So if you're preparing for the Tour de France, then one of the highest priority considerations is nutrition, diet, and your body-weight. ... from gluten free, calorie counting and anti-inflammatory foods, to macrobiotic superfoods (maybe), the list of nutritional marginal gains (including fads, fashions and gimmicks) is endless.
However, what about an inline speedskater? We don't go up mountains, so weight is not such an important factor. We don't race 3500km. We race for anything from 15 seconds up to 1 hour, or maybe 90mins. (or sometimes 6 hours or 24 hours, but that's usually a relay, not a single person - unless you're one of those insane solo-hero's at Le Mans.) So how important is your diet for an inline speedskater?
Two things need to be said clearly to start with:
One. If you eat a bad diet, 'fast-food', lots of sugar, few vegetables, lots of processed foods, alcohol etc, then you will be at a disadvantage. But in this article we are not comparing a bad diet to a good diet. In this article we are comparing a normal healthy diet (a good diet) vs an extreme special diet plus supplements.
Two. I really believe that the "supplements industry" is, mostly, a big con. The advantages and benefits of the majority of supplements out there have been completely over exaggerated to the extent that it's just plain lies. There has NOT been a massive increase in sports performance, wellness or any measurable effect of the massive amounts of supplements that the western world consumes each year. They spend a massive amount of money on marketing to make you believe their products work, (which wouldn't be necessary if the products DID work well). Also, IF the products were significantly "Performance Enhancing" then the IOC and WADA would class them as PED's (Performance Enhancing Drugs) and so they'd be banned. The fact that these supple,mens are not on the IOC list suggests that they are not very performance enhancing.
Let's start by dividing the skating group up in to two categories: 1. Elite skaters (think; Bart, Joey et al, preparing for Worlds or Olympic ice.) and 2. A good speedskater preparing for a marathon (a 1:01 - 1:30 marathon skater).
1. Elite - Well, as you might expect, an inline speedskaters' diet is not as important as Chris Froome's diet. But it's still important, and it will have influence on recovery, power output, lactic acid threshold and more... I wouldn't say it's the most important thing, but it is worth checking for deficiencies (especially mineral and vitamin), and optimising protein/fat/carb ratios, etc.
2. A good marathon skater - If you already have a normal good diet, then improving it may or may not have a small, very small effect. But there are many other more effective ways of going faster. (A good example is a skater who spends €20 a month (€240 a year) on supplements/protein powder etc. but stands on the start line with 'not-new' wheels on his skates. ... Or hasn't done video analysis of his technique, or hasn't had personal coaching. lol 😜
So what is a normal good diet? (I'm going to avoid any fads, fashions, and just keep it to 'normal' common sense and science.)
"Eat real foods (if it's in a packet, it's been processed), eat more vegetables. Eat a wide variety of meat, fish, eggs, nuts/seeds, fruit, and avoid too much sugar especially processed sugar, and control your "unhealthy fat" intake. Avoid alcohol for the most part. Drink water regularly. "
So ask yourself the following; Is my diet bad? If the answer is yes, then you need to improve it. If the answer is "no, it's ok, I eat vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, real foods, and I avoid too much sugar", then I doubt you will see any measurable improvement in your skating with a "special diet or taking expensive supplements. (unless you have a prior deficiency).
If I had to make a list in order of priority of the things to improve to affect performance, it would look like this:
(please remember, this is if you already have a normal healthy diet. If you have a BAD diet, then yeah, maybe the highest priority is to bring it up to "a normal good diet".)
1. Skating Technique
2. Top Speed and acceleration
3. Condition, strength, power
4. Stability, balance, core, coordination
5. Aerobic base
6. Equipment (wheels, bearings, aero helmet and suit, etc.)
7. Mental Training
*Exception: of course, during a marathon, it would be advisable to use sugar gels, and load up on carbohydrates the night before the race. (Common sense) More details and an article coming soon about "in-race fuelling". Meanwhile, click here for some good 'in-race' advice: Glenn Kearney from Etixx UK.
I fully expect a big reaction to this article, because some people have become almost religious about diet, supplements, protein-shakes, smoothies etc. They really believe they have "tested" it and proven to themselves that these things improve performance. That those extra vitamins, or creatine, or protein powder, are performance enhancing. Even though they haven't tested it while controlling wind, wheels, bearings, placebo effect, technique changes, and using 10,000 test subjects with a blind test group.
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My point is that an "extra special gluten-free low carb 'zone-diet' high fat paleo 'south-beach' super special protein-shake whatever diet with 7 different pills and tablets every morning" won't have as much (if any) effect on your skating as technique, intervals, top speed, stability, core, video analysis, aerobic base, personal coaching and new wheels.
... now where did i put that Mars Bar? 😜
Lets go faster
In addition, thanks to Jelle Spruyt for posting this on FB. It sums up what I'm trying to say very well. There are a few things that have strong scientific evidence of positive effect, and many things on the list that lack evidence.
*Please note that protein, Vit D (may be difficult in winter) and to some extent electrolytes can be sourced within a normal healthy diet.