Food is Fuel - How to Eat for Performance
Whether you’re a top level Division I athlete or just the average gym rat who loves crushing your workouts, the foundation of all your success in fitness and athletics is built upon a solid foundation known as your diet.
Eat appropriately for your goals, and you’ll thrive...eat poorly and you’ll be left in the dust as the competition blows by you. To help you excel in the gym or on the field, we delve into the topic of:
How to Fuel for Performance
Follow these tips and you’ll experience new levels of strength, power, and progress!
You must be aware of your nutrient needs in order to excel in your given sport. There’s no need to “carb up” or be bulking on a diet of 4,000+ calories if morning yoga is the extent of your physical activity.
On the other side, if you’re training for a triathlon you’re going to need A LOT of food to meet your caloric demands, so know your sport and understand your needs for nutrition.
In line with the previous point, you must have your diet goals in line with your performance goals. If you’re trying to pack on size and strength, don’t follow some zany crash diet that has you ditching carbs and only eating 1500 calories each day.
If you’re engaged in any form of intense exercise (resistance training, CrossFit, triathlon-ing, etc.) you’re going to need to consume food, and LOTS of it to meet your desired performance and physique goals.
Focus on Whole Foods
Whole foods should constitute the vast majority of your daily diet. High-performance machines like Ferrari’s and Lamborghini's don’t run on cheap-o gas and neither does the human body.
Sure, you can subsist on a diet of Twinkies and Mountain Dew, but you’ll never thrive and excel basing your diet off junk food. Yes, you can have the occasional treat, but remember it’s a “treat” not a diet staple.
Lean Proteins, Healthy Fats, Fruits, Vegetable, and Whole Grains should constitute the vast majority of your daily food intake. Make these the foundation of your diet and watch the gains come!
This is going to be a touchy subject for many of you out there, but Carbs are your friend, NOT your enemy! If you’re goal is to continue performing at a high level of output, and maximize performance, carbohydrates are a must! They are the equivalent of Super Unleaded gasoline for your sports car.
Don’t believe us? Recent research shows that a low carb, high fat diet impairs performance. Furthermore, if you’re going to be training or exercising for a prolonged period of time (i.e. >2 hours) you body doesn’t have enough stored glycogen to keep firing at max output. You need to consume carbs in order to replenish muscle glycogen and provide a quickly accessible energy source for your muscles.[2,3]
The rule of thumb for those who don’t exercise regularly is to consume half your body weight (pounds) in ounces. Meaning, if you weight 160 lbs and don’t exercise, you should aim to consume 80 oz of water per day.
However, if you do exercise regularly and with intensity, this recommendation goes out the window and you will need to drink substantially more (water) each day. A good guideline to follow is consume 4 - 8 oz of water for every 20 - 30 minutes you are actively training.
Another thing to consider is electrolytes. Copious amounts of electrolytes are lost through sweat setting you up for cramping, fatigue, dehydration, and CNS dysfunction (nothing good if you’re trying to perform well!). To counteract this, make sure you’re getting in some form of electrolytes with your water intake while training.
This last point is more of a “fine-tuning” mechanism to ensure optimal performance, but it can make the difference between 1st and 2nd place. Preceding a workout or competition, you do want to fuel up appropriately, but don’t want anything sitting too heavily in your stomach that could lead to GI upset or worse….barfing your lunch on the gym floor!
If you are going to have a pre-training meal, make it mostly carbs with some protein and very little fat. This helps your body digest the meal quickly and prevents you from feeling too “full” or sluggish.
A great pre training meal for resistance training would be some form of whey protein shake with oats or some type of fruit like a banana or an apple. Eat this 60 - 90 minutes before you hit the weights and you’ll be ready to go!
TakeawayEating for success doesn’t have to be complicated. Consume enough calories from the right foods at the right times, and the rest will take care of itself!
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