Nutrition, What to eat, when, where and why

Most athletes spend so much time and effort, focusing on the gym and on the track; they completely forget the most important part of all, fuel!

Leading up to an event:
Even though BMX is not an endurance sport your body still requires fuelling. At least 3 days prior to a major event you need to carb load the muscles. To give you some background……. Carbohydrates provide glycogen the energy source used by the muscles as fuel and they also allow the muscles to store water. For the muscles to perform at their very best they must have both fuel and water, bit like a car. Eat carbohydrate rich foods such as pasta and rice for each meal (including breakfast) 3 days leading up to major events.

During the event:
It is a good idea to keep the meals light during events. In the case of some high pressure racing/finals your body will release adrenaline and the nerves, you will no doubt have, may upset your stomach. Light meals such as peanut butter sandwiches, grapes, occasional banana (limit to one or two per day), yoghurt, low fat cakes/muffins, etc are all excellent fuel sources as they provide carbohydrates and a little protein.
Sports drinks are okay as a recovery drink between events to replace electrolytes but be careful not to have too much as they are high in sugar. Any drinks high in sugar (sports drinks, soft drink, juice, etc) will be difficult for the body to process and will require watering down. As the sugar content is too high in the drink the body will take water from the muscles to water it down. This leads to cramps and sometimes diarrhea. Always use water as the main source of fluid and the occasional use of sports drinks is okay in hot or humid weather.

After the event:
Very important that when racing two days running you replace the fuel used from the first day so there are adequate supplies for the next day. Eat high carbohydrate foods as in the pre-loading days and include some protein for the muscle rebuilding process.
It is also important to rid the muscles of waste products. Waste products will form as a by-product from exercise use (a bit like the exhaust in a car motor) and also from the adrenaline and stay in the muscles limiting movement and performance. Hot/cold showers are an easy fix. Stand under a hot shower for 30 sec - 1 min rubbing muscles then turn on cold for 5 - 10 secs. Keep this alternating process going for 10 mins or more, finishing with warm. Finish with a leg massage (use some moisturizer and rub up towards the groin) then stretch well.

Before and after training:
Have a light meal before training and never go to training hungry. If your blood sugars are low, so will your focus be. You need to remember why you are training each time you go to the gym/track. It is a good idea to have a focus board in your room. Get a cork board and stick things that will remind you of your goals (photos of riders you aspire to be like, advertising for the major event, self affirmations such as “I will be number 1 at the 2005 Nationals”, etc)
As soon as you have finished your session you will need some protein. Protein is the muscle re-builder, (when you exercise muscles are torn and need to re-build to become stronger and bigger). Milkshakes are easiest as you can take them to the gym/track to drink as soon as your session is over. You can use skim milk powder as it more economical; however, the store bought protein powders have higher quality protein (whey protein) and added amino acids. All very important for muscle growth. There are a lot of products on the market all professing to be the best. Shop around, read the label and select the highest Whey protein products for the best price. The same applies for protein bars.

What to avoid:
Fat, Fat, Fat. Fat is a very, very, very slow form of energy. It will give you that full tummy feeling but will slow you down on the track. Some fat is important in your diet as it provides and transports vital vitamins and minerals to the muscles and organs. Generally you will have enough fat in your diet from protein sources as most fats are found in animal products (eg. the small amounts in meat). There are some fats found in vegetables such as avocados. Vegetable fats are the good fats.
Sugar. Give this a big miss. It will give you short blasts of energy. Many riders have lollies before a race. The energy from the lollies will only last as long as it takes to get through staging and by the time they are on the gate they are on the down side of energy. Very bad scenario!

Learn to eat well:
If your dietary intake is poor, changing it just before the event will not make any improvements. Always keep the big picture in mind and you are training for an event 12 months in advance.
Breakfast – Cereal, toast, baked beans, fruit juice
Morning Tea – light sandwich, cake or muffin, fruit
Lunch – Meat & salad sandwich or pasta leftovers,
Afternoon Tea – crackers and cheese, yoghurt, fruit
Dinner – meat and pasta or rice dish and salad or vegetables
Supper – milkshake or smoothies

The general rules:
Intakes should be as follows, weigh yourself and figure the following;
Protein 2 –3 gms per kg of body weight
Carbohydrate 5 –6 gms per kg of body weight
Learn to read the labels and be responsible for what you put into your body. There are some excellent recipes in the cookbooks put out by the AIS. Simple to follow and they have the dietary components listed.