6/9/15

A nutrient-rich diet fuels performance


Most sport nutrition experts try to make nutrition and fueling a body in motion as simple as possible because aside from a few of us who love biochemistry, explaining metabolism in the picture above is likely not the most practical way to understand and apply information as it relates to turning food into energy (aka metabolism). 

These days we often hear about ways to eat less. Over and over again, nutrition "experts" proclaim that to be healthier, stronger, leaner, fitter and sexier you need to fast, cleanse, detox or find a way to restrict food.
And these suggestions are not just for the sedentary, clinical unhealthy or lightly active. They often trickle down to age group, elite and professional athletes too! 

Athletes who restrict food, undereat, overeat, skip meals, underfuel around/during workouts (either intentionally or unintentionally), frequently diet or overtrain may find that the diet is negatively affecting physical and mental health just like overeating can effect physical and mental health. 

Sport nutrition is not simple but we must not forget that general sport nutrition recommendations that apply to the masses, generally work to help you stay healthy and to help take your training to the next level. And they are not super complicated. 

Far too often I find athletes struggling with their training load, feeling run-down, sick, injured or feeling "off". These athletes often feel like they don't have enough energy or the energy they use to have in training and seek dietary changes to boost energy (or to help with weight loss). 


If you consider the many metabolic processes that your body needs fuel for (through carbohydrates, fats and protein) in order to function properly at rest and during activity, if you don't consume enough energy (calories) for your activity regime, you can't consume adequate macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat). If you don't consume the appropriate amount of macronutrients, you may become deficient in key micronutrients. If your body doesn't receive the energy and nutrients that it needs, performance and health will suffer.

The problem is that athletes struggle to enjoy "healthy" eating. There is little passion to fueling a body in motion. Rather than respecting the body with sport nutrition and good nutrition practices, athletes bash, criticize and overwork the body.
Athletes often want a quick fix, hoping to make a few changes or lots of changes to get results fast. It's often the "easy" approach that athletes want when it comes to nutrition for every other approach looks hard (or appears to fail at first attempt). There is little consistency in the diet or fueling regime yet extreme dedication and 
commitment to training.
Sadly, you can't out-train a poorly designed diet. 

The human body works rather hard to keep you in good health. But let's get real here. 
Through in a 10-20+ hour training load on top of your daily life stresses, you can only imagine how much harder the body has to work on a daily basis to not only keep you well but also to help you get faster, stronger and fitter. Health doesn't improve overnight just like performance gains aren't achieved in 1 week of training. 

The scary part about an athlete's body is that many times, an athlete does not recognize that he/she is underfueling, underhydrating or undernourishing until it's too late. In other words, an athlete feels as if "all of a sudden" something isn't working whereas in reality, the athlete was likely never fueling, hydrating or nourishing properly and the body finally caught up (or more likely couldn't keep up). 


Did you know that because vitamin B12 is secreted daily into the bile and then reabsorbed, it can take around 20 years for a otherwise healthy person to show signs of a deficiency? 

Vitamin B12 is just one of many micronutrients that is necessary for metabolism. Riboflavin (B2) is involved in glycolsis, the ETC and citric acid cycle (all important during exercise), Thiamin (B1) is needed to convert pyruvate to acetyl-CoA during carbohydrate metabolism which is essential for the aerobic metabolism of glucose, vitamin C protects against oxidative stress and iron is utilized for many functions related to exercise. 
And don't forget about calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium, chloride, vitamin A, D, E and K, pantothenic acid, biotic and choline....all necessary to keep your body healthy and to support your body during training and racing.  

If you are an athlete who intentionally or unintentionally does not consume enough energy through meals and snacks, does not use (enough) sport nutrition or hydration before/during/after workout, has a low appetite (or overeats) or chooses a limited/food restricted diet, there is a great change that you could be consuming an inadequate consumption of micro AND macronutrients which ultimately will affect your exercise performance and health. 

And who wants to put in all that hard work in training but not receive favorable fitness gains as an outcome? 

Do not overwhelm, scare yourself or stress over food. 
Just eat. Food is your fuel and your medicine.

If you make the effort to fuel/hydrate your body before, during and after workouts, consume a whole food diet throughout the day and indulge responsibly, on occasion, you will likely consume adequate vitamins and minerals to meet your needs and will likely keep your body in optimal health.

 In return, you will gain the competitive edge as you can push your body harder as you can stronger, faster and more powerful all through consuming a nutrient-rich diet. 

Happy fueling!