Skip to main content

Why Performance Nutrition is so very important. . .

Let’s be honest. Although most of us like that our workouts make us stronger, healthier, feel better, etc., the main reason we’re doing it is to look better. We want that six-pack, tighter butt, bigger chest, bigger biceps, you name it. So, we go lift heavy weights over our heads, run fast, jump high, and work up an intense sweat. But then what happens . . .

Working out intensely gives us an intense appetite. And we think its then okay to go home and gorge ourselves on whatever we have lying around the house or what’s readily available at the local drive-through. We think to ourselves, “I must have burned thousands of calories!” Well, you actually didn’t. You probably only burned a couple hundred, no more than a slice of bread or two. And you damaged your muscle tissue enough that it is in desperate need of some branch chain amino acids (ie protein) for repair as well as some carbohydrates to facilitate the repair process.

So, why the exercise? Is it actually doing anything? Yes, it is doing quite a bit, but calorie burning is not actually the primary goal. What we are doing is building a bigger engine with the end result being to raise our overall metabolism. Muscle contains mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell. Mitochondria burn ATP for energy (this is where calories get used up) and so the more muscle you have and the more mitochondria those muscle fibers have, the higher your metabolism is. Through training, you can actually increase the concentration of mitochondria in your muscle fibers. Hence, the bigger engine. In order to build this engine, as with all maintenance and repair jobs, we need to provide our bodies with the right tools and materials.

Building muscle requires protein, lots of it. Using muscle requires energy molecules which are carbohydrates and fats. Most of us, women especially, do not get enough protein in our diets. Our American diet is rich in processed carbohydrates and we eat the bulk of these at dinner and before bed when our body is ready to shut down and store all those excess energy calories for the night. However, it’s the perfect time for muscle growth and repair so eating a meal rich in protein and vegetables before bed is a much better idea than eating a big bowl of pasta followed by dessert. Simply put, do you want your body working on the engine or beer gut while you sleep?

I read client’s food logs all the time and one of the biggest complaints I hear is that they are too hungry not to snack or have dessert after dinner. However, the majority of the snacks I see them eating are primarily carbohydrates or sugar. I also don’t see them eating nearly enough protein throughout the day so it comes as no surprise that they wanting to snack late in the day. Why? Protein is much more satiating than carbohydrates and helps control hunger. Another problem I often see is starting the day with a carbohydrate heavy breakfast such as yogurt and/or boxed cereal and fruit. This kind of breakfast offers very little protein, is high in sugar, and spikes one’s insulin levels first thing in the morning. Insulin quickly drops one's blood glucose level leaving one feeling tired and hungry. This causes decreased performance in workouts and sets in motion a bad cycle of eating throughout the day.

Increasing one's protein intake at breakfast and eating lower glycemic index carbohydrates can help stabilize one's blood sugar and insulin levels to increase performance and control hunger. Continuing this pattern with lunch, post-workout meals, and dinner will help decrease the amount of excess snacking one does towards the end of the day when we are typically more hungry and thirsty. Thirst is an important factor to consider as well as it is often mistaken for hunger. The next time you think you are hungry for a snack, try drinking a large glass of water. Your may really just be desperate for a drink. And don't save room for dessert, try having a second helping of protein and then see if you have room. There's nothing wrong with treating yourself, but don't do it if you are depriving your body of necessary building blocks.

So, how do you get that six-pack, tighter butt, bigger chest, bigger biceps, etc. without starving to death or getting a Ph.D. in nutrition? Well, the best thing to do is to keep a food journal along with your workout journal. Write down what you are eating and see if it’s working for you. If it isn’t, you need to make changes in what you are doing. After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. You need to have protein at every meal and at the bare minimum, you should be getting at least 0.8 to 1 grams of protein per pound of body weight if you are weight training. Read your food labels. See how much sugar and fiber are in your carbohydrates. You want the fiber, not the sugar. Better yet, eat foods that don’t come in packages such as fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and lean meats. Eat as close to nature as possible.

When we are on a strength and conditioning program and using good sense with our nutrition we can’t help but get stronger, faster, more healthy, and have a positive change in our body composition. It won’t show up on the scale at first so much as in the mirror and in the way our clothes fit, but building that bigger engine coupled with good nutrition will set you up for a long term body composition change that can’t be undone by a weekend away or even a family vacation at the beach. When you change your metabolism and your basic eating habits, those changes are incredibly hard to undo.

Popular posts from this blog

When to Stretch and Why

Sara Fleming, BA, MS, ISSA CFT

Stretching is generally viewed as beneficial. However, the type and timing of the stretch can have a positive or negative effect on the person doing the stretching depending on their activity. Dynamic stretching before a work out helps muscles warm up and increases their range of motion and elasticity prior to exercise. Static and/or proprio-neuromuscular-facilitation (PNF) stretching after an exercise and/or during the cool-down phase of a work-out can help restore a muscle’s range of motion after repeated contractions, correct a range of motion for correct form during a lift, and may help reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

It has been hypothesized that static stretching immediately prior to athletic competitions requiring power and force may actually diminish performance. (Shrier, 2004) In addition, Shrier hypothesizes that static stretching can cause an anesthetic (pain reducing) effect on injured muscles, increasing the performance …

Training for the Warrior Dash

Over the past couple of years, obstacle course races such as the Warrior Dash have become insanely popular.  Since I first posted about training for the Warrior Dash, I've gotten a lot of inquiries from clients and other trainers about how exactly one should train for the Warrior Dash or similar short distance obstacle course races.  I've heard people tout everything from Crossfit to P90X to not training at all as being the best way to train for one of these races, but I believe there is a middle ground that can serve far more people, especially beginners, without getting too extreme or requiring a lot of equipment.  Obviously, the best training protocol is tailored for the individual, but with a little information, its relatively easy to tweak a program for your own needs and fitness level.

The first time I saw a video of the Warrior Dash on Youtube, I thought to myself, "Those people are crazy."

I also thought, "I want to do that".  
I watched a few mo…

Next Level

So, there are those of us who work out regularly to look and feel better and improve our general health.  There are those of us who just like to lead active lives and enjoy nature and the occasional physical activity.  And then there are those of us who like to challenge themselves to push past our perceived physical limitations and see how far down the rabbit hole we can go.  While this last one is certainly an admirable pursuit, as are the other two, I must say it is the one I most commonly see go sideways.

If you are contemplating taking things to the next level with your training, you must first sit down and realistically assess what you are about to take on.  Next level training is not just about pushing yourself in the gym, but also managing your personal life, your recovery, and your expectations.  It also means knowing when to go low and slow and when to go hard.  The most common mistake a lot of people make is that they think next level means going harder all the time.  But,…