What Do New Balance’s Top Athletes Eat?
Written By: SportsShoes
The right diet can mean all the difference between hitting and missing our goals and for elite athletes, effective fuelling is vital for peak performance. So, what do the top athletes eat? We spent a day with a team of elite athletes - Anna Silvander, Ellie Kirk, Jonny Mellor and Ross Millington - at New Balance House, Manchester. This is what we learned about their diet…
FIRSTLY, WHY THE RIGHT DIET IS IMPORTANT FOR RUNNERS
As a runner, your food is your fuel, and that applies from beginners through to seasoned runners. The right diet powers our performance and boosts the body’s recovery in time for our next run, helping to make us stronger and better runners. As a guide, you should aim to base your nutrition around the following key food groups:
Carbohydrates are a vital source of energy, and particularly so for runners. Carbohydrates are stored in our muscles as glycogen, used by the body for energy as we run and, put simply, are the primary source that fuels our running. Carbohydrates come into play before, during and after we run, both to help sustain energy and to help the body recover after exercise. They should comprise around 50-60% of your diet. Good examples of carbohydrates for runners are wholegrain rice, bananas, wholewheat pasta and bread, or oatmeal, including porridge.
Protein is made up of essential amino acids – the building blocks of the body. It has a number of vital functions but importantly for runners, the building and maintenance of cells, tissues and organs – which makes it particularly important for recovery. Protein should comprise of between 25-30% of your diet and it’s important to try to take on some protein within 60 minutes of your run to boost recovery. Eggs are a perfect source of complete protein for runners – it can also be found in meat, fish, soy and dairy - and to a lesser extent legumes, nuts and wholegrains.
Healthy fats are an essential part of every runner’s diet and can boost overall health and running performance. Unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), in particular Omega 3s can boost heart health, lower blood pressure and improve nutrient absorption. They can also help fuel running as a source of energy. Essential fats can be sourced in nuts, seeds, fish, eggs, oils, dairy and even avocado’s.
Fruit and vegetables
Filling up on fruits and vegetables boosts the immune system and helps deliver essential vitamins and minerals. These antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are particularly important for runners as well as the extra carbohydrates this food group delivers. Runners should fill at least half of their plates with an array of colourful fruits and vegetables for optimum health benefits.
WHAT DO NEW BALANCE’S TOP ATHLETES EAT?
Where diet is concerned, a common theme emerges around these key food groups and an overall simple, but balanced diet that any ordinary runner can follow– as Eli Kirk puts it…”nothing too complicated….we just try to eat well.” That’s good news for non-elite runners who can follow these basic principles.
The day generally starts with a cup of coffee for all the athletes for a fast energy boost. Breakfast typically focuses on slow-release, high energy porridge, topped with nuts, seeds and a source of protein. This has the benefit of sustaining energy levels through the morning as well as stabilising blood sugar. It is also important that breakfast is easy on the stomach and for most of the athletes, is taken on within half an hour after their morning training session.
Lunches are kept light due to afternoon training sessions. This generally consists of a sandwich incorporating a source of protein such as ham or chicken or scrambled eggs on toast, and usually topped with a side dish of vegetables with plenty of colour and variety, delivering an extra boost of essential vitamins and minerals.
The evening meal is the largest meal of the day for the athletes. This comprises of a source of carbohydrates, usually pasta or rice to replenish depleted glycogen and help the body recover for the next day’s training. This is generally accompanied with a source of protein, meat and vegetables. It’s important that the meal is home-cooked rather than processed – again with the common theme of eating well and keeping the diet balanced.
Eli Kirk (Track – 5k and 10k + road)
Breakfast: Porridge with nuts and seeds + a source of protein
Lunch: Sandwich with vegetables
Dinner: Pasta or rice with meat and vegetables
Anna Silvander (800m)
Breakfast: Porridge with seeds nuts and fruit
Lunch: Light with lots of veggies
Dinner: A large carb based evening meal
Jonny Mellor (Track – 5k and 10k + road)
Breakfast: Porridge, raisins, banana
Lunch: Scrambled egg on toast
Dinner: A fair amount of carbohydrates with meat and vegetables
The good news for us is that even the elites have cheat days. Anna Silvander confesses a love for “anything chocolate” while Jonny Mellor is known to indulge in pizza.
The truth is that the odd cheat or treat here and there won’t ruin our diets or our hard won gains in training. In fact if done in a structured way, cheating on our diet every so often can benefit and energise our training overall. Cheat days have been shown to help keep our appetite in check, boost motivation and help rev up our metabolism. The key is structuring cheat days so that they are effective and so they don’t become a habit. We’ve broken down the complete pro’s and con’s of cheat meals here.
Favourite Treats of the Elites:
Anna Silvander – “Anything chocolate!”
Ellie Kirk – “Peanut butter…in moderation. And it’s still good for you!”
Jonny Mellor – “Pizza!”
Ross Millington – “A bag of jelly babies”