The ABC of Sports Nutrition: Dairy, Eggs, Flaxseed


, by Renee McGregor

Dairy is still one of the most nutrient-dense food groups that is beneficial to health. Photography by: bit24

Sports nutrition can be a minefield of information and, let's be honest, misinformation. As part of her ABC series shining a light on foods that can help with your performance and recovery, Renee McGregor shines a spotlight on the DEF of sports nutrition: dairy, eggs, and flaxseed.

D is for… Dairy

Dairy is one of those food groups that creates great controversy, especially around animal welfare and environmental implications. While I equally value the concerns, professionally, dairy is still one of the most nutrient-dense food groups that is beneficial to health.

During childhood, we are constantly being told about the benefits of dairy for our bone health. Indeed these benefits continue into adulthood, especially as bone density starts to decline from our late 20’s. I recommend that all athletes should aim for around 3-4 servings a day, which provides them with 1000-1200mg of calcium a day

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It has been well-documented that milk is the ideal choice for recovery from high-intensity exercise. When you look at the recommendations for recovery in terms of carbohydrates and protein, the recommendation is a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein. This ratio ensures that particularly after high-intensity exercise, training, or competition when glycogen stores will be completely or - close to completely - depleted,  this ratio has proven to be the most effective for replenishing stores.

It has been well-documented that milk is the ideal choice for recovery from high-intensity exercise.

Additionally, milk is a good source of minerals and electrolytes, making it an ideal choice for rehydration. While there are many plant drink substitutes, none can provide this 3:1 ratio, with chocolate soya milk probably being the closest possible alternative. 

Yogurt is also a great recovery option. I particularly favor Greek yogurt. This is due to its very high protein content. Most natural Greek yogurt provides 10g of protein per 100g, which is double the amount found in standard yogurts. Protein is an important nutrient required in the response to exercise to repair and rebuild muscles, helping them to adapt to the training process. 

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Many of us worry about eating cheese due to its high-fat content, however not only does it provide us with calcium and magnesium, but it is also one of the only foods providing us with phosphorus. All three are essential nutrients required for bone health. Recent studies also confirmed that the saturated fatty acids found in cheese appear to have protective benefits on cardiovascular health.

Top Nutritional Tip: Keep cheese portions to around the size of a small matchbox – crumble some feta cheese with half an avocado, add lemon and chili flakes, and mash together to make a refreshing dip or topping for your toast or baked potato.

E is for… Eggs

They may be small but eggs really make a punch when it comes to nutritional value. Photography by: yanadjan

They may be small but eggs pack a punch when it comes to nutritional value; 2 medium eggs provide you with around 12-15g of protein, 100% of your daily requirement of Vitamin B12, essential for the formation of red blood cells as well as being packed with selenium, a powerful antioxidant, making them ideal as a recovery food post-training.

A lot of people still avoid eggs due to the concern over cholesterol but in fact, a medium egg only contains 4.6g of fat of which only 1.3g comes from saturated fat. 

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And if you still need convincing, Studies have shown that individuals who consumed 2 eggs for Breakfast every morning ate 300 calories less the rest of the day; making eggs a really good start to the day on low-intensity or rest days.

Top Nutrition Tip: Try making a Frittata–load it up with vegetables, throw in a handful of feta cheese or tofu to ensure you meet your calcium requirements for the day, and serve with wholemeal pitta for an easy but nutrient-sense recovery meal.

F is for… Flaxseed

Flaxseed and its oil are a great source of essential fatty acids. Photography by: ritablue

Flaxseed and its oil are a great source of essential fatty acids. It is particularly high in plant-based ALA, alpha linoleic acid which belongs to the type omega-3 fatty acids, known for their inflammation properties. 

Flaxseed is a useful source of these omega-3 fatty acids for vegetarians, vegans, or those individuals who do not consume oily fish. Oily fish is high in EPA and DHA, two more Omega 3 fatty acids. Ideally, we need all three to maintain health. 

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There is also some evidence to suggest that a diet high in essential fatty acids can aid recovery and prevent fatigue during very high-intensity training volumes.

Top Nutrition Tip: Try adding 1 tablespoon a day to your daily intake – add to porridge or smoothies for a great start to the day, or try mixing the oil into mashed potato to make it more nutrient-dense and give a nutty texture.

The ABCs of Sports Nutrition - the series

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