Every great athlete knows that performance is secondary to healthy living. You simply cannot reach your long-term fitness goals if you are abusing your body with poor health practices. Basically, before you even focus on performance goals, you need to create a solid foundation of healthy living. Starting from this solid base is sure to make you a better athlete.
Here are my top tips for a healthier life.
Drink More Water!
Sure, during training you pay attention to what you drink, but most of us don’t drink enough water outside of training sessions. That water helps flush waste through the body, revitalize cells, replace lost water and improve digestion. Set an alarm on your phone or outlook at regular intervals to remind you to sip throughout the day. 8 – 10 glasses are suggested, but it really depends on how much your living conditions (temp/ elevation) and how much water rich foods you consume.
Decrease Processed Foods
Athletes can easily get in the habit of eating lots of sport nutrition food. These items are great when in intense training, but they cannot replace nutrient rich real, whole foods. Take time to grocery shop, meal prep and consume a diet that is rich in colorful produce, complex carbohydrates, healthful fats and a mix of animal and plant proteins.
Positive Self Image
Athletes are always competing against themselves and others. The constant pressure put on winning or achieving personal bests, along with the intense pressure to always look fit and toned can be draining, discouraging and lead to poor self-confidence. Get in a good headspace by focusing on the process, journey and surrounding yourself with positivity.
I know, you are an athlete! But many of us forget to move our bodies outside our sport. Runners, cyclists and swimmers are examples of athlete who miss out by only doing their specific sport. Play tennis or basketball, take an aerobics class, commute by bike, take a walk, do some gardening/ chores, or add cross training to hit new muscle groups and keep your metabolism high.
Too many athletes opt for bland, plain foods in hopes that keeping a strict, boring diet will reduce cravings, be easy to manage and reduce calories. While you shouldn’t drown your food in processed sauces, you should shake on salt, spices, herbs, oils and vinegars! Not only do these items add a pop of flavor to make food interesting and enjoyable, but they have health benefits too! Herbs and spices are loaded with phytonutrients to reduce inflammation, vinegars help control cravings and blood sugar levels and oils help your body absorb fat soluble nutrients.
No, I don’t mean go faster… I mean actually fast, from food. This is a hard concept to embrace, but the research is in favor of fasting to support a large amount of health outcomes. Start by going 10 hours a day (night), without any food or drink that contains calories to give the gastric system a chance to rest. As you get more comfortable with 10 hours, you can start to increase that towards 14-16 hours 5 days a week.
Recovery happens when you rest. Most athletes benefit from at least 8 hours of shut eye. While not everyone has the luxury of more sleep, we can all get better sleep. Install black out shades, put on a sleep mask, try a meditation app, turn the phone off, play sleep sounds, or use earplugs to help you get the best nights rest.
Acute stress, like the quick flight or fight response or impact from a day’s run is good stress. It causes your body to react fast to repair cells and come back stronger. However, chronic stress has a very different impact on the body. When we are exposed to ongoing stressors (life in general, #AmmIRITE?!), it causes inflammation leading to poor hormone and glucose regulation and promotes many negative health outcomes. Learn to limit stress’s harmful impact by having a more positive mindset, implementing self-care, and eating a diet rich in fibers and antioxidants.
It isn’t realistic to get everything our bodies need each and every day through food. We simply cannot eat that much variety in a single day to meet the high needs of very active bodies. Most of us don’t like every single food (broccoli?! Ick!), cannot afford certain items (Acai berries! No way!), or simply do not have access to high quality ingredients (wild salmon? I live in the desert!), and therefore miss out on nutrients supplied by those items. Supplements can be a great way to enhance performance but also to create a healthy foundation and make sure we don’t neglect hard to get nutrients (Iron, Vit D, CoQ10…). A daily vitamin can be an excellent way to cover your bases, but all vitamins are not created equally. Opt for one like Swisse Wellness Daily Ultivite which has two versions (to hit the unique needs of different genders) and supplies 50 high quality naturally derived compounds to help support and maintain health.
Following these tips will help your body and mind be healthier day to day which will lead to the ability to push your body beyond previous limits and obtain those optimal performance results!