Recently I did a course on Sports Nutrition as part of my Level 6 in Sports Therapy. And quite frankly, I don’t think anyone has ever been in more need of doing this course than I was!
I’ve always been one of those people that never really considered pre- or post-event nutrition as being that important. Pre- normally involved being so nervous that I couldn’t eat (which normally went for during the event as well), then after the event the ‘nutrition’ would normally come from a pub while celebrating the fact that I finished. Not great skills for a grown-up who should be able to look after herself by now.
Oh, I’ve always been aware of what I eat. Brought up in the fields of Lincolnshire, surrounded by veg as far as the eye could see – getting your 5 a day was not a problem. We were not malnourished children!
But Sports Nutrition…that’s something different. I wasn’t ‘sporty’ at school so why the hell would I ever bother thinking about ‘Sports Nutrition’? Only sporty people taking part in extreme sportsing needed to think about their nutrition like that…right?
Anyway, after a few years of taking on half marathons, mountain climbs and sea rowing races I started training for the Cardiff to Dublin cycle challenge earlier this year (200 miles of Winter riding, over 3 days)…and here’s where my body finally had enough and threw the toys well and truly out of the pram.
As I stepped up my training to include 50 mile rides in freezing cold weather I continued my horrendous habit of not really eating more than porridge for breakfast, enduring the whole thing without more than water and a packet of crisps and finishing by eating something entirely ill-advised…and maybe going to the pub.
I didn’t consider the connection between how I fuelled myself and how my body functioned under the stresses of rowing for 3 hour races or cycling 200 hard, hilly miles because I’d never had a problem with it in the past, so why bother now? In fact, I’d say that during and after taking part in these activities my eating was the worst it has ever been…which in hind sight is ridiculous! I apologise for having been a moron.
Each time I’d ride, the recovery became harder, until eventually I was unable to get out of bed the next day due to intense fatigue like I have never felt before. I’d sleep for whole days trying to recover and my skin took on what can only be described as the complexion of a dead person with terrible acne – enjoy that image! Not even industrial strength make up could help me now.
And even at this point the only conclusion my mind made was that ‘exercise is making me ill’. Wrong.
A quick trip to the doctor followed by a few blood tests and it turned out that my iron levels were low. Stupidly low really! The sort of low you can only achieve by completely neglecting protein in your diet while training hard and being a woman of child-bearing age. Oh, and did you know that when your iron is very low you can lose hair? Because I didn’t…but that was another attractive element of this experience!
Thankfully I soon became an expert in iron-rich foods and now no longer look dead, feel knackered or am going bald*. Hurray!
But seriously. Isn’t it ridiculous that a lack of knowledge and attention to basic personal nutrition can result in symptoms that can stop you doing normal things like waking up or going to work? And the silly thing is, its not rocket science – although looking at some of the products and pages on Facebook you might be mistaken for thinking that it is indeed extremely complex & something you need to pay someone a lot of money to tell you how to do! (Its not…and you don’t!)
In fact, the basics to a good diet are simple and there are tonnes of good, free apps out there that can help you track your proteins, fats and carbs – which all amount up to the calories you need each day. The rules to refuelling, carb-loading and energy level management are equally simple once you learn how and with a little bit of tweaking here and there you’ll easily get to know what suits you and your lifestyle.
So to celebrate my total overhaul from complete nutritional numpty I’d like to offer help to anyone out there struggling with their nutrition needs. It can seem a daunting process but I’m happy to help get you set on the right road and at the moment I’m chucking you a freebie as I think this is just so important its where we should all start when we want to improve our lifestyles.
Just get in touch for more info!
PS Thanks to upping my iron intake I managed to complete the Cardiff to Dublin bike ride (without using the support car!) and raise almost £2000 for Shelter Cymru in the process. Thanks to everyone that supported me