Fueling for High Performance

December 15, 2009

When you start fueling for high athletic performance, you are entering a new state of mind. You begin to view your body as something to be fed, nurtured, and tended to. You start to really know that if you are good to your body, your body will be good to you.

When we talk about high-performance sports, we’re including anything from a CrossFit-style strength workout, training for a marathon, or a dedicated fitness plan that focuses on weight loss or competition.

Check out the following for some of the best overall tips on how to eat for a sports-oriented life—focusing on the Chef by Request zone-style or Performance Paleo diets.  

Increase the quality of your food. Replace processed food with fruits, vegetables, animal proteins, and good fats and oils. Eat animal protein (protein is the body’s basic building block) to help the body repair itself. Carbo-load with fruits and vegetables instead of pasta (carbs are your body’s basic energy source). Eat the right kind of fats (oils high in omega-3, fish, avocados) for long-lasting energy, especially for endurance sports. “When you’re eating clean, the body processes all these foods efficiently and takes the nutrition it needs to feed muscles,” says Rob Martin, owner of CrossFit West Seattle.

Eat the right amount of calories. Controlling portion size and knowing how much to eat for your body type and workout volume is essential. The right amount of calories keeps your energy and blood sugar levels balanced, which lets you bring your best self to your workouts and training. So how do you figure out the right amount of calories? If you’re a Chef by Request customer, all meals are custom-proportioned to fit your height, weight, activity level and weight-loss goals. Otherwise, you can do a Web search for a calorie calculator (and then apply the 40-30-30 rule to your calories). Or, you can do as Martin suggests: contact a nutritionist who has experience working with high-performance athletes. You can play around with your diet to see what works. “If you pay attention to what you’re eating and how much you’re eating, you’ll become more in tune with your performance,” says Scott Schactler, a coach at Northwest Crossfit. One way to stay consistent and see what works is to try Chef by Request meals: they are all pre-portioned.

Prepare pre-workout meals. Don’t go to the gym or hit the running trails on empty. A pre-workout meal gives your body essential resources to work from. Schactler suggests eating 20 to 30 minutes before a workout—try something like an apple, two slices of turkey, and six almonds. Or have a shake that you like (a pre-made or homemade one). For some of you, creating a pre-workout meal will take practice. Start small and build up. Experiment a bit to see what works.

Remember post-workout meals. Eating after a workout is one of the most important rules for sports performance. Recovery is a crucial part of training (including rest days and sleep), and fueling your body after it’s been depleted and maxed-out lets it repair and get stronger, faster, and build endurance. Martin suggests eating a 40-30-30 meal of carbs, animal protein, and fat within the first couple of hours after a strength training workout (he often has whole milk or chocolate milk immediately afterward). If you’ve gone on a long run or bike ride, you’ll want to get unprocessed sugar to your muscles in the first half hour after exercise. Schactler suggests a couple palmfuls of good starchy food like sweet potatoes, yams, or raisins. Follow that up with a balanced meal an hour or two later.

Eat multiple times during the day. Five healthful meals a day helps you get in all of your daily nutrients from a variety of food sources. “Eating a zone diet gives you an idea of how your body runs,” says Schactler. “You become more in tune with your performance if you pay attention to what you’re eating and how much you’re eating.”

You don’t have to do it perfectly. Martin, a Chef by Request customer, has been eating the zone-style diet now for five months. He gives himself one day each week when he can eat and drink whatever he wants. And he kept the coffee part of his diet. The benefits of combining this new eating lifestyle with his CrossFit workouts have been huge.

“My energy level is higher and stays straight all day long,” he says. “I have not been able to find anything to lean me out like these two programs have. I’m 42 and in the best shape of my adult life.”


Want to read more?
Nutrition information at the main CrossFit Web site
The Paleo Diet for Athletes” by Loren Cordain and joe Friel
The Zone” by Barry Sears


More links:
Get Chef by Request’s Performance Paleo meals.
Get Chef by Request’s zone-inspired meals.
Read about Chef by Request’s partnership with CrossFit.
Get healthy and fit: Sign up!


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