This week, we had Registered Dietitian, Head of Nutrition for Pro Tour teams, and Cookbook Author Nigel Mitchell on the podcast. Nigel has worked with Team Sky as well as other pro cycling (and other sports like XC ski!) programs, and this episode we got into an overview of nutrition and what makes for a healthy gut as well as some of his best tips for new chefs. The episode was SO valuable that I wanted to actually listen to it again and write out some of the takeaways.
Create your own performance environment
Use nutrition to help create a performance environment. I realized that providing the right resources for the athletes I worked with allowed them to then become more empowered to make the best decisions for themselves. When I looked at [what the athletes were getting at camps and races], the food that they were getting in the restaurants didn’t represent what we were asking the athletes to do. And also they had vending machines, which were just packed with things like chocolate and crisps and and high sugar drinks, so I realized that we’re giving them mixed messages. We made a huge change by removing those things and providing the foods that we were recommending, and we saw a major shift in athlete behavior.
The secret to a quick gut-healthy juice shot
Fresh ginger shots are really quite easy to make, they don’t really take a lot of time to do, and don’t need a lot of specialist equipment. It’s a really nice way to get that very powerful sort of ginger first thing in the morning, with tons of different nutrients for the body. It sets a really good scene for the athletes, where they can see the the importance of their nutrition for the day. I blend apple, lemon, ginger, maybe some turmeric root if I’ve got that as well, plus black pepper so we can absorb the the turmeric, with a bit of water, and blitz it in the in the food processor. Then I would just strain it through a straining bag or even a clean tea towel if that’s all I have on hand.
It’s all about fiber
Juice can be a great to get a lot of vital nutrients, especially in a hard training or racing situation, but fiber is so important as well. We have different types of fiber, we’ve got soluble and insoluble fiber. A lot of soluble fiber acts as prebiotics, helping to feed bacteria. A lot of these insoluble acts as prebiotic food as well, but it also creates a lubricant in effect within the bowel. And a lot of it is forming the the the bulk of our stool. Now, if we remove all of that fiber from our diet, we’re reducing our gut motility, we were reducing the body’s ability to create great physical mass— in other words, big poos. And we want really big poos! It’s great to have great proos to get everything out.
Just start cooking
Start simple and do not make things too complex. So if you’re not really that used to cooking, then keep it really simple and look at like one pot type of cooking. One thing that I use a lot is the Instant Pot. You can just throw everything in that, and just switch it on. And it never goes wrong. I’ve even used it to bake bread. I couldn’t believe it but it came out really really good. Within my book, I’ve got a few few recipes that work really well in the InstaPot, like a beef recovery meal which is designed for at the end of long rides, like mountain stages of the Tour de France and the Giro and then there’s one which is a plant based which is a mixed bean chili. Just keep it simple.
Be organized in your kitchen
Being organized is key. Having the ingredients in the house, having a good store cupboard, can really help. In my pantry, I have different grains—I love mixing grains together, I’ll do equal parts rice, spelt grains, pearl barley and mix all of those together to make a risotto with that. The texture, the flavor, and the varied nutrients is absolutely amazing with that. I like having a variety of grains on hand, and everything I need to bake my own bread. I’ll always have some tins of of different beans and different legumes, I’ll always have dried as well. I keep canned tomatoes on hand: you can do such a good sauce recipe with basically a can of tomatoes and onion and a bit of garlic! I also love having canned coconut milk. That is so good for something like a tofu risotto I’ll put a tin of that in with that risotto and it gives it such body and creaminess.