Superfoods for performance: how to eat your way to success!

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Before getting into the nitty-gritty of this article, I think it is important for us to first define what we mean by performance and what context we will be talking in.

Whenever you discuss around nutrition, it is important to establish what the context is. For example, a nutrition conversation on how to reduce obesity compared to a nutrition conversation around performance will be very different.

This article will discuss nutrition and foods related to improving an individual’s performance.

So, what do we mean by performance?

Performance has many different definitions; ranging from ‘the execution of an action’ to ‘the action or process of performing a task.’

Relating these definitions to this article, we will be referring to performance as the execution of an action within a particular physical activity or sporting scenario. This could range from performing the action of 100m sprinting to completing a 1rm lift within a powerlifting competition.

Therefore, the title of this article could read, what foods/supplements will help me perform a sporting action/task to the best of my ability?

Below, I will identify several foods/supplements that have been researched to help improve an individual’s sporting performance.

Superfoods/supplements for performance

Caffeine

The ability to sprint repeatedly is a key performance quality required by many athletes from footballers and rugby players to squash and tennis players. Russel et al (2016) previously investigated the movement demands of premiership soccer players and found that they covered a mean total distance of 9.5km and a mean high-intensity distance of 487m.

He also found a mean number of total accelerations at 656 accelerations per 90-minute game.

With such amounts of repeated high-intensity bouts, it is vital to try and reduce the fatiguing effect hydrogen ions can have on the body. The build-up of hydrogen ions can reduce the amount of calcium that is released into the muscle, which binds to troponin for the sliding filament theory to occur.

Caffeine, roughly 3mg – 6mg per kg body weight, 45-60 minutes before competition can allow an increase in calcium within the muscle, negating the negative effects of an increase in hydrogen ions. Not to mention the increase in glycolysis and sympathetic nervous system activity.

Protein

The macronutrient protein will come up in most nutritional conversations, but, in the context of this article, it is beneficial for all athletes. This includes strength and power athletes, as well as endurance athletes.

Protein has always been talked about within the building muscle conversation, but it also plays a critical role in recovery for endurance exercise.

Protein ingestion can increase muscle protein synthesis after prolonged strenuous endurance exercise. Therefore, general nutritional guidelines to enhance recovery from exercise recommend the intake of protein to maximise post-exercise rates of muscle protein synthesis (Moore et al APNM (2014).

Your next question should be, how much?

The ingestion of 20 – 25g protein or 0.5g per kg BW in the first 30-60 minutes post-exercise is recommended. With improved recovery, athletes can help improve their overall work capacity.

I like to look at work capacity as an equation. Work capacity = effort x frequency. Through better recovery, an athlete can maintain a consistent effort and hit a higher training frequency every week, therefore, improving work capacity – a key quality for all athletes.

Here are some other superfoods to help with an individual’s performance in the form of a quick, take-home list:

Carbohydrates – the simplest form of energy and helps fuel the muscle and the brain for physical activity.

Omega 3 (EPA/DHA) 1-3g daily – assists with vasodilation, reduces inflammation and is part of cell membranes.

Iron – helps with the formation of red blood cells and can be found in meat, fish, poultry, lentils, and nuts.

Vitamin D – keeps our bones healthy, so we can become increasingly efficient in absorbing large ground reaction forces and improve the quality of our jumping/landing and running. Sources are from cold water, fish, and egg yolk.

Final thoughts

Performance is massively important to many people in the population.

Whether this is performance at work, your sport, or your hobby, nutrition can have a huge impact on how well you, as an individual, can perform.

The foods/supplements above will assist with this but should be part of a well-balanced diet.

Before experimenting with supplementation such as caffeine and Omega 3 fish oils, an individual must make sure they have the following:

  • Ability to stick to a nutritional plan consistently.
  • Develop the skill of monitoring and manipulating energy intake.
  • Create a breakdown of the macronutrients to hit said energy intake.
  • Ensure good quality food consumption (unprocessed vs processed)
  • Develop systems, schedules, and structures to hit the above points.

To enquire about The Training Room’s new level 4 nutrition qualification and to learn more about fuelling athletic performance, visit: www.thetrainingroom.com

By Myles Davies

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