Nutrition for Optimum Performance

Athletes can train as hard as they are able to, however, that isn’t enough. Fueling your body properly is essential to performing to your maximum capacity.

As the intensity of your training increases, so must your caloric intake. It is crucial that you fuel your body with nutrient- rich foods, in order to produce the most effective recovery possible. Not eating enough calories can have drastic consequences on your performance and overall health. Calorie deficiency can lead to increased fatigue, unhealthy weight loss, and malnutrition. It is quite common, especially among female athletes, to increase exercise intensity and duration without increasing caloric intake. If you are experiencing a plateau in your training, you may consider adjusting the number of calories you eat in a day. I have found that a great way to make sure you are eating enough for the amount of physical activity you complete is to log your exercise and food in a log. My personal favorite is My Fitness Pal, which is a really helpful app that gives you accurate goals for caloric intake.

Of course, there is a balance. While your body needs enough fuel, it is important that you don’t give it too much, because, at some point, food and drink are no longer good things. Like calorie deficiency, over-eating is also a common problem among many people, especially in our current society. Over-eating leads to weight gain, poor performance in training, and other severe health problems, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Some simple ways to avoid over-eating include: eating more slowly, portioning your meals, and drinking a glass of water before eating. Over-eating will negatively impact performance by causing weight gain and making the athlete feel sick while training.

Fueling for optimum performance doesn’t stop with eating the correct number of calories. Healthy diets consist of three main food groups: carbohydrates, fats, and protein. In our society, many people go on diets that restrict carbs and fats, however, these are essential to allowing the body to operate to the best of its ability. In fact, the ideal diet is made up of 50% carbs, 30% fats, and 20% protein. Athletes who train at high intensity and duration, such as distance runners, need slow-burning carbs before a hard workout. This will help the athlete stay energized and satiated throughout the workout. After the workout, athletes need to consume carbs, as well, in order to restore glycogen and prevent hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Examples of carbs for peak performance include: pasta, bread, granola, and fruit.

Fat stores energy, which is essential to performance. The word “fat” has a negative connotation, however, there is actually such a thing as healthy fat. “Good” fats can be found in foods such as: avocado, olive oil, nuts, salmon, etc. However, I put the word good in quotations for a reason. There are no such things as “good” foods and “bad” foods. It is important to treat yourself to foods commonly considered as unhealthy because, otherwise, it is easy to feel deprived. All food is good for you, if enjoyed in moderation.

Athletes need lots of protein in order to build muscle and recover effectively. Good sources of protein include: lean meats (chicken, turkey, lean beef), dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt), beans, and seafood. Some athletes like to enhance their protein intake with powder, shakes, or nutrition bars. While this is fine, be careful about the ingredients. Many supplements are synthetic and high in sugar and calories. Try to find bars and shakes that are made of natural ingredients. The same goes for protein powder. Whey, for example, is a smarter choice than powder that was produced in a lab.

Hydration is also key to performance success. Try to stick to water or drinks that are low in calories and sugar. Liquids such as soda and alcohol contain lots of calories from sugar and are ineffective at hydration. After a workout, refueling with a supplement is usually a good idea because it restores nutrients and electrolytes. My favorite drink after a workout is Nuun, which are tablets that go in your water. Not only do Nuuns help with recovery, they are delicious!

Optimum performance consists of many different elements, from training consistency to the right pair of shoes. However, fueling your body correctly is crucial to feeling good while exercising and in everyday life.


By Fixt Blogger Emma Steiner