Do you ever feel as though you are in a performance rut? Maybe you are constantly fatigued or you are not making the speed or strength gains you desire.
Although many athletes resort to changing their training routine in this situation, few ever think to dive deeper into their nutrition regimen. I cringe when I sit back and think about what I ate as a high school and college athlete. I assumed it was OK to eat junk food because I would just "burn it off at practice." It's what my parents told me, and my coaches reinforced the concept so it had to be right, didn't it?
At that point in my athletic career, I also thought success could be achieved by calorie counting and studying the food pyramid. Luckily, now as a dietitian for professional athletes, I know this could not be further from the truth. If there is one thing I wish I understood 15 years ago, it is this:
Peak performance cannot be achieved without whole body health.
If an athlete comes to my office saying he or she wants to lose body fat, gain lean muscle, improve strength, etc., I always start by diving into their basic health status. If I dive deeper and find this athlete is constantly fatigued with headaches and joint pain, I need to tackle that before I focus on their goal of improved strength, body fat loss, etc. Make sense? This is referred to as functional sports nutrition. We need your body to function well in order to perform well from an athletic standpoint.
So many of us fly by the seat of our pants when it comes to making food choices each day. We juggle school, work, training, errands, family time and a social life, and as a result we tend to live on grab-and-go food items. With all of the genius food marketing these days, it's so easy to fall for the labels that scream "whole grain," "low sugar," or "high protein" and conclude a food must be good for us. However, this often couldn't be further from the truth.
We know that fruits and veggies give us energy, hydration is critical, and consuming adequate calorie amounts each day is crucial if you want to support training demands. However, so many athletes are unknowingly NOT meeting the mark each day. As a result, performance suffers, and many athletes never reach their full potential.
Here are my top 10 signs that your diet is dragging your down and preventing you from reaching your full potential:
- You are constantly fatigued throughout the day, despite adequate sleep.
- You wake up in the middle of the night hungry.
- You suddenly stop menstruating (females.)
- Your muscles are constantly sore and it takes days to recover from a tough workout.
- You do not have at least one daily bowel movement.
- You experience gas, bloating, reflux or extreme fatigue immediately after meals.
- You feel dead halfway through your workouts and/or you repeatedly experience cramping.
- You are unable to make strength gains.
- You are unable to achieve your desired body composition despite extreme efforts.
- You experience a constant state of hunger throughout the day, no matter what you eat.
If you nodded yes to any of the questions above, it is time to place greater emphasis on your nutrition. I don't ever want you to look back one day and think, "Man, I wish I had done more." It doesn't matter how far along you are in your athletic career, it is never too late to begin focusing on better quality foods and nutrient timing—after all, you are only as good as your last meal. In my next article, we'll examine some of the most common eating mistakes that often lead to these symptoms. For more free nutrition tips, follow me on instagram @fwdfuel!
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