This is the final part in this great three-part series (read Understanding Performance Nutrition – Part One and Part Two), where our guest writer, Andrea Papas, gives his insight into understanding performance nutrition.
Dehydration is one of the biggest problems facing many athletes, and many suffer from it unbeknownst to them. Those at risk are athletes that don’t drink enough clean spring water, and those who limit their salt intake. If fluid dries up, so will one’s energy, thus causing severely depleted mineral and electrolyte imbalances, which can affect your performance.
This is one of the main reasons why many athletes suffer from intense muscle cramps. Remember this: when water goes – minerals go. (Editor’s note: read our great feature on hydration)
Bodyweight and body composition
There needs to be an accurate marker of a too-high body fat percentage and a too-low body fat percentage. When an athlete finds the correct ratio of training regime and nutritional plan, and gets adequate rest to recover, they will find the ideal body composition naturally.
The human body adapts slowly and changes take time, all depending on the individual. An optimal body composition is best achieved through simple modifications of lifestyle choices. Factors such as nutrition, regular diet, training, rest and recovery, sleep and stress management should be considered.
A game plan for success
Set goals that are achievable and maintainable. Before setting these goals, meet with a qualified professional who can appropriately assess bodyweight and body composition goals.
Have a plan of action. Having a good eating plan, which considers timing of meals can help you achieve your goal a lot easier. Devise meal times and snack times around workout times.
Maintain a positive focus. If you focus on the foods you should be eating, because they are nutritious and performance enhancing, often you will not even have room for those foods that may be lacking nutritionally. If your focus is positive, you will feel more motivated.
Beware of nutrition myths. More myths exist concerning how to lose body fat and/or gain muscle mass than any other topic in sports nutrition. Beware of nutrition information advising cutting out entire food groups, nutrients (i.e. like carbohydrates, proteins or fats) or even meals.
Supplement usage has become a vital part of an athlete’s regimen in today’s society – especially seeing that many of our foods today have been severely depleted of their crucial vitamins and minerals, via our soils and certain modern agriculture methods. (Editor’s note: read this great article on the dangers of modern wheat.)
Athletes should always first consider the importance of their own unique dietary requirements before turning to supplements. Supplements have their place, but before you start on any supplementation, I suggest consulting with a qualified sports dietician, physician or performance nutritionist.
In fact, you probably don’t have to search further than your plate and individual eating habits to improve your performance. Once you optimize your eating plan, your supplementation needs can be better determined.
Fatigue and lack of energy can be a common occurrence for athletes. This may indicate an eating regime that is lacking nutritionally, they may have an inadequate calorie intake, or depleted electrolytes and minerals and/or low carbohydrate consumption may be the culprit. However, common quality supplements are sought out by athletes to help remedy issues with physical and mental performance.
An active athlete requires a significant number of calories to generate maximum gains in strength and endurance, and to recover completely from exercise, training, and competition.
To reach your full potential physically, you must develop a disciplined approach to eating and sleeping, before considering the use of a dietary or nutritional supplement.
Have you enjoyed this three-part series on understanding performance nutrition? What other suggestions have you tried that have helped your performance as an athlete?