Updated: Sep 12, 2021
"A diet that's bad for your overall health, can't be good for your performance" Kobe
It's that simple, if you eat better, you perform better. However, Athletes tend to get heavily focused on exclusively intaking protein, and sometimes miss out on the key nutrients that are needed to help the body function at the next level. Typically for athletes they don't have a problem eating food, it's controlling their ability to over eat and over indulge in junk food while still eating enough fruits and veggies.
The key to performing successfully is fueling consistently at the right time. If you eat too late, it'll not be absorbed in time and can create stomach issues. But if you eat too early, then potentially you've burned off some of that fuel before training or competing. So finding the perfect timing and specifics of what elevates your performance is vital for competing against elite competitors.
A well balanced diet is crucial for maintaining strenuous training and recovering consistency. Everyone's body needs a certain amount of calories and macros to either maintain, gain or lose, and athletes burning more than the average person on the daily, definitely need a lot more fuel to keep their body growing or maintaining. Athletes are always needing to intake higher protein and carb levels as they need to repair muscles, and constantly fuel to move. But, just because they need more calories, does not make it o.k to refuel with highly processed or junk food. Some believe calories in calories out, but definitely having more nutrient dense choices are going to boost all functions in the body to it's highest potential. which should be the goal right...? not just getting by...
Hydration is very important because human performance rapidly decreases when slightly dehydrated. Heart rate will spike, strength levels decrease, and cramps/muscle spasms are more likely to occur. Athletes always need electrolytes paired with water to ensure the correct balance of salts and minerals are maintained for those who are sweating profusely. Electrolytes assist the nerves in transmitting signals efficiently in the muscles, and if lacking them, that is when spasms and cramps will occur. This is why sports drinks are filled with electrolytes. However, creating your own mix will be healthier and more specific for your sport/training to ensure adequate intake of the right nutrients.
A balanced diet should include protein, carbs and healthy fats. Plus, micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals to help aid the digestion and uptake of macro nutrients. The body absorbs more nutrients when paired with specific enzymes. And fruit and veggies happen to contain those enzymes, plus fibre, which is all crucial in a smooth functioning G.I and gut health. The gut is connected to the "2nd brain" which releases serotonin and dopamine when it is functioning correctly. These hormones are a part of our happiness and reward system. So we want to be producing these at their maximal levels to feel the best that we can.
Now a large topic amongst athletes is supplements... Which ones are the best? Well, it all depends on what you're supplementing for... If you're lacking something then it is best to try and find a food source for the deficiency. However, sometimes time and energy resort to faster and easier options. Nothing wrong with using these sources, but less is more when it comes to the long haul of supplementing a nutrient. Often athletes need more protein and recovery nutrients, and a shake is a quick fix for the issue. But, if possible always choose food sources that contain the nutrients needed compared to a highly processed powder just because it's easier. If you can meal prep and prioritize properly, supplementing will only be needed when really necessary.
Supplements and their purpose:
Protein: muscle repair/development
Creatine: muscle density/ strength & power
BCAA: muscle fatigue during activity
Glutamine: muscle recovery
Glucosamine: joint health/ anti-inflammatory
Collagen: joint and bone health
Caffeine: increase focus/intensity/ block pain
vitamins: support immune health/function & helps aid digestion
Minerals: muscle function/nerve transmissions/fluid balance/blood oxygen saturation
No matter if you enjoy meat or are vegetarian. Find what works for your body and consistently do it. In my opinion finding majority of your nutrients from veggies, fruits, grains, beans, lentils etc. are a better and cleaner source for the body to digest. It takes less time for them to break down the meat, and especially red meat. 45-60 minutes compared to 4-8 hours or more. Of course everyone's preferences and bodies are different, and if it works for you great. But, majority of athletes need to cut back on heavy/fatty red meat, as it hinders performance. Lean white meat is better, but it's still a choice. Now red meat does have creatine, but other food sources contain it as well, it's just a matter of searching for cleaner options.
Tips to Level Up your Nutrition!
1) Drink 1-2 glasses of water when you first wake up, and right before bed. This helps the detoxification process of the body when restarting and repairing. Including 2-4 L plus whatever you perspire throughout the day
2) Eat a wide variety of fruits and veggies. The color of the rainbow is the goal. At least 6-8 fist full servings everyday.
3) Try eating more consistently throughout the day instead of 3 massive meals. The average person isn't burning as much calories, so 3 meals can be proportional and sufficient. However athletes respond better to meals every 2-3 hours to maintain insulin and energy levels, to avoid huge spikes and crashes.
4) Drink more water and less sugary sports drinks. Yes they give energy, but terrible for your body and lack hydration. Plus, they make you more thirsty. Drink water, and add your own mixes to it.
5) Try to always choose raw, organic, minimally processed ingredients
6) Try to avoid fried and boiled food. Frying is high in fat, and boiling removes or kills most important nutrients. Steam or eat veggies raw, and grill or bake your food.
7) Try to avoid eating close to bed or late, as your metabolism slows down and the body can't focus on repairing when sleeping as it has to digest food or else it will rot...
8) Fatty food will make you feel sluggish as they take longer to break down. Plus fat in the blood stream decrease blood oxygen saturation which is needed for maximal cardiovascular and muscular output.
9) 1 superfood shake a day will be beneficial beyond belief. Mix of fruits, veggies, nut butters, variety of seeds, sea algae, natural root powders.
Nutrition is a KEY separation amongst athletes because some do it better than others. When we focus on giving ourselves the best opportunities to perform, it creates better results and consistency. Think if a Formula 1 car was given regular low quality unleaded gas... it probably will run, but no where near as efficiently or maximal power output. But it's still a formula 1 car. It will go fast, but not fast enough... The same applies to athletes, their bodies can be elite machines, but if they fuel improperly then they can't function at their highest potential. So taking pride and discipline in your routine is crucial if you want to compete against the best, or be a step ahead of your competition. Either way, you will feel the difference when the correct food sources are consumed compared to junk.
Stay Strong... Stay Healthy... Stay Consistent & Keep developing yourself