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Performance Nutrition During Covid - How to Maintain Your Strength & Fitness

For many professional athletes, Covid has definitely shaken things up as a result of many of you now working from home, changes in eating habits, energy expenditure,  training regimes and events.

Rest with the right nutritional strategy you'll come back stronger than ever.


1) The Importance of Maintaining a Nutrition Strategy During Covid

  • Maintains Athletic Performance
  • Optimises Training 
  • Improves Endurance
  • Increases Strength
  • Improves Recovery
  • Prevents Fatigue
  • Avoids Injury


2) The Key to Your Sports Nutrition Strategy 

(i) Size: Your Requirement & Portion sizes

(ii) Type: The Food You Choose

(iii) Timing: When You Eat


Size - Your Nutritional Requirements

Your requirement depends on your age, weight and level of activity. Keep in mind that your energy expenditure may have likely decreases significantly during lockdown.

Your energy or calories are composed of a combination of your macronutrients - carbohydrates, protein and fat

Requirements (adjust lower or higher depending on level of activity)

  • Carbohydrates: 5-10g/kg bodyweight/day
  • Protein: 1.2-1.7g/kg bodyweight/day
  • Fats: 25-25% of total energy intake and no more than 10% saturated fat


Type & Timing 

We can often underestimate the functions and abilities of foods. By utilising and understanding the how our macronutrients work we can manipulate and utilise them to allow us to function and perform at our best


- Carbohydrates 

- Are our main source of fuel and are broken into quick release and slow release, this is called the Glycaemic Index (GI) or sugar index

- The GI refers to the rate at which sugar or glucose gets absorbed into the bloodstream

- High GI carbs - Are quickly absorbed the bloodstream, causing a spike in our blood sugar levels (foods high in refined sugar, white bread & pasta)

- Low GI carbs -  Are slowly absorbed into the blood stream, causing a steady inflow (brown bread, brown pasta, brown rice, wholegrain foods)


The Glycaemic Index (Timing)

When it comes to performance, we want an continual supply of fuel

Glycaemic Index

  • Consume your quick release/High GI Carbohydrates immediately prior to training (banana is my go to pre training High GI food) - this provides you with an immediate sources of fuel
  • Consume your slow release/Low GI Carbohydrates 1-2 hours prior to training - this will kick in when your High GI runs out


- Protein 

  • Required for recovery, repair and building new cells
  • Proteins are made up of different ‘building blocks’ called ‘amino acids’
  • Different combinations of these amino acids provide different functions
  • It is important to include good quality protein in each meal as well as getting eating wide variety of different types of proteins be it plant or animal based to optimise your performance, strength and recovery


When to Take Your Recovery Protein Supplement (Timing)

- It is generally recommended to take your protein supplement within 20-30 minutes post training for optimum


Types of Recovery Protein

- As your training intensifies it's important to preserve your muscle stores and increase strength.  It may be necessary to take a recovery protein supplement post training


Whey Protein

Provides a wide spectrum of amino acids (essential & non essential)

  • Easy uptake into the muscle

Casein Protein

  • Provides a wide spectrum of amino acids (essential & non essential
  • Slow uptake to muscle
  • Great for late night training and those with a high metabolism

Plant Based Protein Supplements

(Rice & Hemp)

- This combination provides the full spectrum of amino acids when taken in the right quantity (15g of each is one serving)

- Other plant based protein supplements also include soy and pea protein for instance which are also good sources


- Fat

We need a small amount of fat in the diet for the absorption of our fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K)


  • Avoid

- Saturated & Trans Fats found in fatty

Sources: Meat, lards, margarines & processed meats

- Little nutritional value

  • Include

- Mono Unsaturated Fats

Sources: Nuts, avocados, olives, olive oil

- Polyunsaturated Fats

Sources: Oily fish (Including salmon, mackerel, herring, trout & tuna), walnuts, flaxseed, sunflower based spreads - These include your omega, 3, 6 & 9 fatty acids which are important for your joints and circulation


When to Eat Fats (Timing)

  • Fats slow your gastric emptying time (the rate at which your stomach empties 
  • This can slow the release and availability of nutrients to the body and can irritate the stomach during training or an event
  • The Exception: There is one type of fats called Medium Chain Fatty Acids or MCTS which are more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and which bypass the stomach - found in coconut oil which are an efficient form of energy.


