Your Last Meal

Do you remember the last meal you ate before you read this article? It may surprise you to learn that your reading of this article may be different depending on what you ate. Olympians and nutrition experts know better than anyone else; “you’re only as good as your last meal”.

Cereal

The Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado has a cafeteria the size of a food court where new ideas about sports nutrition are tested by the athletes in pursuit of a nutritional advantage over the competition. Dietitians and staff from the OTC cafeteria accompanied U.S. athletes to London this past summer for the first time–where the U.S. won more medals than ever before.

Athletes are driven to achieve on a daily basis so that they might achieve at competitions. But what about the rest of us? It may not be emphasized as much to the recreational athlete or the average person, but your performance in everything is really “Only as good as your last meal.” Whether you are trying to parent well, study well, compete well, or do well at your job, your performance is impacted by your fuel.

The same process used for the Olympians can be applied to change your view about your lifestyle:

1. Know your current status. Determine your body composition, resting metabolic rate, nutrient levels, possible deficiencies, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, glucose levels, and hydration tendencies. Look at your family medical history and take appropriate tests, such as skin screenings for cancer or iodine levels that may indicate low thyroid function. Know where you need to work, and know where you’re doing well.

2. Take what you learn and address it. For the Olympians, the main problems they see are low vitamin D and low iron. Depending on your situation these may not be a problem for you. Educate yourself using reliable sources about different approaches to addressing the problem. Commit to an approach–for most problems I suggest choosing what poses the least risk.

3. Learn to love whole foods. (This does not necessarily mean the store!) Derivatives of foods are almost always less nutritious than the originals. Powders, for example, may provide some benefit, but the original foods from whence they came provide more.

4. Plan. Every day is unique; your diet should follow the trend. Vary your diet according to your day. The phrase in athletics for this is “nutritional periodization”. Athletes vary time of meal, ratio of fats:carbohydrates:proteins, and calories according to their training. As for practical steps: get the bulk of your daily calories before the bulk of your daily calorie expenditure (always eat a good breakfast!), and after calorie expenditure snack on a little protein.

5. Experiment wisely. When you hear claims about supplements, do your research before you consider taking them. That said, every individual is uniquely made; the intricacies of your physiology are something you can know if you pay attention. You have the power to observe how different eating and exercise plans effect you. If you follow steps 1 and 2 so you do not harm your body, feel free to be your own case study. Just keep careful notes and educate yourself beforehand.

runner

Drink water often! (Photo credit: Јason)

6. Drink more water. Top notch athletes and Olympians have tailor-made sports drinks because of their unique needs. If you are not exercising intensely enough to see salt rings from your sweat during exercise, you most likely have no need for a sports drink. I recommend starting to drink the stereotypical 8 glasses per day, especially if you are exercising. (Don’t give up on the fruit and vegetables, but don’t rely on them for water.) Hydrate when you wake up, before and/or after meals, and before and after exercise.

7. Foods are not friends, but fuel. Athletes are under a lot of stress. They don’t drink alcoholic beverages to control it, and are taught not to eat for comfort. I recommend the same; find other measures to manage stress besides food or alcohol.

8. Like Nike says, “Just Do It”. You’re worth it, your family is worth it, the nation is worth it. Commit and follow through.

Take a cue from the Olympians. If “you’re only as good as your last meal,” better make it a wise one.

References:

http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/nutrition/The-Secret-Food-of-Athletes.html

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~ by danclaps on June 3, 2013.

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