“My body is my temple!”
You’ve heard that one before. You’ve probably even subscribed to that motto once upon time by strategically placing endless hours of energy into perfecting form, building muscle (and mind) for race day, calculating sleep for recovery and fueling for that long ride or row. From pitching oars to the degree to analyzing wind and current, we athletes can become hyper-focused on “dialing” things to improve our performance.
When it comes to nutrition, however, even though most of us think we “eat well”, how conscious are we really? Although not a nutritionist, my own experimentation as an athlete and work with others has shown me that taking small, yet powerful steps, can make what we eat truly work for us.
Keep in mind, my focus here is not to talk about calorie consumption or weight loss, but more about how easily we grab that Subway or other quick fix sandwich stacked with processed meats and chemically “infused” vegetables instead of taking 5 minutes that morning to pack some organic whole grain bread with “clean” meats, veggies and cheese wedged in-between. We’ll eat a bar made in a plant, instead of choosing a locally grown apple and raw almonds to tide us over until our next main meal. We think that coffee, alcohol and sugar are “OK” if we put in a 10-mile row that morning. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “a salad won’t fill me up” or “I need tons of protein every meal to be strong!” First, our perceptions about how much protein and where we get it are often skewed, and second, no matter how we’re doing – we can do better.
Let’s look honestly at how much time, energy and money we spend on our quest for increased fitness, speed or strength and compare it to how much we think about something we do three or more times a day – eat!
Pop quiz: How’s Your Diet?
- Do you eat at least three raw, organic fruits or vegetables a day?
- Do you think through your carbohydrate, protein and plant ratio?
- Are you consuming a nutritional shake or vegetable juice daily?
If you answered no to any one of these there’s room for improvement! Here are some ideas.
- Prepare for the day and pack the appropriate food. Buying well made, reusable containers and having a stacked pantry will make it easy to bring snacks with you. Nuts, seeds, dried fruit travel well. Conventional stores often won’t have what you need – a health food store or Whole Foods will.
- Look for the USDA Organic symbol. Eating organic will help reduce your body’s need to fight heavily used chemicals/toxins on conventional produce lending more energy to healing your body from that tough workout. Even though these chemicals come in micro doses, their frequent ingestions leads to macro exposure.
- High quality food is more nutritious and often more satisfying. This can helps save money and time.
- Pay attention to what makes you feel good and what doesn’t. For example, common allergens like dairy and gluten can drag your energy and performance down. Go 2-3 weeks eliminating the suspected allergen from your diet. Then add it back in and see how you feel.
- Take back the control. Cook for yourself and your family knowing every ingredient that goes into your body is your choice.
- Buy seasonal fruits and veggies (preferably organic even if imported). When available find your nearest Farmers’ Market or look for tags in the store on what’s seasonal.
- If you choose to drink alcohol, make it the “clean” stuff like high-quality Tequila, hard cider or organic wines. Skip the mixers and opt for a splash of fresh juice and soda water instead.
Food, like air and water, are our daily intakes. Make what you do every day as high quality as possible. If you’re going to sweat hard, it’s worth eating smart, too.