The Importance of Nutrient-Dense Food for Competitive Adventure Racers

Renowned South African dietician and exercise scientist, Dr. Amanda Claassen recently stated that the cornerstone of optimal sporting performance is eating a well-balanced and nutrient dense diet. The food we as athletes consume fulfil a number of primary needs such as providing us with energy, encouraging new tissue to grow, repairing damaged tissue and regulating our metabolisms. These basic needs are ultimately being fulfilled by the nutrients found in our food that can be classified into 6 categories: fats, vitamins, minerals, carbs, proteins, and water. As adventure racers, we will undoubtedly benefit most from eating nutrient-dense foods such as the following on a daily basis.



Regardless of what we might think, not all fish was created equal.  Fatty fish such as salmon contain huge amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids that are of vital importance for the healthy functioning of the body.  A singular 100g piece of salmon contains as much as 2.8g of Omega-3’s along with a host of other vitamins and minerals such as Potassium, Magnesium, all the B-vitamins, and Selenium.  It is no hardship to try and incorporate salmon into your diet as it is truly a great tasting dish. There are a number of fisheries scattered over the country that source quality salmon of sustainable origins. Alternatively, you can pop into your nearest Ocean Basket or Active Sushi and indulge in a couple of plates of California rolls or salmon roses for a quick and healthy nutrient-dense meal.


By now we all know that dark green vegetables are our friends but did you know that of them all, kale reigns supreme?  Kale is packed with nutrients such as Minerals, Vitamins, Antioxidants, and Fiber with a single 100g portion containing a whopping 200% of the RDA for Vitamin C and 1000% for Vitamin K1. Kale, like spinach, is often an acquired taste but thanks to a large variety of tantalizing recipes becoming available, more and more people are shedding their prejudices and digging into one of the most nutrient-dense foods known to man. Kale can be prepared in the same way you do cabbage, spinach or morogo or you can make a batch of delicious kale crisps and serve it with a homemade hummus or tahini dip for a super-loaded race-day snack.  If you battle to find kale in the shops you can always consider planting your own. The plants grow particularly well in the semi-arid regions of the country including parts of the Western Cape, Northern Cape, and Free State.

Dark chocolate

Organic dark chocolate with a cocoa content of more than 70% is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you will come across as it is packed to the brim with Copper, Manganese, Iron, Fibre, and Magnesium. Its biggest benefit, however, is its astounding antioxidant content that is even higher than that of acai berries and blueberries.  Apart from improving blood flow, which is of great advantage to an adventure racer, dark chocolate is also known to improve brain function while lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of cardiac disease. There is no special way to incorporate dark chocolate into your diet, simply break off a block or two every day and enjoy.


Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are a staple in many South African homes and a favourite among athletes who have become familiar with their immense nutritional properties. A single sweet potato contains substantial amounts of Magnesium, Iron, Copper, Potassium, Vitamin C and the majority of the B vitamins. Furthermore, they are one of the only fat-free sources of Vitamin E which, together with Vitamin C, aid in the muscle recovery of athletes. These earthy vegetables are extremely versatile to use and can easily be incorporated into any diet. They can be boiled, made into soup, chips, crisps, tarts, pancakes and even muffins and are readily available all year-round.

When it comes to adventure racing, what you eat is of equal importance to ow your work out. Without the proper food to fuel our bodies, all our training efforts will fall flat, leaving us cowering in the shadows of our competition. Following a healthy diet filled with nutrient-dense food will not only provide you with the best possible opportunity to excel in your races but will prove to be a very worthy long-term investment in your overall health and wellbeing as well.


Contribution from: Sally Writes