Here are 8 tips for better health AND performance.
1. Eat More Protein
The evidence continues to mount for the benefits of protein in the diet, for all ages and goals and especially post-exercise for recovery. The large majority of the population, including athletes, likely under consume protein as discussed in this podcast. The caveats here are in certain disease states and if athletes are failing to reach recommended caloric and carbohydrate goals due to satiety (this should be a hint for those looking to change body composition).
2. ‘Fuel for the Work Required’
Sometimes termed ‘carbohydrate periodization’, what this means in its simplest form is that demands of activity levels are met by intake. In this scenario, rather than underfueling or using a default dietary intake, one would titrate calories and carbohydrate in response to requirements of work done. For some insights into this see this podcast and this blog.
3. Focus on sleep
Evolution would likely have selected out the inefficiency of spending a third of our lives in a non-productive and vulnerable state unless it wasn’t so non-productive. This should speak to the importance of sleep. If choosing two behaviors alone for the most pluripotent health and performance benefits, sleep and exercise would be the two most would choose. For more on the role of nutrition and sleep, see this blog.
4. Refuel Properly
Adaptation is ultimately what drives performance (and health), and ensuring this occurs is a product of recovery NOT necessarily the stimulus. This requires appropriate nutrient provision, ideally as soon as possible with respect to the stimulus. For information about what and how much to consume to refuel appropriately, look here.
5. Stop Worrying About Race Weight
Race weight specifically is a challenging concept given the inefficiencies of the human body. This inefficiency is worse in running than cycling, the two sports where power to weight ratio is most often discussed and thought of with respect to race weight. Nonetheless, there may be some merit in changing body composition, the result is just less linear than in an F1 car for instance.
Generally, it may be more useful to ensure you are optimizing across this list, specifically; fueling for the work required, sleeping well, and training as appropriate (with good recovery) as a process. This process then yields an appropriate outcome with respect to body composition, rather than attempting to engineer body composition for performance related goals. This approach likely aids in aspects of health related to mental health and stress rather than some more challenging approaches focussing specifically on achieving race weight. *Speak to a healthcare professional for help and with questions in this area.
6. Dial In Fueling For Race Day and Big Sessions
The obvious one here is performance. Fuel for the work required, recover, and use progressive learning to make continuous marginal performance improvements. A bonus tip: test in the off-season, not on race day!
Don’t be fooled by the lower frequency of these events throughout the year – there’s a great opportunity (or cost) of race day fueling on your general health as well. Having to dig yourself out of a hole post-workout is at best unnecessary and at worst detrimental. There are even implications for the immune system if your exertion isn’t matched with mindful fueling and recovery. Long story short – big workouts and races present an opportunity for most of us to level up our general health. Have a plan, and use real-time glucose to fuel for the work required. Don’t leave yourself in a deficit.
How you may use continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) in this is covered here.
7. Move More
Avoiding sedentary time and moving more would aid in health and performance for almost everyone. The exception to the rule being elite athletes with enormous training volumes, where caloric needs are difficult to meet and time is limited between sleep, training and eating. Outside of these populations, limiting periods of sedentary time and walking more are great ways, with no foreseeable downsides to improve health (in a number of domains) and performance.
8. Consider Using the two C’s Caffeine & Creatine
Whilst creatine is one of the most widely researched supplements for sports performance, it’s health research is in its infancy. That said there is some early supportive evidence for cognitive and mental health, amongst other things. The low cost and minimal if any downside mean it warrants consideration. For more on creatine and glucose see our blog.
Caffeine too is widely researched, and with the exception of sleep, seems to generally improve most things in most cases for most people. Increasingly, it is being linked to improved health outcomes too, with initial worries surrounding cardiac health and dehydration largely being disproved. For more on caffeine and glucose, look here.
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