Performance nutrition is one of those topics—like politics and religion—varying thoughts and opinions that no one can completely agree upon.
The running community swears by carb loading, prior to a big race.
The yoga community feels clean and pure on a vegan or vegetarian regime.
The CrossFit community is divided—Paleo, Zone, or ‘Who cares? Eat donuts!’ methodologies.
The NBA promotes Sprite and Gatorade as beverages of choice—quench your thirst (over water).
The NFL advertises Doritos and Pepsi during its annual Superbowl spotlights.
Body-builders adhere to a strict regime of 5-6 small meals per day—primarily protein and some carbohydrate, little fat, properly timed (egg whites and oatmeal, chicken and broccoli, fish and a small sweet potato, protein shakes galore).
And your average gym junkies buy into the latest and greatest in marketing for protein powders, protein bars and pre-workout cocktails.
Not to mention the constant debates over the “best” pre and post-workout options for anyone:
- Is it carbs?
- A piece of fruit?
- A protein shake?
- BCAA’s and creatine?
- A 2:1 Carb-to-protein ratio?
- Real food—like a chicken breast, over processed bars and shakes?
What do you choose?!
Over the years, my personal methodologies and beliefs have changed and shifted as much as a rolling tide.
- For years, I adhered to the 30-minute-window belief that, immediately post-workout, I neeeeeeeeded to down a protein shake if I wanted to reap the benefits of my gym pump.
- I went through a stage of fasted training—having eaten a big, late dinner the night before—feeling best training in the morning on an empty stomach.
- Real food post workout became my solo option: Chicken and avocado; Or, ground turkey and a little bit of sweet potato—avoiding powders and bars at all costs (fake food).
- There was a time, pre-workout—within 15 minutes—I had to consume some fruit for quick sugar, and immediately post-workout, I indulged in a smoothie made with peanut butter, protein powder, ice and water.
- Then, I was told by another coach to NEVER to eat fruit around a workout—that it processed completely different in my body, and the carbs and fuel would not be processed appropriately by my liver in order to reap any benefits of muscle or performance gain.
- There was even a time, I never ate anything at all post-workout—opting just for my next meal—be it 2 or 3 hours later.
What about you? What have you believed? What guidelines have you followed? What have become the ‘end-all-be-all’ rules to proper performance for yourself (and ‘gainz’…because, after all, we all want gains right—to get something out of our time in the gym).
With all the conflicting views—heck, performance nutrition CAN be downright confusing, and more complicated than politics and religion.
And there are so many programs and guidelines to follow!
- Most recently, I’ve been hearing a lot about RP Strength and Eat to Perform within the CrossFit community
- You have the Zone, as mentioned above
- Performance Paleo nutrition
- Carb back-loading
- Bullet-proof diet
- Intermittent fasting
- com’s host of bro-science guidelines
I’m here to clear up a few things.
The BOTTOM LINE though?
It’s NOT rocket science.
Before reading on, take a deep breath and….I want you to completely erase (forget) anything you’ve learned or believed about performance nutrition to date.
With a fresh perspective and open-mind…let’s approach this topic with a new set of eyes and mindset to truly get the MOST out of your nutrition.
The KEY factors; the secret sauce to the BEST performance nutrition for you?
- Consistency; And
- Listening to YOUR body
It does NOT get any more simple than that (particularly when consistency is involved).
If you REALLY want to know what the best nutrition approach for you is to take your training to the next level…make gains…or reach particular goals…
Try one approach…stick to it—consistently for at least 30 (but preferably 90+ days)…and listen to your body—how it responds.
So a particular rule tells you fruit is bad for you, and if you are going to eat any carbs, they should be carbs like a sweet potato, only directly after a workout…BUT you find yourself dragging your butt to the gym most days…or relying on false sources of energy (like energy drinks or caffeine)? Perhaps you a person who does benefit from a little bit of sugar pre-workout.
Or another rule tells you that you HAVE to drink a protein shake for results post-workout, but instead of a flat stomach…all you are left with is a bloated stomach, gas and indigestion (instead of that six pack).
Or yet, another rule on your performance diet tells you that grains are completely off limits—no rice, no oats,. But you find yourself lacking some power, or struggling to build—and keep on muscle with your low carb: protein intake. Perhaps a little bit of white rice or some steel cut oats could actually benefit you.
You get the picture.
Instead of relying so heavily on what you “should” or “shouldn’t” do—how about customizing your protocol to what your body wants to do?
Most recently, my goals in the gym have continued to involve building strength and some muscle to be able to hold my own on the barbell.
I love training for function and the possibilities of what my body is capable of doing, the more and more I take care of it.
In order to do that, I was recently introduced to the idea that perhaps, maybe just maybe, a little bit of extra carbohydrate in my daily diet could really help me benefit with these goals.
Simply by adding a little bit of fruit with my breakfast, butternut squash (hash), or my famous homemade banana pancakes—with my eggs or sausage and avocado has begun to make a big difference in how I feel when I approach the barbell: Feeling stronger to back-squat 80-90% of my 1 rep max 5-10 times with a little extra ease; pressing weight over my head for a set of 5-8 that used to be a struggle for 3-4 reps like a breeze…While I am no CrossFit Games athlete, nor do I monitor my ‘PRs’ or stats religiously—I take notice in how I feel during my workouts, and have definitely been feeling on my A-game.
In addition, for about the past six months, I had cut out protein powders completely from my diet—after 10+ years of drinking protein shakes regularly around workouts, I really wanted to give my body a break from the instant source of quick protein—made in a lab.
I have been through the gamut when it comes to trying every protein powder under the sun over the years.
However, I had noticed, I was lacking some energy in my day to day—and it was because I had eliminated 1-2 protein shakes from my diet, eating three balanced meals per day.
While there are plenty of other options aside from powders, for my busy, on-the-go lifestyle, a protein powder makes most sense to shake up and go on with my day until the next meal approaches.
That being said, I said ‘hello’ again to one of the only formulas that has settled personally best on my own stomach and body: Progenex—a hydrolyzed whey protein.
I’ve been on the fence with this stuff—back and forth—feeling like I am not eating ‘real food’ by choosing this powder…but at the end of the day, for this season of my training…it is honestly what works best for my body.
No, I am not magically growing muscles over night, but the formula not only settles best on my stomach (no bloating, no gas, no nausea), but also has a little bit of carbohydrate mixed in with that protein for the proper assimilation and energy use by my body.
In other words: It’s what works for me right now–and genuinely makes my body feel empowered.
So now it’s your turn.
What works for you?!
The BEST approach to your own performance nutrition is experimenting with various templates, and customizing your own protocol—based on your goals, your training and fitness of choice, and your body’s response.
Side note: I will attest that there IS a basic, no-duh-Sherlock template for every human body (and that is, as you well know: REAL FOOD for the majority of your meals and diet).
However, as an athlete, trainee or weekend warrior—with performance goals in mind—I will also be the first to attest that a ‘little dirt never hurt’. (And I am not talking about donuts here people; but more so the ‘gray areas’, such as grains—like rice and oats, for some, even bread; protein powders; and fruit).
How to structure this with the just-right balance? What about macros? What about calorie needs? Protein needs? Carb needs?
Additional information on holistic performance nutrition to come in Part 2.
Looking for guidance around customizing your personal performance nutrition plan?
Contact me for a free 30-minute consult to chat your goals, your sport or fitness, and your nutrition blueprint to best support your body.