6 nutrition tips for advanced performance
There’s more to fueling peak performance than protein and carbs.
But how do you tune into your body and find out what will give you that extra edge?
Drawing on my work with elite athletes, I’ll help you turn up the volume on key nutrition elements that could take your performance and recovery to the next level.
1. Learn your body’s signals
Learning to listen to your body is as important as wearing the right running shoes or exercising with good form.
Start by having a consistent daily fueling schedule, monitoring your energy levels and taking note of how you’re feeling throughout the day and during training sessions. If you’re seeing improvements in the gym, getting adequate sleep and feeling energized throughout the day, your nutrition is on point.
Constantly tired? Low energy levels could be a signal your nutrition needs some work.
Signs that you’re not eating enough (or enough of the right things) will vary between individuals. But some of the most common signals are:
low energy levels
poor recovery from training
unwanted weight loss
constantly thinking about food
extreme hunger at night
for women, loss of menstrual cycle.
2. Creatine is not just for muscle builders
If you’ve heard of creatine, it’s most likely as a supplement for building muscle. But its benefits don’t end there. Creatine can improve sprint performance, maximal strength and power, and have a positive impact on your lean muscle mass.
If you’re going through a period of less physical activity (e.g. recovering from an injury), creatine can help prevent loss of lean muscle during this time. While more research is needed, recent studies show creatine is beneficial to brain function, too.
Creatine is found naturally in several animal products, including meat and fish. If you do supplement with creatine, it’s a good idea to speak with a sports dietitian to make sure it’s right for you and find the safest and most effective product.
3. Prevent injuries with collagen
If you’re serious about your training and getting results, you might already be using a supplement or taking a protein powder that has collagen in it.
This protein is an athlete’s best friend because it plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of joints and connective tissue. It provides strength and stability to our joints, reduces the risk of injury and joint pain, and provides structural support to bones.
While our body naturally makes collagen, production declines with age – which is why it is even more important for older athletes or people who are super active to consume collagen-rich foods or supplements if required.
How do you ramp up your body’s natural collagen production? By consuming nutrients that aid in the process, such as vitamin C, zinc and copper.
Drink this: The vitamin C and protein in this Orange Berry Smoothie will help rev up your natural collagen production.
If you take supplements, your body will break down that collagen into amino acids and then synthesize its own collagen from there. So if you’re getting enough amino acids (AKA protein) via your diet, you’re already a step ahead.
4. Polyphenols to power recovery
Polyphenols are a type of chemical compound (phytonutrient) with strong antioxidant properties that are found in many plant foods. Think blueberries, cherries, pomegranate, black currants, broccoli and your must-have cups of tea or coffee.
So why are you packing your gym bag with all this fruit? There is evidence to suggest fruit-derived polyphenol intake of greater than 1000mg per day for 3 days before and after intense exercise may enhance muscle recovery.
Polyphenol intake may also reduce the risk of chronic disease and positively impact gut microbiota, which is good news for your health all round.
Eat this: The blueberries in Dan’s Zesty Chicken Salad provide around 350mg of polyphenols.
5. Fire up with fiber
You may have heard that I’m the world’s No.1 fan of fiber. Here’s why.
A diet high in fiber has been shown to provide many health benefits, including:
reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and hypertension
better blood sugar regulation
positive impact on cholesterol levels.
Dietary fibers also act as prebiotics, feeding the good bacteria in our guts.
As an athlete, you may also prize the fact fiber keeps you feeling fuller longer – weight management is key in many sporting fields.
When you take a look at what foods provide the most fiber, they’re all plants, which is why I always emphasize the importance of athletes and active people getting more plants on their plates. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and seeds are great choices to get more fiber into your diet.
Eat this: A fresh Chilli Bean Salad will help you chalk up almost half of your daily fiber needs by lunchtime.
6. Muscles love magnesium
Have you ever been advised to take magnesium supplements after running a half-marathon or getting a massage? That’s because magnesium regulates the levels of calcium in muscles, which is crucial for proper function.
A lack of magnesium can lead to muscle cramps, fatigue and weakness, which can impede muscle recovery. On the flip side, consuming adequate amounts can help promote faster recovery and reduce muscle soreness – a recent study shows significant reduction in muscle soreness after 10 days of magnesium supplementation.
Another consideration for athletes is bone health. Magnesium is essential for the metabolism of vitamin D, and 50-60 percent of magnesium is stored in bone, so low levels can affect bone density.
Eat this: The beans, avocado and quinoa in this Tex-Mex Black Bean Fajita Bowl are all great sources of magnesium.
You can increase your intake of magnesium from natural sources by eating more plants, including pumpkin seeds, quinoa, leafy greens, cashews, legumes such as black beans, avocados and dark chocolate.
Sports dietitian Angie Asche will power your plate with no-nonsense food advice. Founder of Eleat Sports Nutrition, Angie works with MLB, NFL and NHL athletes to get the best from their bodies. With a Masters of Science in Nutrition & Physical Performance, and as a certified exercise physiologist and personal trainer, she’s got the expertise you need to achieve your goals.
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