The Fundamental Rules of Performance Nutrition
There are lots of conflicting opinions when it comes to the best approach to nutrition. Traditionally, the community advocated the Paleo or Zone Diet. Today, that isn't necessarily the case.
There are plenty of nutrition frameworks to choose from, but is that all you should be thinking about? It's easy to get lost in the finer details, but we think there are some fundamental rules that should be considered first. Here are 5 of them:
1. Make Sure You're Eating Enough
This is the most fundamental rule you need to follow if you want to improve performance. How can you expect to fuel your workouts if you're not eating enough?
Many people fall at this first hurdle, especially those following a Paleo diet. When you cut out large food groups, you need to make sure you're replacing the lost calories with an appropriate fuel source. If you don't, you'll feel weak and lethargic, and your body will take longer to recover.
Think about food in terms of energy: you get out what you put in. If you're feeling sluggish, or you're getting slower, increase the amount you're eating.
2. Understand Your Body
When it comes to nutrition, we're all different. What works for one person won't necessarily work for you. This is one reason why the community has such differing opinions on the Paleo diet.
If you're unsure, keeping a food diary can help you figure it out. Don't overcomplicate it, just keep a note of:
- The food you ate, and how much.
- How you felt, especially when training.
- Your training results.
Over a few weeks, you'll be able to build a picture of how different foods affect your body, and your WODs. Once you know what your body needs, it becomes much easier to fuel it the right stuff.
3. Carbohydrates Are Your Friend
We've spent a lot of time demonising carbs over the past few years, but are they really evil? We don't think so.
In fact, for most of us, carbohydrates are an essential fuel source. They also help you recover by replenishing lost glycogen following a workout.
This doesn't mean you should fill your plate with refined sugar and pasta. Instead of demonising the macronutrient, focus on the quality of the carbs in your diet. The most nutritionally-dense carbohydrate sources include:
- Wholegrains (e.g. brown rice and quinoa),
Again, everyone tolerates food differently, so experiment with what works well for you.
4. Don't Forget About Micronutrients
With the rise of frameworks such as IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), we're all familiar with our body's macronutrient requirements.
But micronutrients are important, too.
Nutrient deficiencies, whether at the macro or micro level, can impact your performance. For example, research has found:
- Vitamin D increases protein synthesis and muscle mass,
- Magnesium deficiency impairs endurance,
- Antioxidants limits exercise-induced oxidative stress,
- Omega-3 helps you recover faster.
5. Eat According to Your Goals
If you're training for health, you'll have different nutrition requirements to a competitive weightlifter. Likewise, a competitive weightlifter will have different requirements to a bodybuilder.
Breaking that down even further, different people within the same category will have different needs. For example, a weightlifter at the lower end of their weight category will eat to gain strength. On the other hand, a weightlifter approaching maximum weight will eat to ensure they stay within their chosen category.
There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach, regardless of your goals. Research the different theories available, and experiment to find out what works for you.
What nutrition rules do you need to follow to get the biggest gains in performance? Let us know in the comments.