NUTRITION FOR PERFORMANCE
If your goal is to improve strength and performance, your focus should be on eating the right amount to fuel your training and your recovery.
You do not need to be an elite athlete to prioritize performance! Regardless of your level or experience, you just need to make sure your nutrition aligns with your specific goals. We talked a bit last week about energy balance and making sure that your caloric intake and energy output are helping you progress, rather than hindering your progress. Eating for optimal performance means you should be eating at maintenance or in a surplus, and your intake should change in conjunction with changes in your training.
MAINTENANCE CALORIES = eating as many calories as you burn
CALORIE SURPLUS = eating more calories than you burn
If you want to get stronger, you must eat more in order to build muscle mass. If you want to get faster, train harder, or perform better, you must eat more in order to fuel your training and your recovery.
If you have performance goals, it is NOT the correct time to be in a calorie deficit! While you can still see changes in your body composition, you probably won’t be at your very leanest if your training is a priority. And while you can be healthy by prioritizing high quality food, if you are training with a lot of volume, you may not be at your 100% healthiest.
While eating the right amount of calories for your specific goals is the biggest priority, making sure your diet is balanced in macronutrients is also important to optimizing your performance. Each macronutrient plays a distinct and essential role in our bodies: protein helps us maintain and build muscle mass and repair tissues after training; carbohydrates are our main source of energy and aid in helping our bodies recover; adequate fats help us regulate hormones and keep our nervous systems functioning.
An athlete with performance goals should also prioritize quality foods, quality sleep, and recovery. Meal timing isn’t the biggest factor that will affect your performance, but eating the right food at the right time will help you stay properly fueled and recovered, and paying a little more attention to the makeup of pre- and post-workout meals can be beneficial.
Your pre-workout meal should be consumed 1-2 hours before your workout.
CARBS | Aim to consume ~30% of your total daily carb goal in the eating window before your workout. Choose fast-digesting carb sources such as fruits, potatoes, rice, pasta, oats, or cereal. If you train first thing in the morning, these pre-workout carbs can be included in your last meal or snack the previous night.
FAT | Try to keep your pre-workout meal low in fat.
PROTEIN | Keep this meal moderately high in protein. When choosing a protein, opt for lean sources like chicken breast, egg whites, or a protein shake.
Your post-workout meal should be eaten within 1-2 hours of completing your workout. The macro breakdown of your post-workout meal is similar to that of your pre-workout meal and is essential in helping you refuel and recover.
CARBS | Consume another ~30% of your total daily carbs right after your workout. Again, stick with fast-digesting carb sources such as fruits, potatoes, rice, pasta, oats, or cereal.
FAT | Fat intake should be relatively low in your immediate post-workout meal.
PROTEIN | Make it a priority to consume some lean protein right after your workout. This could be a good time for a protein shake, especially if you don’t usually feel hungry immediately after a workout.
Our goals are constantly evolving. You may not focus on improving performance forever, but if that is your current goal, making sure that your dietary approach matches that goal will help your hard work pay off.
Questions about what eating for performance means for you and your specific goals? Leave a note in the comment below or get in touch!