Nutritional Insights for High Performance Lifestyles

As proud official gluten free food partner of FC Barcelona in the US, we spent some time with FCB Team Nutritionists, Dr. Maria Antonia Lizarraga, to get her insights on nutrition and the role of plant-based diets for high-performance lifestyles.

In recent years, sport have provided an increased spotlight on the importance to nutrition. The focus on health, diet, and special foods that allows athletes to perform at their best physically and mentally is no longer just a trend in society; it has become an essential part of sports training, particularly at high-performance teams like FC Barcelona.

In the past, eating for endurance, to have more energy, and to fuel athletic performance was mainly limited to sports specialties like cycling and racing,” said Dr. Lizarraga. However, interest in other sports, such as football, basketball, and tennis, has also grown. Today, the role of nutrition is viewed as an invisible training that complements other aspects of training, including rest, recovery, and injury prevention. This increased understanding of nutrition moves the focus beyond calories towards a deeper understanding of digestibility and inflammation control.

Dr. Lizarraga emphasized the importance of a plant-based diet in providing an added layer of value to an athlete's nutrition. “Plant-based diets are not about reducing calories; they can offer a unique way of obtaining energy, reducing inflammation, and promoting easier digestion.”

Since there is growing interest in understanding our need for more rest, good digestion etc., it makes sense that this topic has gained increased interest in the field of high-performance sports, and as such, becomes a guide for anyone looking to live a high-performance life with wide ranging hobbies and activities.

The gut/brain connection is another aspect of nutrition that Dr. Lizarraga emphasizes. “The connection between the gut, muscle, and brain is no longer just science fiction; medical science is showing us this connection is accurate,” she shared. She noted how vegetables, particularly those with a lot of color, can act like natural medications, for example reducing inflammation or providing vitamins and minerals.

Traditionally, pasta, rice, and bread have been seen as fuel for athletes, but they often lack the nutritional quality found in other dietary components. However, Dr. Lizarraga believes that the fuel provided by pasta can be modulated to prevent sudden rises in blood glucose and can be balanced with other components. Furthermore, she believes that these new products that have plant-based protein are more easily digestible than animal-based protein and, when combined with carbohydrates and fiber, can offer a good mix of fuel, antioxidant protection, and higher quantity of protein than traditional pasta dishes.

Dr. Lizarraga believes in the importance of consuming natural products that are not highly processed. “Plant-based products deliver all the good things that nature has to offer, including antioxidants and protection from the sun's effects,” she said. “By studying and paying attention to nature, we can receive a lot of what it offers to protect our bodies from various issues.”

Watch our video interview with Dr. Lizarraga.

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