Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
Recently the IAAF released its Consensus Statement on Nutrition for Athletes. There are 16 reports and they cover event group specific nutrition and also very focussed topics, such as travel nutrition, hydration and what supplements work. You can download all the reports by following this IAAF thread
As a coach I know how difficult athlete nutrition can be in terms of generating athlete understanding. There are those who are blissfully unaware of the consequence of good and bad eating... and then there are those who scrupulously 'eat clean'. And there are others who have a difficult relationship with food - these are the ones that may be more prone to RED-S (Relative Energy Deficit - Sports). The signs/symptoms of RED-S are disordered eating, loss of energy, reduction in bone mineral density (making stress fractures more of a likelihood), cessation of or irregular periods and loss of libido - males can and do suffer from RED-S. Body images issues too are potentially part of RED-S - and here males and females can look at their bodies through far from rose-tinted lenses. An athlete may have very low body fat and have a visible 6-pack ... this image and its subconscious manifestation can become more important than jumping far. You'll often see and hear athletes checking and talking about their abs - as if the 'reveal' is a badge of athletic honour. Having a 6-pack is not what makes a great athlete, being a great athlete is what makes a great athlete - speed, power, reactivity, technical refinement is crucial. Now, nutrition is not to be neglected and it is as central to performance as the aspects I've just mentioned - but it perhaps needs to be treated in the same way as physical training and this is what the IAAF I believe sets out to do with its reports and consensus statement. Visual manifestation in terms of body shape is what will optimally allow you to jump or throw is what matters, and that should be the focus, not how good you look in your crop top (another topic here: why does women's kit need to be so revealing?)
Returning to where I started... I have so far read through in detail the travel and eating abroad IAAF report and not unsurprisingly the Jumps, throws and multi-event one, and there are some highly illuminating and responsible details, points and considerations made. The reports are written by some of the top nutrition and sports performers world wide after all. I'm actually going to write a couple of articles for Athletics Weekly on these reports and their findings and kick-off with the Field events and multi-events ones in the May 16th issue. However, to whet your appetite and also direct you to the reports themselves here's a snippet:
Power to weight ratio is key to a jump athlete everything else being equal and the IAAF report does tackle this subject with a reasoned scientific approach...
Hyohydration is considered (the uncompensated loss of body water) and research is presented that indicates that it may actually be advantageous in that body mass is reduced resulting in an improved, albeit temporary, power to weight ratio. Note that many athletes are mildly dehydrated and that performance does not seem to be affected – hence the new advice for distance runners to drink to thirst rather than follow a prescribed drinking plan.
Following a low fibre diet in the lead-up to a competition could be worth exploring for similar reasons – although the report indicates that more specific research needs to be done. These diets do not affect energy levels and the report notes anecdotally that “… practitioners report typical weight losses of 0.5-1.5kg in elite athletes after following very low fibre diets over 48 hours.
The IAAF is to be commended on producing these reports on what can be a neglected area of athlete performance, particularly for us more everyday coaches. The guidelines, strategies and warnings make for informed reading and perhaps will enable us coaches (and athletes who read them) to become much better informed.
And returning to athlete body image ... nutrition is not about looking good but about performance and feeling energised and able to perform optimally through healthy (and sometimes not so healthy) eating ... put those 6-packs away!
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