That old analogy of a car and gasoline really rings true when it comes to your health: Your engine won’t perform well if you’re not using the right fuel. But with so many ideas and theories out there about nutrition (leaving alone personal and ethical factors), how can you know what types of food you should be eating to help you achieve performance-based goals—and is there a difference in the food choices you need to make compared to the ones you make for weight loss or aesthetic goals?
3 Things to Consider When Eating for Performance
1. Eat Enough
“Carb” has almost become a four-letter word in the health industry. But the truth is, if you’re trying to gain strength, increase your endurance, and improve your athletic performance, you need to be consuming enough energy to fuel your workouts and support your recovery. This means that you should be eating plenty of complex and nutrient-dense carbs like fruit and sweet potatoes, as well as plenty of lean protein.
Keep in mind that if you’re serious about your performance, you’re probably training a lot. This means you may need to be eating more than you think to avoid being stuck in a caloric deficit, which will tend to promote weight loss instead of muscle mass gain.
2. Timing Matters
When you eat can be just as important as what you eat when you’re fueling your body for performance. Eating (or avoiding) certain foods at certain times of your day can help you maintain improved hormonal and metabolic control. Here a few basic pointers to help you achieve this important balance:
– Scatter your “good” carbs throughout the day to promote alertness and energy from dawn ‘till dusk.
– Breakfast should be protein and fat heavy. Lunch should be light, while dinner should probably be the biggest meal of your day.
– Save your caffeinated coffee or tea for one hour after you wake up to extend your energy kick (cortisol levels rise upon waking and level out about an hour later).
– Consume protein and carbs within 20-45 minutes after every workout. This helps you maximize muscle growth and repair.
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3. Drink More Water
If you’re like most people, then chances are you’re walking around in a state of insufficient hydration. All of us need to be drinking at least half our body weight in fluid ounces of water per day, and this number will go up if you are moderately or highly active and/or have a physically demanding job.
Here’s a simple hydration hack: drink 1-2 glasses of cold water first thing upon waking up. This will keep you energized and help your body prepare for the day’s upcoming training.
Follow these tips to help maximize your performance in the gym, in competition, and in life!