Nutrition Secrets of Elite Athletes
We all know the hard work doesn't stop when we leave the box. If we want to WOD faster and stronger, what we do in the kitchen matters too.
Elite athletes have their nutrition dialled in. They have to, otherwise their performance would suffer.
CrossFit Games athletes eat to perform. Olympic weightlifters eat to maximise strength whilst staying within their weight category. Whilst the rules differ slightly between sports, the fundamentals stay the same.
Here are some of them:
They Don't Diet
It still amazes me how many people aim to improve their WOD performance AND lose weight. Although it is possible, these goals are often conflicting.
Eat enough to support your training goals. What's more important? You can make sure you have enough energy to beast your next workout, or cut calories in a last-ditch attempt to lose weight before summer hits. It's your choice.
There's an exception to this rule, though. If you're a weightlifter, and need to lose weight to make your category, dieting might form part of your training goals.
When you eat for performance, you might not lose weight as fast as you would on some extreme diet. Instead, you'll get faster and stronger, and settle into a bodyweight that can support your training.
They Get Some Help
The majority of elite athletes outsource their nutrition to a professional sports nutritionist. This enables them to forget about food, and focus on what matter to them: their training.
If you get stressed out by nutrition, and spend hours researching and experimenting, this could be an option for you too.
There are now plenty of affordable sports nutritionists and meal prep services out there. Just make sure you do your research first, and go for someone who has the credentials to back up their offering.
They Eat for Their Health
Elite athletes know there's more to food than protein to carbohydrate ratios. Good nutrition is essential for health, too. And health is important.
When you're healthy, you have less time away from training for sickness, and you can give more in each session. On the flip side, if you're unhealthy, your body isn't going to be performing or recovering at its best.
As well as the right mix of macronutrients, make sure you're getting the full range of micronutrients too. Many people are deficient in nutrients such as magnesium and Vitamin D.
Deficiencies like these can impact your performance, as well as your health. If you're unsure, consider getting your levels tested.
They Listen to Their Body
The best athletes are so in tune with their body, they know when they're missing something nutritionally and can take action.
It's so easy to get caught up in what you should be doing, that you miss vital signs from your body.
Instead of focusing on arbitrary numbers, such as how many grams of protein you should be eating, learn how to listen to your body.
Keep a food diary, and keep track of how you feel throughout the day. How much energy do you have? Do you have any slumps? Does your body react negatively to any food groups?
Over time, you'll build a picture of what works for you. You'll also learn to tune into your body's signals too, once you start paying attention to it. This is far more valuable than the stuff you read online.
They Plan Ahead
Elite athletes are rarely caught unprepared. They know what their body will need at any given time, and can therefore prepare accordingly.
Here's what Annie T. had to say in this interview about the 2010 CrossFit Games:
"During the Games I had with me a lot of protein bars and protein shakes. I always use Viper which is like an healthy energy drink from Promax. I’ll start loading up with Viper two days prior a competition, particularly if it’s warm outside because I'm not really used to that and there are some salts in it. I had with me a lot of boiled eggs and fruits. I tried to eat some chicken if I had enough time between events."
As you can see from the rest of the interview, this is very different from her usual routine. However, she knows what works well for her in any situation, and can make sure she's always prepared.
If this is something you struggle with, check out our post about eating well on the road.