On April 26, on the occasion of the Conde de Godó tennis tournament, I was invited to participate in the Radio 4 program «Anem de tard». In the program, we talk about sports diet and the importance of diet in sports performance. Here is the interview in podcast format in Catalan and below you can read it in text.
Without a doubt, diet plays a very important role in the physical performance of every athlete. We have all followed healthy habits, but very especially professional athletes must follow a healthy and balanced diet to achieve high performance. Today there is an excess of information on the Internet, even so, a large number of people follow unbalanced diets and deficient in essential components for the body.How can we raise awareness among the population to take care of their eating habits?
It is difficult since, as you say, there is a lot of misinformation available to the population, not only on the internet but also in books, magazines and oral recommendations (friends, neighbors, buying bread, the supermarket, the gym, etc.). People usually do not have enough knowledge to be able to know if the information that reaches them has a scientific validity or not.
From my point of view, the way to make people aware of taking care of their habits should work on two sides:
- Instilling health values from a young age in schools.
- Regulating advertisements for processed and unhealthy foods.
Healthy habits and sport
Creating healthy habits is the key to having a healthy and balanced diet. What advice would you give to all those people who want to create these healthy habits?
That they look for reliable sources on the Internet when they read information about nutrition and if they need it they go to a dietician – nutritionist with university and collegiate training
We know that a diet without exercise or the typical “bikini operation” diet can cause rapid weight gain once we stop following it with a loss of muscle mass and a significant increase in fat. Why is it important to have a synergy between nutrition and exercise?
You can diet without doing sports and maintain weight, but it costs more and is not the best, since to have good health (regardless of body weight) you must do physical exercise.
Do you think we are aware that with diet we can solve many pathologies (digestion problems, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular problems, etc.)
More than solving we can prevent. Once we already suffer from a disease we will have to watch our diet but it is difficult to turn back.
Sports performance and diet
Tennis is a source of health, but also of pathologies. In fact, tennis players start at an earlier age (between 4 and 6 years old) with very intense training sessions. Eat well to perform more … To what extent can diet influence the performance of an athlete?
The performance of an athlete depends on many factors, the most important being genetic predisposition and training. But also the body composition (muscle, fat, water) that we can modify with the help of food and diet during competitions. This can be a differential point with respect to other athletes of the same level. We can evaluate it very well in elite athletes where everything is highly optimized and small changes have a great positive effect. Remembering that eating right can help prevent injury as well as improve performance.
To do a training of an hour and a half, for example, what are the foods that should be eaten before and after?
It will depend on the person, the type of training, etc. We will always recommend trying a good previous hydration. As essential nutrients, carbohydrates especially slow assimilation such as bread, rice or pasta.
Nutrition after training is very important for a good recovery, right?
Very important, since it helps us to be able to train or compete the next day with conditions.
Is it better to combine carbohydrates with protein after training? Is there a shake that you recommend?
Yes, as a general rule it is recommended to combine between 3 and 4 grams of carbohydrates for each gram of protein. The protein to go well should be from milk due to its amino acid profile. You can buy the shakes already designed for this purpose or prepare at home with milk, fruit and oats for example.
Without a doubt, hydration is essential… Is the use of energy drinks justified or is it enough to drink enough water? In any case, how many liters of liquid would you have to drink per day?
Hydration is essential and I would say vital, since severe dehydration has fatal consequences. Drinking water is not synonymous with being well hydrated. Hydration includes electrolytes such as sodium and sugars. A good isotonic drink should contain these components. In addition, it stimulates the feeling of thirst and helps you drink more. An athlete should not lose more than 2% of their body weight during exercise, which means drinking differently for each person. As a general rule, outside of training sessions you should drink 1.5-2 liters depending on the person and the weather.
Are there differences between the recommended diet for athletes’ training periods and competitions?
Yes, in training periods you can guide a diet that helps to change body composition, on the other hand, during competition time, food should be focused on performance and post-exercise recovery.
Supplementation and nutritional problems
What are the nutritional problems that most concern coaches and athletes?
What worries most is usually:
- Muscle cramps
- Digestive problems (vomiting all over)
- All of them can be treated and improved with supplementation during exercise and diet in general.
In which cases is nutritional supplementation recommended? What does this supplementation provide? What type of supplement is the most consumed?
Practically in all, since the isotonic drink is very necessary. The rest of the supplements depends on the type of sport and the athlete. I like to value the intake of natural foods such as fruit and sandwiches, although most of the time it should be combined with gels, bars and caffeinated products.
Do you think that, among the general population, there is a conception about the negative and dangerous role that fatty acids in the diet have on health?
I think in general people associate fat with a negative concept. In fact, fats are very necessary but not all. Fats such as vegetable oils and nuts should be consumed. Now perhaps there is more awareness of different types of fats in the wake of palm oil news.
When we talk about sports nutrition, we highlight two key elements in the elite athlete’s diet: carbohydrates and hydration. What role do these two aspects play?
Carbohydrates provide the necessary energy to the muscle to be able to do sports. In the particular case of tennis it is very important, since it is a very explosive sport, with an important anaerobic part where the body needs sugars for fuel and practically does not burn fat. Hydration helps the body use nutrients correctly in the muscle and above all to maintain the correct body temperature, avoid muscle cramps, prevent injuries, etc.
And before I finish I would like to talk about the controversy that exists about the fact of exercising on an empty stomach and its benefits. What do you think about this type of training?
Fasting training is indicated in some type of high resistance sports such as mountain ultratrails for example. It should always be guided by a personal trainer, it does not have to be done yourself, and it should be accompanied by nutritional advice. I like to talk more about modified fasting because otherwise the concept is misunderstood. It is about doing a workout without carbohydrates as fuel, but so that the body does not burn muscle protein, proteins and fats must be ingested.