Renee McGregor: Top tips from the sports nutritionist
With over 15 years’ experience working in nutrition, Renee McGregor is able to provide expert nutritional strategies and advice to all athletes, whether they are a casual jogger or a successful Olympian.
She provided nutritional support to the GB Rythmic Gymnast group in the lead up to the 2012 London Olympic games, and supported individuals, including World #1 Great Britain wheelchair fencer Piers Gilliver, in the run up to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
We chatted to her about how we can maintain a healthy diet, plus what we should be eating on a day-to-day basis, whether we are playing golf, hitting the gym, or working in an office.
So far Rio has been incredible- being able to watch athletes you have worked & supported achieve their dreams ? pic.twitter.com/acYpxLyXw3
— R McGregor RD SENr (@mcgregor_renee) September 14, 2016
What should you eat for breakfast before exercising?
This all depends on what you are doing – if you are doing an activity which is high intensity, where you feel you perceived exertion is 7/10 or above for a prolonged period of time, you would benefit from consuming nutrient dense carbohydrates such as porridge with fruit and nuts or wholegrain toast with peanut butter.
If you are doing a less intense activity, so an exertion of around 6/10, then you will benefit from a slightly higher protein option such as two poached eggs on two slices of wholegrain toast or some Greek yoghurt with fruit and nuts.
What about for lunch and dinner?
If you are doing high intensity exercise you should base your meals around whole grains such as wholegrain rice with chicken stir-fry, wholegrain pasta with roasted vegetables and toasted seeds, or couscous with chickpea and vegetable stew.
But if you are doing low intensity exercise you should base meals around protein. Some good options are a courgette and feta frittata, a feta, butternut squash and beetroot salad, or sweet potato and lentil soup.
— R McGregor RD SENr (@mcgregor_renee) March 25, 2016
What makes a good recovery/post exercise meal?
Recovery should be a balance of carbohydrate and protein. The best immediate recovery option is milk and dairy foods. These can be taken if the next meal is over two hours away or as part of your recovery meal. Good recovery options include eggs on toast, tuna with baked potato, or a chicken and avocado wrap.
Will you perform better if you have breakfast before going for a jog or to the gym in the morning?
It is possible to do an early morning jog in a fasted state as the word ‘jog’ suggests it is at low intensity. However, if you wanted to do something like hill reps or intervals, you need to make sure you consume carbohydrate prior to this in order to be able to manage this intensity of training.
— R McGregor RD SENr (@mcgregor_renee) July 9, 2016
Is it healthy to have no caffeine in your diet?
No – caffeine can be useful as a performance aid. It has been shown to improve alertness and reduce the perception of fatigue in endurance events. However, there is no benefit to taking doses above 3mg/Kg body weight.
Will a vegan diet make you fitter and healthier?
Being vegan is a choice just like being vegetarian or an omnivore. There is no evidence to suggest that going vegan will improve your performance.
Having a higher intake of vegetables and legumes does have health benefits, but these can be included in all diets.
For those who are vegan it is important to ensure that you meet all your nutritional requirements by taking on soya as an alternative to dairy; and combining your grains so that you get all the essential amino acids in your diet. For example having rice with lentils. The two nutrients that are impossible to obtain through a vegan diet are Vitamin B12 and Omega 3 fatty acids so these will need to be supplemented.
Is it better to snack regularly or just stick to three main meals? Can you suggest some suitable snacks to keep you going on the golf course?
Again this is personal preference and also depends on your lifestyle and training program. If you are very active you might find it difficult to meet your requirements through three meals alone.
Some good snacks include dried fruit and nuts or oatcakes – plain with peanut butter or flavoured on their own. Cereal bars can be good but you need to watch the sugar content as some are very high, some good options include Trek, eat natural protein and Naked bars.
Is it true that you should always avoid white carbs? (bread, rice, pasta etc)
It is best to avoid white carbs as these tend to cause real fluctuations in your blood sugars, meaning that you have extreme energy highs and crashes. Plus these foods tend to be low in nutritional value.
Which foods help you to tone up and build muscle?
There is no one food that is going to help you tone up and build muscle; the key is actually the training you do. If you want to get real muscle definition and improve your body composition then you really need to think about doing resistance training – weights or body weight a minimum of three times a week. This combined with a balanced diet will produce the results you are looking for.
What can I eat to help me recover quicker if my muscles are aching?
If you muscles are aching then the key is to get good recovery in as soon as possible. Also increasing your intake of foods that are high in nutrients will help. Try making a fruit and yoghurt smoothie.
Renee McGregor is a leading sports diet and eating disorder specialist dietitian. She is accredited by the Health and Care Professions Council, the Sports and Exercise Nutrition Register, and is a member of the BDA’s Sports Nutrition Specialist Group.