With the Olympic Games just around the corner, final preparation is in full swing as Team GB’s athletes look to be at their performance peak in Rio.
No aspect of preparation is more vital that what an athlete puts in their body, so we sat down with the stars of Team GB to find out what fuels them.
There are no such things as ‘cheat days’ according to Team GB marathon runner Alyson Dixon, or at least there shouldn’t be.
Dixon has been running 120 miles a week, at altitude, in her pre-Rio training camp in the Pyrenees, and as a result, she needs to fuel her body appropriately to make sure it does not break down ahead of the biggest race of her life.
However, while Dixon does stick to a healthy diet, she is not a believer in denying yourself something only to then gorge yourself one day a week.
“I hate the term ‘cheat day’ or what’s your ‘treat’, making it like you’re just doing the exercise to get a treat,” said the 37-year-old.
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“If you deny yourselves things you start to crave them. So if you want some chocolate then go and have some, just don’t eat a 200g bar every day.
“As long as you’re sensible and it’s all in moderation then you’re absolutely fine.
“We’re here to enjoy our sport, so if you’re all mean and moody because you’re not allowed a bit of chocolate or a slice of cake, then there’s not much point.
“Yes you want to get the correct bits in at the correct times, but there’s leeway for other things in there.”
Dixon works on a nine-day training programme where she will have two relatively easy days, followed by a hard day of training.
And when she says hard, she means it – we’re talking a 24-26 mile run in some cases – so recovery is key to be able to run another hard session in just a few days time.
“Nutrition is really, really important because if you’re not taking in the correct food to recover, you’re not going to be able to continue on with that training,” added the Sunderland Stroller.
“A lot of people will say ‘you run 120 miles a week, you can eat what you want’, because you just burn it all off.
“Yes you can eat a lot, but it’s about putting in the correct things at the correct time.
“If I just replaced all those calories with McDonald’s then I am not going to survive very long, and I won’t have the energy to put out the miles.”
Dixon will aim to eat a mix of protein and carbohydrates in the 20 minutes immediately post exercise, as well as packing several other 20 gram portions of protein throughout the day.
Her diet, as an endurance athlete, is more balanced towards carbohydrates – to refuel – than protein, whereas a power athlete will be eating more protein to repair the damage done to their muscles in explosive activity.
But despite the slight tweaks depending on the type of activity people do, Dixon thinks most athletes will eat similar sort of things.
“I have just a bog standard sports person’s diet,” she concluded.
“For endurance you’re looking at rice, pasta, potatoes, sweet potatoes, all that kind of stuff, then proteins it’s lean meat, fish, nuts and dried fruit.
“It is quite strict, but we do have a bit of leeway for cake and chocolate.”