WAO Part 3 – Diet and Fitness
In this 3rd WAO blog series, we take a look at diet and fitness specifically delving into them for the build-up of major events.
When I say ‘diet’ I don’t refer to an eating plan that lasts for a specific number of weeks or months, diet for me refers to the way in which I choose to eat daily and a structure of eating that is long term. People often think my diet is restrictive or too much effort, in fact, it’s the complete opposite. My diet is quite simple, easy to follow and I do not have the hassle of deciding what I will eat on a daily basis as my meals follow the same structure each day. Eating this way allows me to follow the same structure when I am away for major events, with enough thought and preparation my routine can stay the same and my body and mind stay in peak condition.
On the build-up to a major event, my diet does not change and I stick to my routine, the only change would be if I was to increase my workout intensity to a level in which I may need additional nutrients. So, I guess you are thinking what should I be eating on a daily basis? Each individual is different and there is no such thing as an ‘average person’, following a diet from a book or from an article you found online may work for one person but not another due to the high amount of biochemical individuality that exists from person to person. It takes some experimenting to find what your body finds optimum, with my online students we develop a sustainable eating plan over time and tweak it to suit the individual by reviewing energy levels both in the body and mind. Unless you are on a specific diet such a keto, vegan, paleo, etc most people will eat carbohydrates, protein, and fat in each meal, finding the correct ratio of macronutrients for the individual is super important. For example, my macronutrients have high fats, moderate carbohydrate amounts, and moderate protein.
Some people may be thinking ‘why are you eating high amounts of fat, fats are bad for you?’, this has in fact been shown to be incorrect in many studies, dietary fat from healthy sources has been shown to actually help to increase weight loss, reduce heart disease risk, lower blood sugars, lower cholesterols and maintain proper brain function. Over the last 40 years, fats have been vilified and dietary guidelines have advised you to restrict fats, in this time chronic illness has risen rather than fallen, Western A Price sums it up nicely:
“In the decades following the release of the dietary guidelines, Americans followed suit, reducing their intake of animal fats and largely replacing them with grains, sugars and industrially processed vegetable oils. Yet, despite adherence to these supposedly ‘healthy’ guidelines, U.S. public health declined.”
I consume higher amounts of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, with lower levels of saturated fats due to my genetic makeup. Now don’t get me wrong I still eat sensible amounts of saturated fats, they are still needed in my diet but after having my DNA profiled I found that I have two copies of the variant which tends to increase BMI on a high saturated fat diet. This variant is near a gene called APOA2, which contains instructions for making a protein called apolipoprotein A-II (apo A-II). People with two copies of the variant produce less apo A-II protein than people with zero or one variant. Therefore, it’s in my best interest long term to restrict saturated fat. However, this doesn’t mean this will be the same for you, now I know most people are not going to get a DNA test done to find out this information but eating a well-rounded diet that still incorporates fat is important. If you would like help in designing and developing a diet right for you, join me online where I can help tailor a diet to suit you as an individual.
I am often asked why I take supplements and if I am eating such a healthy diet then surely they are not needed? The answer, in short, is YES supplements are needed and are important. Modern harvesting and processing degrade the nutrient content of our food. Most plants contain only 25% of the micronutrients than those grown using more traditional farming methods. Not only that but our food degrades further as it is shipped and stored on shelves. Furthermore, the dense cell-rich carbohydrates ate by our ancestors are nearly extinct, these would have helped probiotic bacteria to thrive. What’s more, most people are eating too many refined carbohydrates which cause glycemic variability that our ancestors would not have dealt with, in turn, this leads to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, and depression.
It doesn’t stop there, the stress of our modern life that exposes us to toxins such as pesticides in our food and air pollutants, and the stressors of work deadlines and blue light via phones and laptops means are circadian rhythms are interfered with. All of this means, our bodies have an increased need for nutrients to help move these toxins through the body and prevent DNA damaging free radicals. These needs only increase as you intensify your workout regime and during those long agility days.
Like diet, supplementing is individual specific but some of the major ones for most people are magnesium, omega-3 and Vitamin D. I would always advise on getting regular blood work to check your vitamin and minerals levels. Once I found the right supplement levels to suit me, my energy was no longer a problem and my mood stabilised which meant my quality of life and performance in agility massively increased. When I travel to major events, all my supplements come with me so I can stay in peak condition during those important runs.
Eating right and supplementing is important every day, but on the lead up to major agility events and during them, keeping your food on track and supplementing becomes even more of a priority. I have lots of supplement tips I give to my students to help them stay sharp for all of their runs during an agility competition. Other crucial performance elements are quality of sleep, water intake, and sun exposure, all of which I help my online students to master for ultimate agility performance.
As with the above, tailoring your workouts to your goals and for your body is key but I will help by providing some information on the exercise bases that are important to cover for longevity. By following the below, your agility performance can increase to a whole new level. Your exercise plan needs to cover all bases, our aim with our workouts is to increase mitochondrial density, lactic acid threshold, strength, and your maximum oxygen utilisation.
The mitochondria convert nutrients you consume into energy by making ATP which is used by your cells for a range of functions from breathing to exercising. If we increase the size and number of our mitochondria we will have more energy available for our muscles during an agility run, we will be are able to run faster and for longer. There are 2 ways to increase mitochondrial density, the first is via slow anaerobic training such as an hours slow cycling. For me, this is an unproductive use of time, a more time efficient way to increase mitochondria is by high-intensity interval training (HIIT). A good place to start is 1-2 times a week complete 4 x 30 seconds of extremely hard effort exercise e.g cycling as hard and as fast as you can with 4 minutes of active recovery in between such as slow pedaling. Over time and as your fitness increases you can reduce the recovery period to increase the workout intensity.
Increasing your lactic acid tolerance will allow you to maintain a high work rate for longer and recover quicker from bursts of speed and power which is exactly what an agility run needs. To increase lactic acid tolerance, Tabata style workouts are best. In addition to the HIIT session described above a Tabata session of 20 seconds of hard exercise followed by 10 seconds rest for 4 minutes will cover a lot of bases.
The next base to cover is maximum oxygen utilisation (VO2 max). VO2 max is a combination of how much oxygen-rich blood your heart can pump and the efficiency of the muscles in extracting and utilizing the oxygen. This is important in agility as an agility run is a fast, short distance run, the more oxygen you can get into your bloodstream by having a higher VO2 max, the less lactic acid will build up during the run meaning you can run faster and harder for longer. To increase VO2 max, larger intense interval sessions are needed, once a week complete a 4 minutes of exercise at your maximum sustainable pace, followed by 4 minutes of rest and complete this 4 times through.
The last exercise base to cover is strength work, in short, the stronger your legs are the faster you will run! To fit in all of the above and a long weights session isn’t realistic but you can cover this basis by doing a single set to failure session of around 5 exercises which will only take you 12-18 minutes.
I hope this gives you an idea of how I’m training for an event, the intensity increases in the months before an event and then I taper off my workouts in the weeks before the competition starts to allow time for recovery and repair. Like your diet, make your exercise routine part of your life and it will become easy to fit into your day.