As a British athlete, 400M hurdler, yoga instructor and FULFIL Ambassador, Lina Nielsen knows the significance of nutrition and recovery in optimising performance and achieving fitness goals. Whether it’s preparing for a big race, or simply maintaining a healthy lifestyle, fuel through food plays a critical role in Lina’s athletic performance and overall well-being.
One key aspect of nutrition that often gets overlooked is the glycemic index (GI) of the foods we consume. The GI is a numerical scale ranging from zero to 100 that indicates how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose levels two hours after consumption. Foods with a high GI value, such as pure sugar or jelly sweets, cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels, while foods with a low GI value, like apples or broccoli, result in a slower, steadier release of carbohydrates into the bloodstream.
“It’s important to note that there is no such thing as a “bad” glycemic index” says Lina.
All foods can have a place in a healthy diet, and it’s all about timing and planning. For instance, before a big race or event like the AJ Bell Great Manchester Run, it’s beneficial to consume high GI foods that provide quick energy to fuel performance. However, it’s not advisable to consume high GI foods right before bedtime, as it can disrupt sleep quality, which is crucial for recovery.
In addition to the glycemic index, the quality of carbohydrates is also important. Whole fruits and vegetables, which are closer to their natural form and contain fiber, tend to have low or medium GI values and are ideal choices for sustained energy throughout the day. Processed foods, on the other hand, like white bread, cereals, and chocolate, tend to have high GI values as they lack the natural fibre found in whole foods.
To help illustrate the concept of glycemic index, here’s a simplified breakdown of low, medium, and high GI carbohydrates:
- Low GI: Apples, broccoli, carrots, cherries, red peppers
- Medium GI: Bananas, nuts, ice cream
- High GI: White bread, chocolate, cereals
As you can see, whole fruits and vegetables are generally low or medium GI foods, making them excellent choices for athletes to fuel their bodies with the right carbohydrates. However, it’s worth noting that bananas are considered medium GI due to the absence of fibre in the fruit itself, as we don’t typically consume the skin where the fibre is found.
When it comes to recovery, proper nutrition is essential for replenishing energy stores, repairing muscle tissue, and reducing inflammation. In addition to consuming the right carbohydrates, it’s important to also incorporate protein and healthy fats into the diet for optimal recovery. Lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil are all excellent sources of protein and healthy fats that can aid in the recovery process, as well as one of FULFIL’s many vitamin and protein bars. FULFIL bars are packed with high protein, less than 2g sugar, and 30% the recommended daily allowance of 9 vitamins. These ingredients help to reduce tiredness, boost energy levels and fuel the body for big events or races.
To make it easier for you to incorporate the right nutrients into your diet, here’s a recipe idea for a post-race recovery meal:
Post-Race Recovery Bowl
- 1 cup cooked quinoa (low GI carb)
- 4 oz grilled chicken breast (protein)
- 1/2 avocado, sliced (healthy fat)
- 1 cup roasted vegetables (broccoli, carrots, red peppers)
- 1 tbsp olive oil (healthy fat)
- Cook quinoa according to package instructions.
- Grill or bake chicken breast until cooked through.
- Roast vegetables with olive oil in the oven at 400°F for 15-20 minutes.
- Assemble the bowl by combining cooked quinoa, grilled chicken breast, roasted vegetables, and sliced avocado.
- Drizzle with olive oil for added healthy fats.
- Enjoy as a delicious and nutritious post-race meal