5 Keys Behind High Performance Nutrition
We must sound like a broken record at this point, skipping CD or, for the Gen Z’ers out there, a tune being played on repeat over a streaming app, but we can’t help it that we’re great at creating champions in all walks of sport (and life for that matter). Over the last 10 years we have trained athletes that have dominated in various, different sports: athletes that have competed at the world level in swimming, athletes that have been world bronze medalists in wrestling and olympic weightlifting, athletes who have played in the NFL, NCAA all-americans and countless state champions. We manifest greatness at Garage Strength.
A lot of the various athletes' success has to do with how we have handled their nutrition and how we work through different facets of nutrition to lead to that high performance. There are a whole bunch of different factors that go into high performance nutrition.
Let’s take a stroll through five key concepts behind high performance nutrition!
But First: Calories In Vs. Calories Out
Let’s begin by making nutrition as simple as it can be, let’s think: calories in versus calories out.
Calories out we can think of as anything along the lines of BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). Think of the BMR as able to be measured based off of a person sitting at home, watching TV on a lazy Sunday, laying on the couch and not doing a thing. Zip. Nada. Nothing. The BMR will be how many calories the body needs to utilize to essentially stay alive. The body will use about 60% of a person’s caloric consumption in order to maintain and thrive in normal function.
Sticking with calories out, we next want to think about being NEAT (Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis). NEAT can be along the lines of a person standing around, speaking with their hands, a person walking through the grocery store or anything that can be lumped into an action-based activity but isn't an exercise level of activity.
Still hanging within the calories out discussion, we can now talk about exercise activity. Exercise activity can be a plethora of things. Lifting weights? Exercise activity. Resistance training? Exercise activity. Cardio on the assault bike, Concept 2 rower? Exercise activity. Going for a jog, swim or running hill sprints? Exercise activity. We can have a lot of control over our exercise activity.
And finally, still in calories out, we are going to have the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF). TEF is going to be when a person eats something, how many calories does their body utilize to absorb and digest that food.
Now, calories in can be boiled down to everything that a person is going to consume. That’s the simple summary of the cliff notes version.
So if we are talking about high performance athletes, or people who are trying to get healthier, lose weight and improve their quality of life, all of these things come into play when planning out a nutritional program and nutritional aspect.
Element 5: Stress Reduction
The big key factor to stress reduction can have a different meaning based on a person’s season of life. Think of seasons of life this way: worries as a teenager are different than the worries of a person starting their first job out of school, that are different than the worries of a family person with children and a mortgage, which are different than the old man retiring, which are different than the 90 year old great-grandma sitting at the head of the table during the holidays.
Some ways to reduce stress may mean going to therapy, meditating regularly, going for walks around the neighborhood or spending more time around the ones a person loves. Generally, this is well and good for most people, regardless of their season of life, but can tend to have great impacts on people who tackle nutrition from a healthier mindset. Now on the other hand, elite athletes’ stress reduction might be needing to get away from a person or people who are sucking the life out of them. Somebody who is taking advantage or incessantly complaining about every little detail, bitching, moping and whining and leading to that negative attitude entering the elite athlete’s mindset. Next thing the elite athlete knows, they are seeing problems and stressful situations as inescapable.
But once the athlete starts to see these negative, stress inducing factors, they can start to combat them, taking time away from the screens (TV, phones, computers) to reduce stress and hone in on what is most important to them and their happiness.
Element 4: Mindfulness
Early on in dieting, mindfulness is a struggle for people. People begin dieting and think, “I got to lose 30/40 pounds a week ago!” and look for quick fixes. Doesn’t work that way. Dieting and losing weight is all about the long game. The long game is what matters. High performance nutrition needs to be looked at as a way of life, about living as healthily and happily as possible for a very long period of time.
Mindfulness is being aware of who you are and what makes you happy.
Real quick, grab a pencil and paper or open up a note on the mobile-look-at-device. Answer this question: What are five things that make you happy?
Answered? Great! Now, from that mindfulness reader, you are more aware of who you are and are more likely to become more intune with your body. Being intune lets you get a better grasp on when you have specific cravings, when you feel sluggish or energetic, or when you are feeling frustrated or down on yourself.
Being mindful of your own personal presence factors into stress reduction and in turn helps maintain one’s high performance nutrition.
Element 3: Nutrient Dense Foods
As we become more mindful, we start to be more aware of how we feel with different types of foods we are consuming. For instance, milk is nutritious. But, maybe instead of drinking 2 gallons a day, a ½ gallon will suffice.
Thinking of nutrient dense foods from a protein consumption base, a 100 grams of a grass fed steak, we will get an extremely nutritious piece of meat that’s going to help a person throughout the day. That nutrient dense steak is going to help a person’s muscles recover throughout the day, and it will also lead us back to that Thermic Effect of Food. For instance, when thinking about protein, about 25 to 30 percent of the calories being consumed are going to be utilized to try and absorb and digest the protein to be utilized later on for recovery to whatever is being done. What this means is that utilizing nutrient dense foods goes a very long way.
Next thing, the person is eating more fibrous foods like apples and bananas. The athlete starts consuming potatoes which have microbiota accessible carbohydrates, and now the athlete is eating foods that reduce the inflammatory stress. The athlete is mindful as to what has a positive (or negative) impact on their digestive system and energy levels.
Element 2: Exercise
Remember exercise being talked about during calories in versus calories out?
We thought you did.
Exercise activity plays a huge role. Exercise can reduce stress. Exercise can help with mindfulness--when a person starts to engage with exercise whole-heartedly, thinking about what they want out of the training session: burn calories? push mentally? be more active? less passive? put out more energy? figure out what feels good? Next thing, this key element is helping the cognitive ability of the brain, elongating life and dealing with stress.
Next thing, the person engaging in high performance nutrition is realizing which nutrient dense foods help best with performance during exercise, which foods stifle recovery and which foods not only taste good, but drive improvement not only through exercise but in life.
Element 1: Sleep
We know that sleep plays a huge role in reducing stress. We even know that there is research on doctors who have less sleep are much more likely to get into car wrecks. We know that workers on the third shift make more errors than their counterparts working the first shift.
Sleep can help reduce stress. If you’re not getting enough sleep, the brain gets out of whack. Mindfulness goes out the window from a sluggish brain. Next thing, engaging with nutrient dense foods isn’t a priority and it is easier to reach for that bag of empty calories. The lack of sleep piles up the stress, causing fatigue and a lazy mindset to nestle in and not want to go to the gym to exercise to better oneself. It can become a terrible, endless cycle. However, engaging with proper sleep hygiene, getting seven, eight, nine or ten hours of sleep can remedy such a terrible, endless cycle.
Reduce the stress in your life (exercising helps in this regard and so does sleep). Be mindful of the foods you eat, procuring nutrient dense foods to optimize the calorie in versus calorie out frame. It also helps to be mindful by acknowledging the stage of life you are in and the purpose behind the time exercising at the gym (don’t forget exercising reduces stress). Take all the benefits exercise has to offer for the body and the mind (like reducing stress). Finally, make sure to sleep soundly at night (which will also reduce stress).
It’s really that simple.
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.