How to survive a not so silent night - A Dietitians "how-to" guide for every social athlete this Christmas!
Holly Smith, Accredited Practising Dietitian and member of Sports Dietitians Australia - 3/12/2013
It’s 5am. The sound of your alarm reminds you it’s time for training. You’ve had this early morning exercise routine for as long as you remember. Get up, grab a drink, banana or cereal bar and you’re ready to go. But something is different – and not in a good way. In the back of your head you can hear the sound of Cher singing ‘If I could turn back time’. You’re thinking maybe you shouldn’t have drunk so much last night, or had made better food choices. But the free bar tab and the endless canapés seemed like such a good idea at the time. Sound familiar? You’re not alone.
As you press snooze and pull the sheets over your head, you ask the question, ‘If I could wind the clock back 24 hours, what would I have done differently?’ Well, here’s what your future self said:
You booze, you lose
The reality is most Australians don’t do much exercise. In fact, only one in five of our fellow Aussies get the recommended 10,000 steps per day. With that in mind, most of our work colleagues, friends and family are not worrying about how alcohol is going to affect their 45-minute fartlek training tomorrow morning. For athletes, the reality is alcohol affects performance in a number of ways:
- Alcohol can delay recovery from soft tissue injuries. Instead of constricting blood flow (the reason for the standard ice and elevation treatment), alcohol dilates the blood vessels meaning a slower recovery.
- Alcohol is a diuretic, making it harder for you to keep hydrated. Even being slightly dehydrated can affect your athletic performance.
- Drinking your calories via alcohol means you miss out on important training fuels, such as carbohydrate. Despite popular belief, alcoholic drinks, such as beer and wine, are poor sources of carbs.
Scenario one: Your friend offers you a beer – what would you do?
A drink or two for most athletes is not likely to do any harm. But it’s easy to get carried away in the heat of the festive moment.
- Say no if you’re recovering from illness or injury (such as soft tissue injuries or bruising). You know you will recover better without alcohol.
- Choose to be the designated driver. This is a great way to stop friends from buying you drinks (even when you repeatedly say no).
- Set yourself a limit of two drinks. You know your friends or work colleagues will drink more than two, so you stay away from their rounds and buy your own, alternating your alcoholic drinks with soft drink or even better - water.
Food, glorious food
Many restaurants don’t always cater for the athletic appetite. Perhaps we need a special menu – gluten free, vegetarian… and athletic. It’s no secret foods eaten away from home are often higher in salt and fat – and often lack carbohydrates (sir, can I have some potato with my vegetables, please?). And often main meals won’t be served until much later than you’re used to. If you’ve done multiple trainings in one day, eating late can often play havoc on your regular refuelling habits. But don’t despair, with a little party planning it is possible to be well fuelled for your next training.
Scenario two: The food on offer is not athlete material – what would you do?
The party starts at 7pm and you know the food won’t be served until much later.
- Eat something before you go. It could be an hour before the main food arrives and you don’t want to fill up on high fat and high salt nibbles. Before you head out the door you grab a peanut butter sandwich, fruit and cereal bar or chocolate milk.
- Take a plate of food that is suitable for your re-fuelling needs. The party is at a friend’s house, so it looks polite anyway. You’re thinking cous cous or potato salad, or a loaf of fresh bread with hummus dip.
- You make a cheese toasty when you get home. You didn’t eat much at the party and you know you need to store some training fuel for tomorrow.
Stop, revive, survive
Re-fuelling between training and work can be hard. Include a late-night function and you’ve only added to this challenge. If you have more than one training each day, it’s even more important to pay attention to your re-fuelling needs. When it comes to nutrition, good recovery involves one or more of the following (depending on your training and performance goals):
- Post-training recovery goal one: Fluid. Replace your fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat.
- Post-training recovery goal two: Carbohydrate. Top up your muscle glycogen stores.
- Post-training recovery goal three: Protein. Repair muscle damage and build new muscle.
With some forward thinking and prioritising your recovery goals, you can be sure your body will be topped up and ready for your next training session.
Scenario three: You head to the party after training – what would you do?
You’re running between your last training session and the party. You know it might be a couple of hours before you get some solid food and fluid. You have one or more of the post-training recovery goals in sight. You could:
- Be fluid aware. You know you’re going to be in a state of dehydration after training, so you keep a few extra water bottles in the car so you can get fluid in before the party. As soon as you arrive, you order a glass of water. Your aim is to be well hydrated within 4-6 hours after training. You also have a big glass of water before you go to bed.
- Be carb aware. You eat some carbs after training by keeping a cereal bar and a banana in your training bag. You’ve done a high intensity training session, so you know it’s important to get some carbs within one to two hours after training to get maximum glycogen in your muscle and liver.
- Be protein aware. You eat 10-20g of protein within one to two hours of your strength session. This will help with recovery and maximise your muscle gains. A ready-to-drink liquid breakfast or a large milkshake on the walk to the car should do the trick.
Your alarm wakes you again. It’s 5:05am. So to answer Cher: If you could turn back time and find a way - how will you survive the Christmas festivities?