Besides practicing endlessly there is periodization, competition planning, managing recovery and rest, technical considerations, and of course, diet. When a low performance diet meets a high performance athlete results inevitably plummet.
Mind your greens:
For athletes the focus is almost always on carbs and protein. One provides the fuel, and the other provides the restorative power to heal our muscles and keep us training at a high level.Which means that forgetting about our veggies can happen to even the most attuned athlete.“We often forget that our body can’t properly use protein and carbohydrates without the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) found in veggies,” says Cameron Noerr, a sports nutritionist who also formulates supplements for AthletEssence.Protein and carbs are important, but so are the mineral and vitamins the facilitate their delivery and help to process them.“You can do this by eating vegetables at every major meal, and try layering your vegetables. Have two or three different veggies at a time,” adds Noerr.
Crush some berries to boost recovery :
Want an easy and proven way to reduce soreness? Accelerate your recovery efforts between sessions in the gym by crushing some blueberries.“Research has shown that when athletes consume berries around their workout they have better inflammation and immune responses to the workout compared to not eating the berries (this means better recovery and less chance that illness will put us out of training for a period of time), adds Noerr.
Use protein as the anchor for your meals :
As an athlete you already know the importance of crushing a fair amount of protein in order to keep your muscles recovering and prepared for battle.“Use 20-30g of a lean protein as the anchor for each of your meals,” suggests Nate Dunn, M.S., USAC Level 1 and Certified Sports Nutritionist of Data Driven Athlete.The lists of benefits of getting your protein in are substantial and are a bedrock part of the high performance athlete’s diet.“Adequate protein intake maintains muscle, improves recovery, might improve cognition and sleep, and may keep you from getting sick,” adds Dunn.
Make it easier on yourself to succeed by cleaning up your environment :
The simplest way to make better food choices is by cleaning up your kitchen. Environment has been shown to be exceptionally powerful both in habit formation and in influencing our food choices, so why tempt yourself unnecessarily?This could mean throwing out the crap food in your cupboards instead of having to drain yourself of willpower every time you open them.It could also mean leaving out more of the foods you should be eating but currently aren’t (what you see is what you eat–science!).“Set yourself up to not fail,” advises Jason Martuscello.
Take advantage of sleep to increase recovery :
If you’ve hung around these parts you know that sleep is a crazy powerful weapon in your training arsenal. Not only do you recover faster for the next bout of workouts, but adequate sleep also means you are not a crabby jerk-face. (See: 15 Sleep Strategies for High Performance Athletes.)“The biggest missed anabolic opportunity athletes miss is while sleeping,” notes Martuscello.Instead of using your sleepy time for solely catching up on your Z’s, you can help charge the recovery process overnight by consuming some pre-bed, slow digesting protein.“These protein sources before bed will turn what is an otherwise catabolic 8 hours into productive recovery, repair and growth. If you want to take it to the next level, plan a meal in the middle of the night.
Get some creatine in ya :
Creatine has long been touted and recognized as one of the safest and most effective supplements on the market.“Even the ladies should be supplementing with it,” says Cara Axelrod RD, LD/N, CISSN.“Creatine is found naturally in the human body and is important for the transport of energy within cells,” she adds. If you want to train a little bit harder, for a little bit longer and with less recovery time, than creatine is a no-brainer.So how much should you be taking for peak effectiveness?“Three to five grams of creatine monohydrate daily is best; take it before or after training,” adds Axelrod.
Avoid the hype around the low carb diets :
Michelle Adams, a strength coach, certified sports nutritionist and former figure competitor notes that it is important that athletes understand that they are eating for performance, and not for weight loss.This means avoiding the low carb, high fat diets that are going around right now.“Carbohydrates won’t kill you, but they can and will improve your performance –especially if your sport is high intensity or if it requires maximal or near max efforts,” says Adams.Avoiding carbs can have the decimating effect of leaving you struggling to maintain peak performance in the gym, on the field, and in the pool.“Consuming carbohydrates in and around your training will keep you performing at your best. Throw in some carbs after training to help boost your immune system and speed your recovery so you’ll be prepared for your next session,” she notes.
Battle inflammation au naturel :
As a high performance athlete you understand that between workouts is a race to reduce inflammation so that you can come back at peak strength to dominate the next workout.“Every time we exercise we induce physiological stress that causes inflammation. The quicker the inflammation goes down, the quicker our recovery time,” says Emily Parsons, a sports nutritionist who works out of Orlando’s Spectrum Sports Performance Center.
Optimize your blood sugar levels for better performance :
If you are ready to take your nutrition to the next level, than start paying more attention to how you combo-up your meals so that you can maximize how you are performing and how you are sleeping.“Did you know that eating certain foods can optimize your blood sugar and improve athletic performance markers?” rhetorically asks Bob Seebohar, CSCS, sports nutritionist, and holder of more titles than I can literally fit into this post.
Eat to train :
Athletes don’t eat to look good necessarily, but rather, they eat so that they can kick a metric ton of butt-butt when they step out to train or compete.For many young athletes who fall into the social media compare-a-thon they can lose touch with what they are trying to accomplish when they sit down to eat and instead start thinking about eating to lose weight.“Never fall into the trap of starving yourself to lose weight,” says Josh Mathe, CSCS, CISSN, PES, author and ultra-endurance athlete.This means that you need to view your food choices as tactical decisions, and not as something where you want to be cutting corners on in order to achieve an aesthetic look.