Understanding Performance Nutrition – Part Two

This is part two in out three-part series (read Understanding Performance Nutrition – Part One), where guest writer, Andrea Papas, gives his insight into understanding performance nutrition.

Understanding Performance Nutrition - Part Two

Five general tips for safe and effective enhanced performance

1)  Maintain a diet based on high caloric carbohydrate‐rich foods.
2)  Choose more nutrient‐dense foods; rich in vitamins and minerals.
3)  Eat in frequent intervals (for example, every 3‐4 hours). This will stabilize your blood sugar levels.
4)  Complement your diet with nutritional supplementation.
5)  Aim for 8-9 hours of sleep each day.

Performance nutrition considerations

Consider this first

An optimal training diet is going to be high in carbohydrates, low in fats (Editor’s note: unless you subscribe to increasingly popular high-fat diets), and moderate in proteins, while overall meeting an athlete’s calorie (i.e. energy) demands. An athlete should consume foods that are vitamin and mineral dense.

Same as quality food, just in a different form

No sole supplement or food/drink will provide a performance‐enhancing effect on its own. Products that mimic food in terms of providing extra calorie‐yielding nutrients (i.e. carbohydrate, protein, and fat) such as select high-quality energy bars, nutrition shakes, or even certain sports drinks, can provide a performance enhancing effects, if consumed in moderation with a regular diet.

These sorts of products (sport drinks, bars, nutrition shakes, etc.) can be highly effective in increasing overall calorie intake and/or recovery. Ensure that you properly research any supplements before you use them, as an incorrect choice could have a negative result.

Understanding macronutrients

Your body relies on energy (calories) from three sources: carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

Carbohydrates simply equal energy. After being digested, carbohydrates are stored in our muscles and liver as glycogen (an energy reserve) – they are the preferred source of energy in our bodies, while our body also uses fats as a slow release energy source.

Protein is required mainly to supply the building blocks to rebuild and repair body tissues, and is not the most ideal source of energy (glucogenesis).

The correct ratio of one body of carbohydrates + fat + protein will yield the best energy levels and supply the correct nutrients to build, repair and recover optimally.

High-intensity training, as seen in CrossFit, relies on tremendous amounts of energy to fuel the body. A diet well-nourished in the correct amount of carbohydrates, according to one’s body, will allow for the greatest recovery of muscle glycogen stores, while preventing muscle protein breakdown.

In addition, diets that are predominantly low in carbohydrates can cause you to feel easily irritable, upset and depressed, because carbohydrates are also what release serotonin in our brain (the happy-feel hormone).

An athlete’s nutritional intake on a daily basis can be very crucial, because it could help repair the wear and tear caused by strenuous training, as seen with CrossFit, high-intensity running and in MMA (mixed martial arts). That is why it is critical to find the correct foods that are sports specific for every individual, to deliver the building blocks required. Finding the right approach and balance in your daily nutrition will dramatically improve your performance.

In Part Three of understanding performance nutrition, I talk about hydration, bodyweight and body composition, a game plan for success, and using supplements.

Have you enjoyed the second part of this series on understanding performance nutrition? What other suggestions have you tried that have helped your performance as an athlete?

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