I like food. A lot. The issue is I like (and therefore eat) the wrong food. A lot.
Whilst I’m fortunate that, due to my ectomorphic body type (meaning whilst it’s really hard for me to build muscle, it’s also difficult for me to gain weight), I don’t outwardly show the effects of my poor diet, I do think that making a few adaptations here and there could significantly affect my performance behind the wheel for the better. So that’s what I’m going to do. After all, one of the ideas behind Living The Racing Grind is to, well, live the racing grind…
Unfortunately, unlike full-time top-level drivers, I don’t have access to a qualified nutritionist to constantly monitor my sustenance intake, and measuring out exact portions gram-by-gram can be a little complex and over-complicated. As a result, this isn’t going to be carried out with scientific levels of precision, I am purely trying to find out if the theory is sound or not. Starting today, that’s what I’ll by trying to do.
Luckily for me, there are actually plenty of articles already on the internet that follow the nutritional habits of Formula One drivers, meaning there are plenty of places I can search for inspiration. What’s even better is that, for the most part, none of the sources seem to conflict in their messages either. What I think I have learnt from studying a selection of these is as follows:
It seems to me that breakfast is in fact just a normal breakfast. Thinking about it this shouldn’t be that surprising, really. After all, breakfast is supposed to fuel your body for the day ahead, and racing drivers certainly need fuelling! Just like a standard breakfast, slow-release carbohydrates seem to be best. Porridge seems to be a go-to meal due to the high carbohydrate content, and oats also contain a high amount of fibre, which helps to control blood-sugar levels.
To supplement this, vitamins and minerals are ingested from fruit and raw vegetables, and finally a multivitamin. These help cognitive performance, which is probably quite helpful when piloting a racecar round a track. To wash this all down, water seems to be the best bet, alongside a glass of fruit juice or a cup of coffee. Caffeine intake does need to be monitored, however, as it is classed as a performance-enhancing drug over certain tolerances.
From a personal point of view, this doesn’t sound massively different to my current diet of a bowl of wheat cereal. Similarities in carbohydrate and fibre content are present, so the only change to make in my diet would be to add an orange or some raw carrot to my breakfast.
For lunch, this may create quite a large change to my diet. Going are my supermarket meal deals and local bakery sausage rolls, coming is real, unprocessed food in place. A favourite for drivers seems to be grilled or stir-fried chicken, for it’s high in protein and low in fat content. This is generally paired with rice or potatoes to replenish those slow-release sugars that have been used since breakfast, and vegetables for the enclosed nutrients.
Whilst this certainly isn’t appealing to me as the most exciting diet in the world, it is worth remembering that, in elite level sport, nutrition is purely seen as fuel for the athlete, much the same as petrol for the car, and nothing more. This is one of the reasons drivers anticipate the off-season so much, as they are allowed to enjoy their cuisine for a few months. For my situation sticking by the rules is not quite so vital, meaning the odd restaurant meal with friends or a Sunday roast with family isn’t going to completely overturn all the good progress up to that point.
When it comes to dinner (or tea, supper or whatever else you choose to name it), the main food group shifts from carbohydrate for energy, to protein for muscle replenishment. The focal point of the dish becomes meat or fish, with pasta or potato to accompany. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of fish, however that may have to change in order to avoid eating chicken twice a day!
Finally, snacks. Whilst snacks aren’t a good thing to be consuming regularly, sometimes they’re necessary. Surprisingly, ham and cheese toasties are a good snack, as they contain both protein and carbohydrate. Another left-field choice is dark chocolate. 85% cocoa dark chocolate is high in iron, which helps brain function, and anti-oxidants too. For myself, I’ll probably add a dessert into the diet so I can at least enjoy some part of my meal, however none of the meal plans I researched made any mention of one, meaning I’ve got free reign to either stay sensible or just blatantly cheat.
But there it is, the second adaptation I’ll undertake in order to closer align my life to that of a professional racing driver. There will be a follow-up episode in a few weeks to document whether I have felt any significant changes take place in retrospect of both the fitness work and the meal plan. In the meantime, please follow me on Instagram as there should be some semi-regular updates posted on there. Finally, thanks for reading, and don’t forget to check back every Wednesday for the latest in my #RacingGrind!
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