take into account your musculature, your height, your gender, your job, your number of training sessions, etc.
Above all, this reserve allows you to meet your daily needs, because even without producing any effort, the body consumes energy. This glycogen reserve ensures the body’s supply during training and also optimizes performance when there is sufficient. Another plus: reduced risk of hypoglycemia!
=> A glycogen reserve adapted to your needs allows for the reduction of adipose tissue without traumatizing your body.
Lipids: When you are at rest, lipids (Fatty acids) are used as the main energy basis. They are essential for the body to function properly, whether you are athletic or not. They have a multitude of functions, two of which are spectacular: anti-inflammatory action and the replenishment of muscle tissue.
Their consumption must be up to From 20 to 35% of your daily ration. This allows to conserve glycogen stores at the start of exercise! The important thing is to ensure a sufficient intake of omega 3,6 and 9 ( corn, flaxseed, oily fish, avocado, walnuts, virgin olive oil, etc.). I want to clarify that I do not recommend eating in the hours before and after a race.
Protein: Protein is an indisputable contributor to muscle synthesis but beware, no excess. Know that in case of excessive consumption of proteins or other energy substrates, the body will create a reserve of adipose tissue. So how do you know your protein energy requirement?
We generally suggest a daily intake of between 1.2 and 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight for endurance athletes. For strength sports such as bodybuilding, the intake will rather be 2 grams per kg of body weight to increase muscle mass, not more!
Protein consumption is optimal within 10-30 minutes after exercise because muscle anabolism is very important and requires a high availability of amino acids. To achieve this, an intake of about 15 grams of protein is welcome (15g = 1 egg or 100g of white cheese or 25g of almonds + 50g of natural yoghurt).
Vitamins and minerals: These food categories are essential for the proper functioning of the body. The athlete must consume a little more than the average. Despite a very balanced diet, very intense physical activity can lead to inevitable deficiencies. To remedy this, and even if I’m not a fan of nutritional supplements, I recommend you take them.
I remind you to pay particular attention to the intake of sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium because they work in synergy with carbohydrate metabolism. You must know that a nutrient never acts alone.
If you want to discuss this with me, go to my website www.dieteticienne-sallanches.com
Here are my 4 food and hygiene rules:
- Take the time to chew during meals and snacks
- Eat your fill
- Increase the amount of starches before, during and after exercise
- Indulge in pleasure meals from time to time!
To have the best experience during your next sports session, I recommend:
An adequate intake of carbohydrates allows the leveling of the glycogen stock. I suggest a fructose-based drink (ex: water + honey) or a fruit, such as a banana due to its high glycemic index. Choose a light meal or snack if your activity starts within two hours.
Start your first food intake after an hour and a half of training. The contributions will be adapted according to the duration of the event. Energy drinks will be recommended to promote hydration and a complex supply of fructose/glucose/maltodextrin. I recommend fructose in limited quantities because its digestion can affect performance.
For efforts of more than 4 hours, prefer semi-solid or solid foods such as cereal bars, energy cream, oilseeds, etc. This is to vary the intake and organoleptic pleasures! “Ultra” type efforts may include meals such as sandwiches or mixed salads because they will be much more qualitative in terms of carbohydrate, protein and possibly lipid intake.
The recovery phase begins as soon as sporting activity is stopped. It is very interesting to replenish glycogen stocks (hepatic and muscular) and rehydrate the body at this precise moment.
I therefore recommend consuming proteins and carbohydrates within 30 minutes. As for the next meal, it can be taken 4 to 6 hours after training. This must be digestible and rich in carbohydrates.
And bodily benevolence, shall we talk about it?
Food restriction will result in weight gain and long-term physical and mental fatigue. To reach your full potential during your sporting activity, food and hydration are your starting point.
When the diet is adapted, training has very positive effects on the athlete’s body. There is an improvement in insulin sensitivity and better carbohydrate tolerance, which translates into an optimization of the use of sugars before, during and after exercise. The ideal cocktail to maintain a toned physical and mental shape!
I encourage you to eat your fill, listen to your needs, and put any food intake into perspective in the event of intense hunger linked to a possible deficit!
Be kind to yourself and to your body, which allows you to have great adventures every day.
Article written for kevinragonneau.fr/blog by Magalie Rameaux, Nutritionist dietician specializing in the nutrition of endurance athletes.