I attended a brilliant workshop on Sunday with Renee McGregor and Dr Nicola Keay, Renee is a Dietician and works with England Athletics and Nicola is an Endocrine expert who works with dancers and athletes. The workshop was on Optimising Health & Performance and both women are passionate about educating the world of sport on how to fuel the body so that athletes, at any level, can achieve their full potential.
Renee likened the body’s complexity to a London Tube map which I loved, she said that all of our systems were connected and if one went down then it had a knock on effect on the rest of the system…simple! And like London Tube system the body is a finely tuned system that will strive to work and carry on no matter what is thrown at it.
In relation to sport the message was clear, if an athlete does not have sufficient energy intake (food) that matches the energy demand (training session) then the body will start to shut down. The body will go into self preserve mode as the main aim of the body is to keep it alive, especially in times of stress. This shut down will in turn have a knock on effect on the rest of the bodies system, and this is where it gets complicated. So many links and connections, far too many for me to go into full detail, but I thought some of these effects may be useful for you to know if you are struggling with your training or are blighted by continuous injury or your running just seems to be in chaos.
You may feel some kind of discomfort but can’t quite put your finger on it where the discomfort is, it’s just a feeling of uneasiness which could lead to an emotional response, ie thoughts of not being good enough, not achieving any pb’s or having good runs which in turn could lead to comparing yourself to others. This anxiety can then feed into your thoughts and belief systems which could be related to food, you “believe” carbs are bad for you so you stop eating them and that you need to train more to get better, run more, eat less, get thin then life will be good, I will be successful/happy/healthy/.
Renee talks about this as a “False Gold” that this isn’t reality, it’s an ideal that is sold to us via social media. Not only do we compare ourselves to our immediate peer group but now we have social comparison via all platforms of social media to compare ourselves to which leads to a confirmation bias that we are not good enough! And how that viscious circle just keeps on turning.
Basically, are you eating and drinking enough for the exercise that you are doing, moving more and eating less is far too simplistic to explain the complexities of our bodies, interestingly 60% of junior athletes don’t make it to senior level as they are overtrained and undernourished and have to give up running forever.
Are you experiencing any of the following?
Soft tissue injury
Distrupted sleep patterns
All of the above symptoms could be down to other medical issues and it is always worth getting checked out by a Health Care Professional. However, if you are feeling all over the place and are experiencing a couple of the symptoms above, you may not be eating and drinking enough to fuel your body. Your body maybe shutting down, releasing stress hormones that have a knock on effect on your whole bodies immune system as it goes into self preservation mode and ironically you may not be losing weight!
The message from Renee and Nicola was clear, fuel your body so that your body can work effeciently and economically. Don’t have a restricted diet, fill your daily calorie intake with wholesome food that is nutritionally rich. Eat carbs! If you don’t eat carbs you have poor REM sleep and sleep is so important for immune health and recovery. Our body produces a growth hormone that is responsible for physical repair and it is at it’s highest around 12-2am so aim to get to bed early enough to ensure you make the most of it.
I took away a great deal from this workshop, mainly that if I want to run into old age I need to fuel my body correctly, the odd glass of wine and burger won’t harm but constantly yo-yoing and restricting carbs may potentially have a long term knock on effect on my immune system and bones.