1) Eat enough, and eat a variety of nutrient-dense, whole foods. Eat the rainbow! Prioritize a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet.
2) Know your macros. Eat proper proportions of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to fuel your needs. The Food and Nutrition Board recommends the following percentage of calories for each macro: 45-65% carbohydrates, 10-35% protein, 20-35% fat (Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range AMDR).
3) Eat carbs! Healthy carbs like sweet potato, brown rice, oats, and bananas can improve performance and decrease the risk of overtraining during times of heavy training.
4) Up your NO! Nitric Oxide (NO) is a vasodilator that occurs naturally in our bodies but can also be found in food. Vasodilation increases blood flow and oxygen delivery during exercise, thereby improving performance. Some of the best sources of NO in food are arugula, beets, rhubarb, and other leafy greens and herbs.
5) Fight inflammation with omega 3’s and anti-inflammatory foods. Serious training increases the levels of inflammation in our bodies and can lead to chronic injuries, pain or weight gain. Recover and balance your body by including salmon, walnuts, flax, berries, turmeric, and the list goes on.
6) Limit processed foods. White bread, pastas, sugary low-fiber cereals, chips, and candy aren’t helping you out and only increase inflammation in your body.
7) REWARD YOURSELF! Yes, there is such a thing as eating too healthy. If you are constantly consumed by thoughts about your diet, you might be restricting yourself in ways that are counterproductive to getting to your goals. Pick a meal or day during the week where you reward yourself for your hard work the rest of the week. This practice can improve sustainability and consistency over time, leading to peak performance.
Nutrient Timing and Pre/Post Workout Fueling
Following an intense workout or competition, it is important to refuel with 50g of carbohydrates to restore glycogen levels and 10g of protein to rebuild muscle within 30 minutes. Try to get in a well-balanced meal as soon as possible as well. You will reduce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and kickstart your recovery process.
Many people ask me what is best to eat the morning of a workout or competition. I think you have to find what works best for you, but ideally something that follows the rules of the philosophy above. 3-4 hours before a competition, oats or whole grain toasts with some fruit and a little nut butter seem to cover the bases well and sit well in many stomachs. Stay away from sugary low-fiber cereals as it will leave you tanked, and excessive dairy or excessive fat as it slows digestion.
Make sure you drink plenty of water but also make sure you are drinking something good for you other than water! Electroloytes are important for us to feel and perform our best. I recommend low sugar sources like electrolyte-enhanced water, nuun tablets, coconut water, or kombucha.