Athletes eat and train. They don’t diet and exercise. You may have seen that meme somewhere floating about the internet or right here. It is true. Athletes have a goal in mind and a training plan in which to get there, some as long as 4 years long if you think about Olympic athletes. And they often don’t think about dieting (however they too can fall prey to marketing bs)
What can you take away from this process? Start thinking about your nutrition as a way to fuel your body for performance and maximizing your training sessions. We forget that nutrition is all about fueling our bodies so that we can perform in our workouts. Instead we hyper focus on how many calories “x” workout or exercise burns. We don’t take the time to enjoy the process and strive for performance goals.
Take for example, Michael Phelps, aside from his regular intense training he was taking in a reportedly 10,000 calories per day. Now while we wouldn’t be able to sustain that type of nutrition plan, there are many things we can take away from how athletes set up their nutrition that can apply to us.
It all starts with a certain mindset
An athletes body much like yours is a machine, thus athletes eat in order to fuel that machine. You can do the same thing. Performance is tops on their list, as it should be for you too.
Get a piece of paper out and write down something you want to achieve, something that is a performance goal. The idea behind this is to get away from the generalized goals of losing weight or building muscle, or getting stronger. Those are great and all, but it’s pretty subjective as to when those may end, or how you would go about measuring that you accomplished those. Pick something tangible, like doing a strict pull-up? Maybe your goal is to do a pull-up for the first time. That gives you something to strive for that has an end, or maybe it’s to deadlift a certain weight. Again, you have something to train for.
The more you think about attaining that performance goal, and fueling yourself to get there, the less your focus actually is on food and making yourself crazy over what you’re eating.
Relationship with Food
Do you have a positive relationship with food? Or a negative one? As a client said to me, “food should be fun.” She is absolutely right. Food should be fun and you should be able to enjoy your food. If you can’t, then whats the point. Being healthy and eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring or bland. Ask yourself:
“Do I have a positive relationship with food?”
A positive relationship starts with not demonizing certain nutrients or certain foods. That also includes not skipping meals, or thinking that all food is evil. There are no good or bad foods, just ones that bring us closer or further away from our goals. We’re quick to demonize this food or that nutrient, with the idea that somehow ONE thing has to be our downfall. For example, how many of us define carbs as evil? That just thinking about them will make us fat. When the truth is, your body actually thrives on carbs, and athletes look at carbs as an energy source, as fuel (noticing a trend). Our bodies crave carbs because they are what our muscles and brain rely on to work.
What comes next is a gross over analyzation of everything that goes in our body. While you should be aware or mindful about what you put in your body, avoid making it so complicated that you worry about every little thing that goes in.
Avoid looking for the quick fixes. This is due to the fact that, in order to get to where they want to be in their sport, there likely aren’t any LEGAL quick fixes. They know that their training and the subsequent nutrition associated with it is a long term process and no shortcuts exist that will get them there. When results don’t happen instantaneously, they don’t give up. There is a bigger picture. We often get so wrapped up in what we want the end result to be and when we expect it to happen by, that we lose sight of the bigger picture, or we forget how far we’ve actually come.
Look at it this way, training for the Olympics is about a minimum of a 4 year process, in most cases these athletes have been training and fueling that training process their entire lives. Athletes don’t give up halfway through because they haven’t achieved what they wanted to. They keep pushing, staying consistent with their training and nutrition. Athletes embrace the journey. So should you.
In addition to everything that athletes do that is associated with nutrition, their approach to training is quite different than how we see it. Where one would see needing to get beat down and be exhausted after each and every workout, or put in two a days, or longer workouts, athletes solely look at training as a way to get better, as a way to get stronger. It’s about being a better athlete.
Eat food to fuel performance, food is awesome so don’t skip meals, be mindful, quit looking for shortcuts, and above all else enjoy the journey.