September 9, 2016

Nutrition using the F-AS-T Formula: Eating is part of training for us

A steam locomotive needs coal. A car needs gas. And of course athletes also need energy to be able to achieve forward motion with all of their power. Professional mountain biker Steffen Thum works with a special nutritional concept. For him, eating is part of his training.

Nobody would ever dream of filling up his or her sporty Porsche with old heating oil. And athletes too should pay strict attention to what sources of fuel they put in their tanks so their pistons don’t fail them, leaving them stranded at the side of the road. At Team ROSE Vaujany fueled by ultraSPORTS, we stick to a long-term health-oriented approach. We are perhaps professional athletes now, fighting over seconds in the World Cup, but in 10 years we’d also still like to head out on bike tours too. Together with our nutritional advisor, Dr. Wolfgang Feil, we have therefore created a formula that not only keeps us fast and healthy but also even fit and thin. “FAST” is what we call it, but no worries: This is not about some strict diet where nothing is permitted. In fact, it’s more about laying the groundwork for making training more efficient. Self-flagellation doesn’t work in the long term anyway and only means your body will someday have its revenge. You have to not only survive with your nutritional plan but also be able to live with it, while also having fun, just like you do during training. OK, it may at times be a bit arduous, but that’s why it’s also attractive. Everything of course needs to find a balance. So enough already with the introductory blah-blah and let’s get going with a few tips about how you too can use good food to make yourself faster:

1) “Get spicy”

Spices don’t only make your food a little zingy, but you too because they ignite your inner pilot light. That in turn results in boosting your metabolism into high speed, which in the end can keep you thin. In addition, herbs and spices help your body clean out metabolic waste and have an antioxidant effect. There’s nothing like dipping into the herbal garden. And there is nearly no upper limit on what you can do. For us, visiting the local market is a must-do on the list at every World Cup. The most important items: Chili for the metabolism, turmeric for the intestines, cinnamon for blood sugar levels, and ginger for the stomach.

2) “Fat makes you thin”

A thing of the past are all those pasta parties and endless carb feedings. “Less is more” when it comes to carbohydrates, although of course our bodies do need energy to get themselves going for our daily training. In addition to protein, we also lean toward fats, especially for the evening meal. No worries, we don’t just slam down chips and French fries in front of the TV. Rather, we are committed to good fats. Those are what you find in avocadoes, olive oil and linseed oil, nuts and even fish. The good thing about fats is that you feel more satiated with a little bit. Add an avocado or two handfuls of nuts to a salad and no way you’ll go to bed hungry.

3.) “Train your reserve system”

If you also want to cap it all off with the “low carb” system of nutrition, you can then try to finish up your training exclusively relying on your reserve systems. We do this in particular before long stage races, because in these situations it’s all about being as efficient as possible and relying on wasting little energy to keep moving forward. But how do you train for using an empty engine that usually isn’t totally running on low until after three or four hours? You start without energy. You don’t ingest any energy in the afternoon or evening and then get up the next morning and do your training before breakfast. You will see that the first few meters seem to be pretty difficult but then motor gets revving and it goes really well without having a mountain of pasta the day before. Essential is to have an emergency packet of gel with you because with this type of training you are dancing right on the edge. And when the wall comes crashing down, it really comes crashing down. As a slightly watered-down beginner version, you can also have two eggs prior to training. They have no carbohydrates and thus really supply no energy per se, but you do have something in your stomach.

4) “You need eggs if you want to win”

Protein is the building block for our muscles, and that’s what gets us in the end to the top of the mountain. Whoever is seeking more power should perhaps just hide out in a chicken coop. Doesn’t matter if in the process you meet up with a yummy grilling chicken or you just steal a few eggs from the hen. As an aside: The idea our grandparents had that eating a lot of eggs will lead to cholesterol problems is simply old fashioned. We all each week eat at least 15 eggs. They cook up quickly, taste good, and an omelet can be filled with almost everything, from sweet bananas and cinnamon to mountain cheeses and bacon.

5) “Take a coffee break”

As a last tip, it’s all about having an espresso along the way too. The Italians know what they’re doing and an espresso improves almost every situation in life. If you’re tired, it perks you up again. If you’re hungry, it lessons the pangs. And if you just need a five-minute break, then this too is just a little bit better with a small coffee. What’s key to remember is that you use good-quality beans because you don’t want to dump a ton of sugar into your espresso — just perhaps a shot of cream in the crema.

We athletes do have a big advantage because we burn a lot of energy and we also get to stoke it up again. What is important in the process is that in the future we think about how we fill up our tanks. You can see that nutrition is a never-ending story as well as an endlessly exciting topic. Have fun trying this out and bon appetite!

Steffen’s winner formula in clothing

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