Jon Schofield: How to Eat Like an Olympian
Olympian Jon Schofield (Team GB Canoe Sprint team) runs us through his tops tips for nutrition
Nutrition is an immensely important part of being an athlete. You put the hard work into training to make adaptations and improvements, but without putting quality fuel into your body you’re going nowhere – its like trying to run a Ferrari on vegetable oil.
So I thought I’d write this post, not to deliver exhaustive advice on the subject but to let you know about a few key principles, that will hopefully point you towards other sources of information which I believe deliver well researched, balanced and practical advice.
1. Eat a balanced diet of real food
One of the first mistakes people make when dealing with sports nutrition is to look for that wonder product or magic bullet to buy. There is no supplement that is more important than a balanced diet. In practice, building this base involves consuming all the primary macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat, protein) in a balanced form with plenty of fruit and veg served or cooked in a way that makes eating enjoyable and preserves the nutritional content of all ingredients.
In general, cooking “from scratch” is a good idea as it makes sure you understand what is going into your food and avoids smuggling hidden elements into your diet which you are not aware of.
2. Make it a Habit
Success requires consistent, quality behaviours sustained over a long period of time. But the problem is that if you find the changes to your diet too drastic, you’ll give up. So the key is to implement change incrementally and enjoy what you eat.
Try to incorporate new items into your food repertoire week by week. If there are elements of your diet that need to be cut out, do it slowly. Snap changes are likely to be taxing and won’t be maintained. Making it enjoyable shouldn’t be hard, believe me. Plenty of foods taste good AND are healthy. In principle, a balanced diet will allow you to eat a range of foods.
A nutritionist who exemplify this is David Dunne. David has worked with the GB Canoe Sprint team as well as other top Rugby, Cycling and Football teams. He provides great advice and recipes over through his twitter account and is well worth following for plenty of ideas to help you build new habits.
3. Snack Smart
I try to eat three reasonable size meals a day but the volume of my training requires that I also eat between meals. This will be the same for many people involved in sport, particularly when trying to balance training with a busy working life or education. Here are 2 snacking ideas I rely upon:
A. Healthy, nutrition packed smoothies.
I invested in a Nutri-Bullet blender. It is basically a really well designed sturdy blender, which is importantly quick to clean! You can customise the content of these drinks to best match your needs.
B. Nuts & Seeds
Wyldsson produce some great nut, seeds and fruit mixes. They’re a good way of getting clean carbohydrate, fat and protein into your diet and can be mixed with other foods like yoghurt and fruit to provide more nutritionally rich snacks.
4. Use supplements selectively only, to top-up your diet
Supplements form the tip of the sports nutrition pyramid as shown earlier, they can be important when you are building on a foundation of solid nutrition. There are hundreds of supplements on the market, some of which work, others that are useless and others that have a strong possibility of being contaminated and contributing towards a positive test for doping. It can be a minefield, choosing what to use. Fortunately there are some easy steps you can use to reduce the risk associated with using supplements and make sure you use effective ones.
Make sure to look for the “Informed sport” logo on any supplement you use. Most reputable companies sign up to this quality assurance program for sports supplements. And lastly when it comes to supplements, I strongly recommend referring to the AIS sports supplement framework and seeking advice from a professional sports nutritionist or trained practitioner.
I hope this post has been helpful. Sports nutrition does not need to be taxing and these principles should help you move towards achieving optimum nutrition.
- 1. Base your nutrition off a foundation of wholesome food
- 2. Try to build easy habits and enjoy what you eat
- 3. Develop strategies to help with healthy snacking
- 4. Use supplements selectively only to top-up your diet
Olympic Sprint Canoeist for Team GB. You can follow Jon’s Twitter account here