4/13/16

Performance-focused nutrition


As an athlete, you have special nutritional requirements compared to your fellow exercise enthusiasts.
You do incredible things with your body on a daily basis and you have high expectations for what your body will do on race day. And unlike research laboratory studies, you are not exercising to see how long you can go but instead, you train to see how fast you can cover a specific distance on a specific date.  

As an athlete, you probably experience many challenges when it comes meeting your extreme training needs through the daily diet because you are not like other people who must only meet basic nutritional needs - you must have great nutritional habits on a day-to-day basis but you also have an extra responsibility to your body to ensure it has the right foods, at the right times to give you extra energy, to delay fatigue, to promote recovery and to keep your body in good hormonal and metabolic health.
First off, if you are reading this right now, I want you to own-up to your "athlete" status.
If you are training for an event, you are an athlete. If you are taking a break from training for an event, but you have completed an event in the past, you are still allowed to call yourself an athlete as nobody took away your past accomplishments - you just may not be able to eat like you use to as you are no longer in need of the energy that helped you train for your events.

 For this very reason of being "an athlete" you are not like other people who can afford to make drastic changes in the diet (like restricting specific food groups for 30 days or excessively cutting back on carbs or calories) or experiment with different diet fads or exercise programs.
At the same time, just because you are an athlete, you can not abuse food because you will burn it off in training.
If you bring poor past dietary habits to your new training regime (or pick up on poor habits as you find that you have less time for meal prep because you need to train longer), you will learn that a dietary change is needed. 

Even though you are training for an event, your extreme active lifestyle should not compromise great health. And for this very reason, performance focused nutrition is your style of eating. 

It is important that you understand that nutrition is very important in your development and in order to achieve personal success in your sport, you need to stay on top of your daily and sport nutrition. 
Far too many experts provide plans for eating which are not practical or feasible at this phase in your nutrition journey. Sure, they may be what you need to kick-start a new style of eating but gaining control over "healthy" eating is more than simply following a plan. You must learn how to eat as an athlete, without feeling deprived, denied or low in energy. 
It boggles my mind that athletes think it's ok to follow the same diet as someone who is not active or has serious clinical health issues. And if a significant amount of weight loss is a necessary goal, training for an event alongside dieting may be a challenge as losing weight through a diet while trying to train the body for an event comes with risks if not done carefully with great supervision by a professional.
As an athlete, you have high energy costs to ensure that you can stay healthy and consistent with training.  If you do not meet these needs, your body begins to fatigue, your motivation for training subsides, your hormones/metabolism change and you may increase risk for injury. 

As an athlete, you must spend more time than non-athletes to strategically plan your meals and your snacks and learn how to time those meals and snacks around workouts.  Busy schedules can interfere with normal eating (and healthy eating) but do not let this be an excuse as to why you are unable to eat well and fuel smart. 

Through a well-chosen, varied diet it's important that you put an extra emphasis on providing your body with the nutrients that will most used (and needed) around workouts. 

As your season progresses, you have many opportunities to fine-tune your nutrition strategies to help you prepare for your upcoming events but you must be consistent for a specific period of time to ensure that what you are doing is working or not working. If you are training harder or longer, don't believe that food restriction and elimination will help you get through your workouts better.


As an athlete, you need the opportunity,  desire AND appetite to consume adequate nutrients and fluids in recommended amounts around workouts and throughout the day. This makes it rather hard for some athletes to easily meet nutritional needs whereas for others, there is lack of passion, awareness or knowledge. 

As you continue to train and advance your fitness, understand that loss of appetite, fatigue, poor access to suitable (or healthy foods) and distractions from proper eating can all negatively affect your ability to train consistently. If your nutrition is keeping you from meeting your training expectations, it's time to reach out to a professional to help. 

Remember that there are no magic bullets or quick fixes when it comes to keeping your body at a healthy body composition, meeting your energy and hydration needs around workouts and staying healthy as an athlete.
The same healthy living strategies that apply to the "normal" population apply to you as well.
Don't assume that you can just out-train poor lifestyle habits and still be a healthy athlete. 

As a performance focused athlete, you must apply the basic healthy living and more specific sport nutrition fueling principles to your active lifestyle on a consistent basis and be sure to learn what works best for you as you slowly create your own performance-focused nutrition plan. 
If you are willing to push your body to new limits and make the investment in every other area of your life to be the best athlete you can be, consider the importance of taking the time learn how to eat and fuel like an athlete.