If you’re looking to optimize your performance and haven’t been managing your nutrition, you have an obvious place to start making positive changes.
It doesn’t have to be complicated, and even the smallest adjustments can bring huge rewards because there’s a natural synergy between your diet and your training.
For example, if you devote any time to getting stronger or building muscle, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t eat enough protein. And if you’re training to improve your marathon time, you’re leaving seconds and minutes on the clock if you don’t consume enough calories from carbohydrates and fat. Nutrition will also improve your recovery so you can train again or perform at a high level.
Different goals require different strategies, but the basics of food and fitness remain constant.
Protein is an essential macronutrient that builds and repairs tissue, and it is especially important when training. Both power and endurance athletes require adequate levels of protein to recover properly.
When deciding how much protein to consume, it’s important to consider metrics like daily caloric needs, training schedule, age and lean body mass.
If you’re not sure where to start, a very basic recommendation for athletes is 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Experiment with what works best for you by keeping track of how you recover and charting your progress in training.
Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of fuel for training. We use the energy they provide to crush heavy weights, sprint our fastest and run, bike, ski or row mile after mile. Without enough carbs, you’ll feel lethargic in training and perform poorly. You might also find yourself hungry or irritable, or you might deal with unsettling cravings and GI distress.
How many carbohydrates you need will vary based on metrics such as your daily energy expenditure, your goals and how much activity you’re doing. Carb requirements are also affected by personal preference, because fat is another source of energy that contributes to daily energy intake. Some athletes prefer more energy to come from fat; however, it is generally recommended that athletes source 40-60 percent of their energy from carbohydrates.
Individuals who are interested in weight loss and not performance might have more flexibility in their carbohydrate/fat ratio.
Dietary fats help you absorb nutrients and support cell growth. They also support performance by providing fuel.
Power and endurance athletes will have different requirements here. Power athletes will generally need less fat in their intake because they rely primarily on the phosphagen energy system. This system’s primary fuel source is glycogen, which comes from carbohydrates. On the other hand, endurance athletes rely primarily on their aerobic systems, and fat can be a great source of energy. Fat intake can range from 20-35 percent of total daily intake, with the exact amount determined by experimentation by the individual athlete.
If you’ve been chasing performance goals in the gym and you’re ready to use nutrition to help you accomplish them, keep it simple.
Start by making sure your daily caloric intake is adequate for your training and non-exercise activities. You can use an online calculator to help you determine this number or reach out to an experienced nutrition coach. If you don’t have enough fuel, you simply won’t perform at your best.
A general guideline for macronutrient ratios is 30-40-30 protein-carbohydrates-fat. This can absolutely vary based on personal preference and the other important metrics we covered above. Consider that ratio a starting point, but remember that all athletes are different. You can track your intake and log your training results, then make adjustments and see if performance improves. Or you can consult with a coach who can help you make the right changes even faster.
Either way, structuring your nutrition to support your performance goals will result in a guaranteed win. It’s simply the fastest and easiest way to succeed. Don’t leave another personal best on the table by ignoring the obvious link between food and fitness.
If you’d like to talk about how food can help you accomplish goals faster, book a free consultation!