Have you ever looked at a list of ingredients at the back of a package and ever wondered what they really are and why they are actually there? At The Nourished Tribe, we hope to give you a little insight to what you may be eating...Here are our list of commonly seen ingredients found in everyday packaged foods and our explanation of them.
Emulsifiers are used to get ingredients to mix together and are added to improve shelf life and texture. They include products such as:
Soy Lecithin: Lecithin is a natural compound found in soy, chickpeas/cauliflower and added to many ingredients. Typically soy is the most commonly used. Lecithin is also an essential fat and contains a number of nutrients so as far as we see this isn’t one to worry about as it does more good than harm.
Sunflower Lecithin: Similar to soy but derived from sunflower seed so a better choice if you’re or intolerant to soy.
Stabilisers are products added to food which contain two ingredients that have been mixed together that don’t really want to be mixed together (water and oil for instance), and so they need something to stop them from separating again – i.e. they “stabilise” the food. They are not something that we would ever find in home cooking because you tend to eat the food straight away before it separates but you will often see them in packaged products as they enhance appearance, texture and shelf life.
The most common stabilisers are :
Xantham Gum: Often used in gluten free cooking and in ice cream. Technically this is a “natural product” as it is a fermented sugar that is dried and ground into a powder and doesn’t contain any chemicals. However this is deceptive as it is in fact highly processed. It is also a notorious digestive irritant to many people, so tread or bite carefully with this one if you have any gut issues.
Guar Gum on the other hand is derived from an actual food: the guar bean. It’s a soluble fibre and relatively innocuous unless you suffer with digestive issues such as IBS.
Locust Bean Gum is pretty similar to guar gum except that it is derived from the seeds of the carob tree. We have no issue with it unless you have digestive problems and then we would recommend you avoid it as, like the other stabilisers it can be a gut irritant. It is often seen in dairy free yogurts and ice creams which is fine but if you see it in coconut milk you steer clear as it’s really not a necessary ingredient there if it’s a quality product.
E -numbers are the hardest to decipher when looking at an ingredients list. This is because they basically refer to a list of permitted additives and stabilisers each which have a unique code. This is fine if the company chooses to name the actual ingredient but not so if they just list the code as the general public have no way of knowing what these codes refer to? As a general rule, if it’s in code form, they’re probably trying to hide it for a reason.
Citric Acid: Despite the fact that its name insinuates that is chemically derived citric acid is in fact totally natural and found in fruit, especially citrus fruits and has lots of health benefits. No need to worry about this one.
Sulphur Dioxide: Chemical found mostly in dried fruit, fizzy drinks and wine. If possible try to avoid as it because it kills off any good bacteria present in the food.
Added Vitamins: Not to be confused with E numbers. They are normally added to back up health claims made on the product packaging but can actually be quite beneficial. Examples of added vitamins are B12 or D2.
Modified Starch: The word modified gives the game away for us! Typically you will see starch is modified and in GF products it tends to be corn but irrespective of the base ingredient they are "modified” via either heat or acid treatment so that they can be used more easily normally for powdered, long-life or low fat food. Needless to say that any nutritional value will be stripped out by the process of heating or acid.
Flavouring: This is a bit of an umbrella label as hundreds of ingredients could fall into this category. Essentially we believe that a quality product should have sufficient flavour in itself without the need for any extra. However as a general rule of “flavouring” will most be chemical based where as “natural flavouring” should be fine.
Eat Right for Race Day
Race day is looming and after all that hard work and training the last thing you want to do is sabotage your performance with your nutrition on the day.
Planning your race day nutrition is vitally important if you want to perform at your best but also to ensure you recover speedily afterwards.
Pre-Race Breakfast – the most important meal As most races start early morning you need to get up extra early in order to eat your planned breakfast. Ideally you are looking to eat at the very least two hours before the race starts, three if it is a marathon. This will give your body time to digest your food, replenish glycogen stores and avoid any digestive upsets or stomach cramps during the race.
Stick to what you know, eat a breakfast you have been used to during your training . You want to choose food that is easily digestible, low in fat, with a good mix of slow releasing and quick releasing carbohydrates. Depending on the length of your race (e.g marathon vs half marathon) you should be aiming have at least 100g carbohydrate (400 – 600 kcal).
Porridge and banana
Baked beans on toast (wholegrain)
Fruit smoothie with protein powder
Overnight oats with fruit and coconut yogurt
Homemade energy bars.
Energy Drinks – check the ingredients and go for a brand that is mostly complex carbohydrates (maltodextrin). This will give you prolonged energy and is also easier to digest.
Coffee -Caffeine is sometimes used to boost performance because it helps muscles use glycogen (carbohydrate) for energy and may help the liver produce a little extra glycogen. If you do want to have a cup of coffee then stick to a small cup as too much caffeine can upset blood sugar levels and play havoc with your energy levels.
Matcha green tea powder is another option to consider. Matcha contains antioxidants, caffeine and the amino acid L theanine which when combined have been shown to boost physical performance, help with focus and speed up metabolism. You could try adding a teaspoon of matcha into your breakfast smoothie or yogurt.
Fluids You want to be properly hydrated before your race but not so much so that you need to pee constantly. Aim to drink 5-7ml of fluid per kilogram of body weight around three before the race, that works out roughly as 350 – 490ml, about the size of bottle of sports drink).
Just Before The Start If you have a lot of time hanging around before a race you might want to consider having another snack – for example an energy bar or sports drink.
During The Race
Try and follow the plan that you have practised during your training with regard to fluids. Particularly if it is a long race (marathon/ half marathon) try and sip some fluid every 15-20 minutes (around 100-200ml). Drinking smaller amounts at regular intervals can help you absorb fluid more effectively without causing digestive upset.
In order to speed up muscle recovery you need protein and carbohydrates. The ideal ratio is 3;1 carbs to protein and you want to choose something that has a mix of both fast and slow releasing carbohydrates. Aim to eat or drink your recovery snack in the first 30 mins after the race.
Post -race snack suggestions
Chocolate milk with a banana
Protein shake with a piece of fruit ( pineapple/
Banana/ pineapple or raisins with oat cakes.
Particularly in the heat you will have lost a lot of electrolytes (sodium, potassium and magnesium) through sweating and you want to replenish these. Many runners carry sachets of salt to add to their post run snack or drink so this may be an option you want to consider. Otherwise to drink around 500ml of an isotonic or hypotonic drink in the first 30 minutes after the race.
Post – Race Meal
If possible try to eat again within 1-2 hours of the race. If you are not feeling hungry then at least aim for a smoothie with some protein (powder, nuts) and carbs (banana, oats) . Otherwise have a meal that contains good quality protein (chicken, eggs, etc.) carbohydrates and some good fats such ( olive oil, avocado,nuts). Leafy greens and fruits that are high in antioxidants such as berries are a good addition to your meal to counter the acidic environment in your body created by intense exercise