By Helen Duong, an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Advanced Sports Dietitian, working with cricket, AFLW and AFL athletes.
An athlete's immune system operates on two frontiers: defence against infectious diseases and assisting with healing and tissue injury. Here are three top tips from an Accredited Sports Dietitian to help you look after your active body and boost your performance!
Ensure you are consuming enough carbohydrates at the right times to match your training loads, paired with a consistent intake of quality protein. Plan for additional snacks pre and/or post training to maximise recovery and fight fatigue, and to support the needs of the immune system.
Eat the colours of the rainbow
“Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue…” To promote immune cell production and protect against inflammation, be sure to have a variety of different coloured whole foods. Each one provides a unique combination of natural antioxidants, in appropriate amounts, which is better for training adaptations than high-dose antioxidant supplements.
Feed the gut microbiome
The ‘gut microbiome’ refers to the collection of micro-organisms (such as bacteria and fungi), that live in our gastrointestinal tract. While we often think of bacteria as being harmful, those that live in our gut help to support our immune system, are involved in synthesising a range of vitamins, help to digest carbohydrates, and communicate with a number of vital organs. So it’s safe to say that having a healthy gut microbiome is definitely an asset!
To help your ‘gut garden’ flourish, it’s best to look to your diet to help ‘grow’ the good bugs. Fibre feeds the good bugs, but like a luscious garden where many types of plants co-exist, no single fibre feeds the 160+ species and the trillions of bacteria found in the human gut on its own. Aim for 25-30g fibre daily from a variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables and wholegrains to cultivate diversity and ‘fertilise’ the gut microbiome; keeping the ‘weeds’ (bad bacteria and infection) at bay. *Garden metaphor - over and out!*
For more information about gut health and sport, check out the Sports Dietitian Australia ReFuel magazine. For personalised advice on healthy eating and nutrition for sport, visit the ‘Find an Accredited Practising Dietitian’ section on the Dietitians Association of Australia website at daa.asn.au/find-an-APD/.