3) Meal Planning

Based on your requirements above you can now begin to plan your meals and snacks for the week ahead, keeping in mind your quantities and timings and factoring these into your training.

  • Plan your main meals & make a list of ingredients required
  • Plan your snacks and add ingredients to the list
  • Set your meal prep day (mine is usually Sunday)
  • Cook up in batch (this can include chicken, turkey and fish for salads and sandwiches too)
  • Divide into tupperware boxes
  • Place those you'll have within the next 2 days in the fridge and the remaining in the freezer
  • Defrost as needed.


3) Set Up Schedule

As lockdown may find many of you working, training and eating at home, you may find that these aspects of your life have become unbalanced.

Work/Study - It's hard when working or studying from home to set the work/study, life, eating and training boundaries. For this reason it's important to set a schedule of your working hours so they don't flow into other areas of your life and affect your training and nutrition strategy.

Eating - The body also loves routine, and by having your meals at the same time every day, it allows your body and digestive system to synchronise.In terms of your eating schedule, This also your designated time for taking a break from tasks and focusing on your meal or snack, allowing you to properly digest and savour your foods

Training - By understanding the type and timing of foods discussed above, you can now implement this into your daily routine through scheduling your training and eating into set times. This will help you get the most out of your nutritional strategy, maintain your fitness and strength.


4) Hydration – Establish Your Fluid Rehydration Strategy

With training and matches on hold, now is the optimum time to master another aspect of your nutrition strategy, hydration. The importance of hydration is often underestimated

Hydration is Important For

  • The transportation of nutrients and oxygen to the muscles thus helping muscle repair
  • The removal of lactic acid build up
  • Regulation of body temperature
  • Improving your response time


Your Basic Fluid Requirement

35ml x kg body weight


Fluid Rehydration Strategy

Millilitres (ml) = Kilograms (kg)

  • Weigh Yourself Before Training
  • Weigh Yourself After Training

- Weight Lost = Fluid

- Example: Weight Loss = ½ kg = 500ml

  • Do this 3 times for each type of training (cardio, strength and events when they return) and take the average for each training
  • This will prepare you as to how much fluid you need prior to your big event (pre-hydration), during an event and after the event


5) Maintaining Your Fitness

To maintain your strength, fitness and endurance throughout lockdown, it's important to continue training by including a combination of different types of training and to build your nutrition strategy and schedule around these.

  • Cardio - Such as running and HIIT training
  • Core - Such as pilates, yoga and HIIT training
  • Strength training - Such as weight training


6) Sleep 

Do not underestimate the importance of sleep as it provides us with the energy needed to train efficiently, allows us to repair, for our body do rebalance including our hormones.

  • Screentime: We have seen a huge increase in the amount of time spend on our computers and phones as a result of covid. These devices emit a stimulating blue light which can suppress the production of our melatonin (sleep hormone). This hormone is meant to increase throughout the day gradually preparing us to sleep at night as it gets darker. To ensure that you get the best night sleep try to have a 'technological sundown' and avoid using these devices close to bedtime.
  • Night time eating: Avoid eating  complex meals too close to bedtime (within 2-3 hours) as your body is meant to go into a state of starvation when we sleep. We are meant to be repairing and not digesting
  • Set Your Sleep Target: Aim for a minimum of 6-8 hours sleep per night
  • Sleep Schedule: I discussed your study/work, training and eating schedule above, it's important to include your bedtime and wake time in this also. This helps your body function like clockwork and ties everything together.


Laurann O'Reilly - Nutritionist


For more information contact me here at or 085-7337432


About the Author 

A farmer’s daughter from Tipperary, Laurann has always had an appreciation for food, nutrition and health promotion.

Laurann has an honours BSc. Degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Nottingham and a Masters in Public Health Nutrition from University College Dublin. She is also an Associate Nutritionist with the Nutrition Society London.

With a passion for nutrition and experience working in Ireland and the UK,  Laurann uses her knowledge and skills to help people achieve optimum health and assists in the prevention and treatment of nutritional related problems through means of nutritional consultation, personalised diet plans, health promotion and education.

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Laurann has an Honours BSc. Degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Nottingham, a Masters in Public Health Nutrition from University College Dublin, is an Associate Nutritionist with the Nutrition Society London, a professional member of the Celiac Society Ireland, is registered with the Institute of Public Health Ireland and fully insured.

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