Diet therapy

Put Sports Nutrition to work

Every day work can be like a “work out” for many of the people who keep our country operating.

Construction workers, tilers, bricklayers, labourers shovelling metal, digging holes, farmers shearing sheep, aerobics instructors taking classes, army personnel in training, courier cyclists and mail deliverers, forestry workers, the list is endless.

Many of these workers use enough energy and essential nutrients each day to endure a marathon. If not replaced a lack of these key nutrients can lead to fatigue, accidents and injury that can affect their long-term health and mobility. As a community we all suffer from economic loss as work output falls and the cost of health services rise.

Industrial facts

Loss of work through strains and sprains are the most common work related injuries and accounted for 44% of all work place injury in New Zealand in 2009. Men aged 35 – 44 years are the most at risk and the main industries affected are the elementary occupations (such as those listed above), plant and machine operators and assemblers, trade workers and agriculture and fishery workers.

Dietitians see people, from a wide range of occupational sectors, many of whom are looking to sports nutrition as a way of improving their health and productivity. Here are a few of the scenarios that we come across that, if left untreated, can affect long-term nutritional well-being.

Breakfast skippers

Many of these people start work early in the morning. Lacking an appetite for an early breakfast, they may instead join their mates in a large morning tea ritual of creamed buns or scones, doughnuts, pies and savouries. Those who work in heavy physical jobs often believe that they will work these high fat foods off. However these foods not only contribute to weight gain and raise blood cholesterol, but studies also show that they saturated fat slows productivity, unit output, accuracy and concentration. All or which can contribute to fatigue and accidents.

Shift workers

People who work through the night are also at risk of ill-health.  Shift workers working late to complete building deadlines, railway workers, labouring gangs  working on drainage and roads are particularly at risk. Weight gain, high cholesterol levels and blood pressure as a result of disturbed sleep patterns, over-eating to combat the tiredness and a lack of daytime exercise are just some of the issues they face.

The “fast food regulars”

Apart from regular trips to bakeries at “smoko” many people buy their lunch each day. Battered fish and patties, hot dogs,  pies, fried chicken and chips are just some of the takeaways consumed. When this is done on a daily basis the saturated fat and salt starts to mount up. Not only can this affect heart health and weight but the extra sodium load can contribute to reduced bone density over time.

The “high energy food” consumers

Although energy expenditure can be very high at work, consuming high energy, “new generation” drinks (such as V®, Mother®, Illicit®, Lucozade® and chocolate bars, may not be the best source of kilojoules. For those people whose job involve stooping adding extra soft drink bubbles can lead to gut pain, flatulence and reflux issues. High sugar loads from confectionery and soft drinks can also increase the risk of weight gain and developing diabetes and elevated cholesterol levels.

Sports nutrition tips to power a hard-working day

  • Endeavour to start the day with breakfast. Ideally some cereal, fruit and low-fat protein foods such as yoghurt, cheese or baked beans.
  • If starting work around 4am then have some fruit such as a banana on toast and then around 7.30-8am have yoghurt with fruit or an egg or tuna sandwich or roll.
  • If possible substitute the protein foods that have a high sodium and saturated fat content such as meat, ham and cheese with more canned fish, cottage cheese, eggs or beans.
  • For in-between meal snacks try fruit loaf, currant bread or buns, raw fruit, muffins (berry or banana rather than chocolate chip or cheese) scones or pikelets rather than cakes, slices and biscuits.
  • Making lunches of sandwiches, rolls, pita breads or wraps plus fruit, are a lot cheaper than buying  lunches each day and if using whole grain bread varieties the added fiber will prove more filling than white bread or crackers and will assist bowel health.
  • If buying lunches then Subway®, thin based pizza (try half chicken / half vegetarian rather than meat lovers special), sushi, souvlaki, hamburgers and baked stuffed potatoes are all healthy choices.
  • The sugar content of soft drink and juices is around 10-12% which is not recommended for sports nutrition because at this concentration it is hard for our muscles to quickly replace the glucose (glycogen) expended through exercise. For faster recovery use a sports drink (6-8% sugar), low-fat milk or water.
  • On hot days those who cycle or walk long distances for a living may prefer to carry a bladder of water on their back and snacks such as muesli bars or bananas for the occasional energy top up.

If you would like more information or your own personal sports nutrition plan then contact us for an appointment. Don’t forget we have after hours clinics and can meet on Skype if you need to juggle appointment times with your work commitments.

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »


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