Many often associate sports nutrition as something that is regimented, measured, and controlled. Let’s take a look at some simpler principles to fuel by.
When most people hear the term “sports nutrition”, a few topics commonly come to mind: protein shakes, rigid meal plans, and macro counting.
Sports nutrition guidelines exist to help athletes fuel more effectively, but often are misunderstood and taken to the extreme. When not integrated appropriately, these principles may disconnect athletes from their bodies – the exact tool they need to be paying attention to. Taking an intuitive, non-diet approach towards food can help bridge the gap between science and staying attuned with their bodies without going to dieting extremes.
But first, let’s get to know the role that nutrition plays in improving athletic performance.
If we break things down to the most fundamental core, the main reason to eat well for sport is to aid in recovery.
Any type of workout is a stress to your body.
But, unlike other forms of stress, it is a productive stress. While it breaks your body down, your body gets stronger once it is built back up.
If you constantly break your body down without giving it an opportunity to heal by overtraining or under-fueling, your athletic performance will likely suffer. If you are a pro at fueling, resting, and giving your body the care it needs, your recovery will be accelerated, your body will get stronger, and you’re likely to see athletic improvements. These basic nutrition principles exist for a reason, and provide information on how we can fuel most efficiently and effectively so that we can get back to training, and thus accelerate improvement.
1. Work with your body, not against it.
Integrating the non-diet approach with sports nutrition guidelines allows you to work in consultation with your body, not against it. Sometimes, you may not feel hungry after a workout, but still eat because you know that sports nutrition research shows that it will aid in recovery. Your inner caregiver takes over. You eat because you know you should.
2. Stay satisfied with what you need.
Other times, you might have a day off exercise, but still feel ravenous. You may cognitively understand that since you’re not exercising, you don’t need as much food as the days that you do. But your body may have other plans! Working in consultation with your body means that you satisfy your hunger, despite an extra meal or snack not officially being on your sports nutrition meal plan. Your inner caregiver knows that if your body is telling you it needs more food, it needs more food. You do not have to question it. You simply satisfy it and move on.
3. Follow guidelines, not rigid rules.
When guidelines are implemented with no regard to your own internal wisdom and messages from your body, you are likely to miss important information your body is telling you. Sometimes, your body may crave a food that is not included on your meal plan. Instead of viewing that craving as “bad” or “wrong”, view it as a sign that your body needs it.
By staying mindful about how you replenish yourself during recovery, you can allow your body to stay nourished and strong.
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Megan Medrano, RD, LD is a registered dietitian and nutrition therapist in private practice at Run Whole Nutrition in Lexington, KY. In her practice, she helps people from all walks of life, including competitive athletes, cultivate a peaceful and joyful relationship with food through a weight-inclusive approach. Learn more at Run Whole Nutrition.