Nutrition for peak performance requires a balanced approach to eating. A professional can tailor your meal plan to your specific goals, this article will cover good general guidelines to follow if you are not on any specific plan. Balanced nutrition or how we nourish our bodies is dependent on a combination of the following factors:
Combining Macronutrients- carbohydrates, fats and proteins
Meal timing and Calorie Load
Food Planning and Implementation
Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient for optimal metabolic function. It is recommended that 40-60 percent of daily caloric intake comes from carbohydrates. Not only are carbohydrates strongly linked to proper thyroid function (which regulates metabolism) but they also fuel the brain and muscles in the most direct way by providing glycogen. Avoid refined sugars, artificial sweeteners and refined grains.
Choose a colorful variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in season such as leafy greens, root vegetables, berries, citrus fruits, and stone fruits, which are rich in vitamins such as Vitamin C, Vitamin A, folate and potassium. Eschew refined grains for properly prepared whole grains including oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa and ancient grains such as spelt or kamut.
Proteins: The building blocks of life, protein is necessary for building muscles, bones and organs. Protein in balance with other macronutrients will slow blood sugar release, assist with nutrient absorption and the production of growth hormones. Choose lean meats from healthy animals such as grass fed beef high in heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids, free range turkey and chicken, wild caught fish, free range eggs, organic fermented dairy, lentils and beans. When using vegetarian sources of protein remember to combine foods properly to create a complete protein, for example beans and rice.
Fats: Fats in moderation are important for sex hormone production, proper digestion of protein, and healthy brain function. Healthy fats from plants include olive oil, coconut oil, nuts such as almonds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts- rich in calcium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory elements. Healthy animal fats such as grass fed ghee, have Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, Choline and DHA- which boost eye, brain, skin and organ health.
The metabolism is like a fire, we want it to burn strongly and consistently for optimal health and athletic performance. If we don’t feed this fire consistent, balanced fuel at regular intervals it won’t burn evenly or strongly. Common mistakes include waiting too long to eat breakfast and only eating simple carbohydrates like a doughnut or processed food like a pop tart- this will only give a short burst of energy followed promptly by a crash.
It all starts with breakfast, literally to break our fast since dinner and through the night. This is the first and perhaps the most important meal of the day. A study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) adds to evidence that eating breakfast is important for good health. Researchers found that those who regularly skipped breakfast had a 27% higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who did eat a morning meal.
For best results for breakfast choose a meal consisting of complex carbohydrates combined with an appropriate protein and fat within ½ an hour of rising. Good examples of this would be:
Sprouted bread toasted with a poached egg and fresh tomato.
Oatmeal with goji berries, almond butter or low fat yogurt.
Pamela’s gluten free pancake mix combined with egg whites, fresh blueberries and maple syrup.
The following meal should be timed about 3 hours after breakfast, and repeated at the same time interval throughout the day. It is important to balance caloric load evenly throughout these meals and to not cut too many calories. Remember the fire will go out if it does not get enough fuel, the last thing you want is to slow your metabolism even more if you are trying to lose body fat. You can tell you have cut too many calories if you feel exhausted or you get sick. A Sportsmedx professional can help you tailor the proper caloric load for your health goals.
Food Planning and Implementation:
Successful implementation depends on planning. Shopping based off a weekly menu and then cooking in either bulk saving you time and setting you up for success even when life gets busy when time allows cooking in small batches which is even healthier. Stock your refrigerator at home and work with healthy meal options, and have backup snacks in your car just in case. Remember to keep it balanced and as fresh as possible.
Of course, we know there are exceptions if you have unique requirements or are working with a doctor please incorporate your needs.
Eating the Right Foods for Exercise Healthline Newsletter
Harvard School of Public Health https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/skipping-breakfast-may-increase-coronary-heart-disease-risk/