Nutrition for Optimum Performance
Nutrition might just be the single most important factor for optimum performance, and for a healthy life. Sadly, the traditional food pyramid we’ve been fed (pun intended) since the 1950s is based on poor or absent science, and recommends a dangerously flawed approach that’s responsible (at least, in part) for many of the chronic health problems of modern society (obesity, diabetes, intestinal disorders, etc).
No doubt – physical activity, quality sleep & stress management contribute to overall health & well-being, too. But know this: the food we eat can literally determine how our unique genes are activated & expressed. So, in a very literal way, we are what we eat; which is why a diet that focuses on quality, rather than quantity, is the optimal choice for enhancing performance.
Let’s talk first things first… hydration.
Proper hydration is extremely important for optimizing performance. The physical effects of dehydration become noticeable after just 2% of your body’s normal water volume has been lost and studies show that for every 1% of dehydration, performance is compromised by up to 10%. I advocate a very simple rule of thumb – drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water each day. For every hour of exercise you should aim to drink at least 20 ounces of additional water; and if temperatures are extreme, you may need even more. Listen to your body & be mindful of its dehydration signals, such as headache, dizziness, or fatigue (just to name a few).
And of course, pre-performance nutrition plays a part.
A steady supply of energy & motivation will come naturally & effortlessly, if you fuel your body everyday with whole, nutrient-dense foods – focused on healthy fats, moderate protein & quality carbs. When it comes to boosting performance, you may want to substantially increase carbohydrate intake the day before a competition or race – preferably with easily digestible, low density carbs (think carrots, squash, cucumbers, bananas & melons) – to fully replenish your glycogen stores. Glycogen is the most important & widely used source of energy for exercise, and is needed for any intense activities.
Lastly, don’t overlook post-performance recovery nutrition.
Whether you want to run a marathon, max out your deadlift, compete in an upcoming obstacle challenge, or simply look better naked – you need to customize your nutrition to best fit your needs & goals. Intense physical activity causes cellular volumization, largely responsible for increased protein & glycogen synthesis. So what do you eat? There’s nothing better than quality, nutrient-dense whole foods to replenish your body. Post-performance or training, skip the shakes & sit down for a real meal that consists of protein from high quality sources, like free-range chicken, wild caught seafood, grass-fed beef, etc., with a generous portion of starchier carbs such as yams, sweet potatoes, and properly-prepared beans & legumes.
Just as you commit hours of preparation to improve your physical execution, you must also dedicate time & effort to proper nutrition for optimum performance – and put yourself one step ahead of the competition.