Food is fuel, the fuel that allows our body to perform. Performance training is not isolated at the gym and is affected by sleep, stress, and nutrition. Eating well includes eating both a wide variety of foods and an adequate amount. Proper performance nutrition is the difference between completing a workout and Accel-ing in your day-to-day and athletic performance.
Food isn’t merely just to fuel our bodies. Food and nutrition have many other benefits, including:
- Increased energy
- Increased mental clarity
- Increased stamina
- Decreased time of recovery
- Decreased muscle mass loss
- Decreased risk of injury
Two Ws for the Win
Performance nutrition requires an
athlete to look at what and when they are eating.
Every food is composed of macronutrients, or the nutrients we need in large quantities. These include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats – this is the what. These macronutrients have different functions and purposes in our body. It’s important to balance our carbs, protein, and fats, and to balance the time when we eat them intentionally for maximum nutrition benefit – this is the when.
Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, or sugar, during digestion. Glucose serves as the body’s preferred and main source of fuel. Foods that contain carbohydrates are grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and sweets. Proteins are made from many amino acids, or protein building blocks, that repair body tissue and help with muscle contraction. Protein foods include meat, dairy, soy products, nuts, and beans. Fat is a concentrated source of energy providing the body satiety and satisfaction. Foods with fat include oils, butter, meat, dairy, nuts, and avocados.
Think of macronutrients like a team sport: Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats all have their specific roles that fuel the body and performance. It’s important to include each macronutrient – when one is down, just like an athlete on a team, performance suffers. The body requires mostly carbohydrates, adequate protein, and some fat. Balancing these macronutrients yields optimal performance, nutrition, and athletics.
- Micronutrients, or vitamins and minerals, are important because while they do not provide our body energy, they help our body digest, absorb, and use energy from the macronutrients above. Vitamins and minerals aid in a wide variety of bodily functions.
- Last, and certainly not least, is water. It does not provide us energy or nutrition per se, but as the body is 55-60% water, it plays a vital role in performance. Water lubricates joints, hydrates muscles, regulates body temperature, and transports nutrients throughout the body.
Implementing a balanced and adequate meal and snack pattern should be an athlete’s top priority. Performance nutrition is a 24/7/365 commitment, as the body requires three meals a day and snacks as needed. With the right planning, these meals and snacks can boost energy and performance. Start each day with breakfast, eating every 3 to 4 hours after that, while drinking water for adequate hydration. A usual eating schedule may include breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner.
Plan on scheduling mealtimes at 2 to 3 hours before training so that your body can fully digest and utilize the nutrients from the meal. Build a plate like so: one half fruits and vegetables, one quarter carbohydrates, and one quarter protein. Take your performance to the next level with a snack 45 to 60 minutes before training; focus on carbohydrates. Try eating a banana, a package of fruit snacks, or a granola bar.
Within 60 minutes of completing your training, prioritize eating a snack with both carbohydrates and protein to build muscle and improve recovery. Drink a glass of chocolate milk or eat a turkey sandwich.
No matter your workout routine, good nutrition matters. Accel is here to help you determine what nutrition plans are best for you through our partnership with Memphis Nutrition Group.