Jill here - I talk to many people from all levels of competition about their nutrition and their performance goals. In my initial consult I ask a fair amount of questions about meal planning, shopping, food preparation and cooking.
What I’m doing is building a profile of how that individual thinks and acts around food; how much time they allocate to it, if they have help and where it currently fits within their attention economy.
Clients are always motivated to change but it’s the above profile that is the most accurate prediction of success.
This is why my #1 unsexy performance nutrition tip by 100 miles is…
1. Get Organized– athletes eat a lot especially if you're an endurance athlete. You have to think about what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat plus you have to gather the ingredients, chop said ingredients, cook, eat and clean up.
It’s so much sexier to plan a great training session where you sweat and feel that you’ve achieved something. You can look at your heart rate, your power output or graphs that show you where your performance is in relation to a mountain of other data. You get immediate feedback and reward and I bet you really like that.
Sitting down to create a weekly meal plan - lunch, dinner, recovery and snacks - making an ingredient list and then actually going out to shop is all very unsexy with no immediate performance reward. (And you’re right I didn’t include breakfast in that list because I know you eat your oats right?)
But it’s a game changer. It’s THE game changer and It’s worth investing your time and attention.
But not too much of it….
All my clients will tell you that my performance nutrition plans, including recipes are simple, tasty, store well, freeze well and require little in the kitchen skill department.
I’m an imperfect cook but I’m a really organized one. I have our lunches, dinners and snacks clear in my head days in advance and I shop accordingly. I also have an abundance of ‘get out of jail’ leftovers labeled and ready to go in the freezer, along with frozen training bars.
My advice - develop ‘kitchen economy’. Where do you currently waste time? Can you find 15-30 minutes a day? We can do a lot with that!
2. Accept a certain amount of nutritional boredom – most of us rotate recipes and snacks for a time before we start getting bored, then we incorporate new ones.
Performance nutrition and variety have an uneasy relationship. You might want performance, taste and variety but routine is an asset in the performance kitchen so it's best to accept a certain amount of 'sticking with what works' for a while.
But you know what’s not boring - leaning down, getting stronger, feeling better and sleeping like a champion.
I try to send a new recipe to my roster of clients every week, I’d rather they spend the time preparing food than sourcing new recipes that fit well in a performance kitchen.
3. Become a gut detective – it’s sexier to calculate how many calories you think you need, your macronutrient ratio or how much fat or carbohydrate you are burning. The reward of giving yourself that big tick for meeting your daily or weekly targets is real!
Don’t get me wrong, that stuff is important but what’s way more important is to be aware of your appetite, your cravings and how comfortable your gut is.
Your appetite is one of the greatest barometers of a target calorie or macronutrient load but we’re trained to ignore it, suppress it or deny it. It shows up however, to our chagrin, via mood changes, gut discomfort, weakness, loss of power, poor decision-making, erratic sleep…but hey, we’re not hungry!
We do know when we’ve got gut discomfort though. Bloating, nausea, wind, constipation or irritable bowel are familiar complaints. Your gut is a complicated piece of anatomy but when we really listen to it and do some detective work we can usually figure out what the problem is.
4. Build micro-nutrition habits over time – in so many ways we are primed to reward only the big change, the all or nothing approach, the big declaration of ‘I am… losing weight…stopping sugar…or committing 100% to this plan…or that plan”.
This can work for some folks. However, as a way to create sustainable change it’s rare.
Always remember that big nutrition goals rely on multiple micro-nutrition habits repeated over time.
It’s like slowly increasing the temperature under a saucepan of water. It’s doesn’t come to the boil quickly but when it does....
Remember you're bringing yourself to a boil so settle in and steady away.
5. Thermoses and wide mouth flasks - tupperware containers of all shapes and sizes, lunch bags, snack bags, bars strategically tucked away in glove boxes and bags are all unsexy…no wait a minute…that’s totally sexy!
There’s no APP or roadmap that captures how to make performance nutrition work for you. It's a lot of trial and error but that’s where the magic is. When you learn to combine subjective and objective data, when you start to hone in on your performance nutrition sweet spot that’s when it moves to a new level.
Best of all you created it, you tested it and lived it. You listened to your gut, you accepted a bit of nutrition routine, you built micro-nutrition habits that work for you and dammit you have a fabulous supply of frozen dinners, training bars, tubberware containers and thermos flasks!
Interested in performance nutrition? It works for life on 2-feet as well as life on 2-wheels you know! Check out what we do or contact me firstname.lastname@example.org