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Couple jogging and running outdoors in nature showing nutrition for performance
FoodNutrition

5 nutrition for performance hacks

You’re killing it in the gym and not getting the results you want, maybe you need to think about nutrition for performance? Thankfully we’re here with some simple hacks to help you improve your nutrition

If physical activity means more to you than just raising your heart rate, then powering your training with proper fuel will get you to your goals faster.  The critical thing to know is that there are never quick-fix nutrition plans or supplements (well that are legal!) that will get you immediate performance improvements.  Instead, start thinking about nutrition for performance. The issue is that it can be challenging to figure out where to start with fuelling for performance, especially with all the conflicting information online. The following five simple steps will guide you towards how best to fuel for performance.

Theses are all simple hacks that if applied will reap those rewards you seek. Don’t get caught up in the complex and go with these simple steps for winning performance. 

Nutrition for performance

Step 1:  Take a 360 inventory

Often the reason you’re not making progress as quickly as you’d like is due to the balance of your energy intake. 

Start by taking a deep dive looking at your lifestyle. Look at what you eat, your work schedule, training plans and sleep. Basically everything that makes you you. A simple starting point might be to log your food intake and physical activity for 5-7 days to review your baseline. It doesn’t have to be obsessive logging. Instead try journaling your inputs and where you are feeling the most energy dips. An understanding of your energy demands will advise you if you are over or under fuelling for your lifestyle and training. 

If you only have enough energy to sustain your vital functions, how can you expect it to fuel athletic performance?

Step 2:  Focus on actions for performance

The primary energy sources that fuel your performance are fats and carbohydrates (protein only to a lesser extent if your body has minimal options). Research has shown that how you eat before, during and after training can have a significant influence on your performance.  It is more difficult for our bodies to meet high energy demands rapidly using only fat.  Challenging athletic training requires carbohydrate stored in our muscles as glycogen, and this is the most efficient source of energy.

Both fuels can be manipulated to get the best results for you, but in general, before and during training, you will need the combination that works for you and your training. Don’t get caught up on the latest trends. 

I would suggest picking the 3-4 action items during your training week that make the most impact on your performance goals, then ensure the proper selection of nutrients around them. Don’t be afraid of carbohydrates!  

Read more: 3 ways to prevent mindless snacking

Step 3: Plot your path to performance

This step is really about finding the foods, meals and snacks that will set you up for performance and integrate into your lifestyle.  When you have even just 3-4 meals and snacks that are specific to your needs, you set yourself up for easy wins. Meal planning is more about pre-planning. It is easier to have a variety of satisfying foods available, have a list ready for shopping and have food prepared for training or when you are hungry after exercise. It is all about finding out where to add in foods rather than taking away.

Instead of wondering how much and what to eat, you know what it looks like to fuel a day in the life of YOU, which makes it easier to eat consistently for energy.

STEP 4: Practice fuelling for performance 

We know training helps your body to adapt to the activity and from this, your fitness builds.  Fuelling is similar and to test and experiment with the timing, and various foods will help to make them work for you, especially when competing. Supplementation with proven performance-enhancing products like caffeine, carbohydrate, creatine, needs to be tested in each relevant training session so that you know what and how it works for you. 

Step 5:  Persist for performance

Improvement in performance takes time, and this is where making your choices daily and consistently really counts. It might feel like our lifestyles work against us, with busy work weeks and having that blow out weekend mentality. Often it is a case that certain situations trigger us to eat less for performance and more for emotions.

Working through the behaviours and habits that often sidetrack us can lead to better adherence to fuelling consistently. That is why adherence to a method that works for you will allow you to perform. Allowing some flexibility in your fuelling strategy is essential, so that it works for your performance and not anyone else’s. Creating a constant for you can be the most rewarding way of creating a sustainable fuelling strategy for your performance.

Read more: 3 ways to master eating on the go

Catriona Courtney BSc. MSc. is a registered sports and exercise nutritionist with over 15 years experience in food and nutrition working with passionate active sports people. She blends her passion for food with sports nutrition so that her clients feel good and perform well. Elev8nutrition was set up in 2017 where Catriona provides 1:1 and on line nutrition coaching. For more information visit elev8nutrition.ie