Performance Nutrition

I am going to take you through a typical day of training, focusing on my diet; what I consume, why and how I think it affects my overall performance.

There are so many right ways to do things that it can be confusing, but I have been experimenting with my nutrition for years and I think by now I have a pretty good idea what works for me. As a professional athlete, I have the ability to get almost instant objective feedback on how my nutrition affects not only how I feel, but also my ability to perform and my times in training on a daily basis. 

In my diet, I am aiming to meet the nutritional requirements to maintain a lean body mass of 207 lbs and my body fat around six per cent. Equally important is maximising my recovery, optimising my health so that i will feel my best and avoid getting sick.

Upon waking, I drink as much water as I can consume from my water bottle next to my bed. The idea behind this being not only hydration, but also to help flush toxins and metabolic waste that have built up overnight. Usually around 11 am, I hit a sort of foggy patch where I find it hard to focus and I am a bit tired.

However, when I diligently drink as much water as I can stomach upon waking, I find I never hit that foggy tired patch and power through till the afternoon. Also if this is done for consecutive days, I find it helps to greatly alleviate muscle soreness and stiffness that have built up. 

I try to consume 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. This is a trick I learnt from Tim Ferris in his book, The Four Hour Body. Consuming this within this window of time will prevent the body from going catabolic and starting to consume itself from as a result of being in a fasted state for the duration of the night. Essentially I consume 30 grams of protein every three or four hours during my day.

Now to fuel up. I mix it up, and usually don’t want to eat anything too heavy if I have to go training immediately after. Lately I have been eating any combination of oatmeal, sardines, bananas, brazil nuts, avocado, and sometimes Greek yogurt for breakfast. In the morning I will also take vitamin D which is simply essential for overall health and immune system support. I also take vitamin B which aids in metabolising food into energy, and turmeric which is a powerful anti-inflammatory that has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. 

Fish oil. My body loves fish oil, but one needs to take a lot. 

Long story short, I was swimming in Norway between some of the Fina World Cups and noticed that my Norwegian friends drank this stuff every day. I decided to try it and over the course of my week there, I finished a whole bottle. The first thing I noticed was that my lips and skin stopped being dry, despite being constantly exposed to the negative effects of cold winter air and chlorine from swimming pools.

My body was moisturising itself from the inside out. My nails became hard and strong and my hair began to get a healthy shine. The aching in my left knee quickly subsided a few days later. I have been drinking about two big gulps of fish oil every day since.

Immediately after practice, in order to help kick-start the recovery process, I will take some branch chain amino acids, also known as BCAAs. BCAAs are essentially the basic building blocks that make up protein which constitutes our muscles. By doing this, I immediately give my body the building blocks to begin repairing the damage from my recent strenuous workout.

Insulin and growth hormone are inversely related. When insulin is low, growth hormone levels can become elevated, but when insulin is high, growth hormone must remain low. If I have another training session later in the day I will consume something to immediately replenish my glycogen, like bananas, chocolate milk, or even a handful of walnuts and an orange which will elevate my insulin slightly.

However, if that was the last session for the day, and hard enough to leave me feeling ill with no appetite, I will just take amino acids and refrain from eating until by body gets hungry, so as to allow my growth hormone levels to spike which will further stimulate my body to repair itself.

If there is a weight training session later that day, I will consume a protein shake and again a banana and nuts to sustain me as I head for another swim workout afterwards.

Lunch and dinner always consist of low glycemic index carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and ground provisions, along with variety of different vegetables (I try to avoid vegetables laced with pesticides when I can) and some source of protein. I also like lentils and beans. Lately, my go-to source of protein is wild fish. This is due to the fact that the isoflavonoids from soy that the chickens are fed, accumulate over time in the body and raise our levels of estrogen and lower testosterone. 

Healthy fats like those found in nuts, sardines, avocado, cheese, coconut oil, butter and olive oil also play a huge role in my diet and serve to give me incredible work capacity without having to refuel.

Before bed I will drink a casein protein shake (slow release) or cook four eggs in coconut oil. I also like a few spoonfuls of peanut butter to give my body something to slowly consume while it sleeps, thus fueling the repair process. I will also take a zinc supplement, and magnesium, usually in the form of magnesium oil that I rub on aching and spasming muscles to help my body relax.

So there, that’s how I do it.