By: Tone House Director of Sports Nutrition, Ryan Turner, RD, CSSD

When it comes to continuing to perform at a high level, it’s not just about how heavy can you lift, how fast you can bear crawl, or only hitting macro targets. It’s about achieving a holistic balance that encompasses your entire well-being. Nutrition plays a pivotal role in this equation, providing the fuel for your body, energy for your mind, and support for your muscles. A holistic approach, at least to nutrition covers brain energy, metabolism, and muscle building.

What is the opposite of holistic athletic performance? It would be a fragmented or reactive approach. This is when you as an athlete might focus solely on one aspect of performance, such as building muscle, while neglecting other critical factors like endurance, recovering physically but neglecting mental health, or proper nutrition for muscle recovery but not for heart health or blood sugar control. This narrow focus can lead to imbalances, injuries, burnout, and a lack of fulfillment in your athletic pursuits.

Holistic athletic performance involves an all encompassing approach that recognizes the interplay between training, mental well-being, and prioritized nutrition to achieve not only peak performance but also long-term health and satisfaction in an athlete’s athletic journey.

Let’s focus on nutrition here and delve into meal timing, nutrient timing around workouts, and offer practical meal examples and snack ideas that cater to these multifaceted goals.

Prioritized Food Choices for Holistic Fueling:

To support both physical and mental demands, it’s essential to make beneficial food choices by prioritizing essential macronutrients and micronutrients, like protein, fiber, beneficial fats, magnesium, zinc, sodium, potassium, and so much more. Protein shakes, bars, the work food pantry, and salad bowls only when you’re hungry and remember to eat, likely won’t cut it. It may feel obvious, but it takes preparation and planning to pull it off. Many times it may be food prepping, setting reminders and blocking off your calendar to eat, also may be delaying gratification and finding that balance between satisfaction and biological need. 

Here’s how you can structure your daily nutrition:

1. Breakfast: Start the Mind & Body

– Kickstart your day with a breakfast that provides sustainable energy for both body and mind. This should be high protein and fiber with carbohydrate dependent on your work load. 

   – Try a bowl of oatmeal combined with Greek yogurt, scoop protein powder, mixed frozen berries, topped with pumpkin seeds. This combo offers complex carbohydrates, protein, and beneficial fats. Switch it up with a three, at least, whole egg veggie scramble with a generous bowl of berries. 

2. Lunch: Supporting Physical Performance and Recovery

   – Midday is when your body needs a refueling boost to power through workouts and daily activities.

   – Opt for a lean protein source like grilled chicken or tofu, paired with quinoa and a variety of colorful veggies. Many fast casual restaurants offer this – so just make it happen. This meal offers protein, complex carbs, and essential vitamins and minerals. Change it up with a poke bowl.

3. Dinner: Further Recovery and Muscle Support

   – Dinner is the time to aid further muscle recovery and prep for the next day. If you ate properly throughout the day hunger should be controlled and you can make food decisions based on your body’s needs, personal satisfaction, and satiety – versus binging on an energy dense takeout meal. 

   – Consider baked salmon with roasted sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli. Salmon provides omega-3s for brain health, while sweet potatoes offer complex carbs for sustained energy. I’m big on “sheet tray meals”; on a sheet tray put lean protein and two handfuls of raw veg, bake for about 20 min at 375° and pair with some microwaved rice.

Strategic Snacking:

Prioritize meal times, though snacks are opportunities to provide your body with additional nutrition and maintain steady blood sugar, neurotransmitters in the brain for focus and attention, and energy levels throughout the day.

– Pre-Workout Snack: Fuel up before exercise with a banana and a handful of almonds. The banana offers quick-acting carbohydrates, while almonds provide healthy fats and protein.

– Post-Workout Snack: After a workout, if meal time is delayed for more than two hours, choose a RTD (ready to drink) whey protein shake or make your own protein smoothie with spinach, frozen berries, and a scoop of whey protein. This combo replenishes glycogen stores and supports muscle recovery. A good alternative is a chewable snack like a protein bar with at least 20-25 grams protein and pair it up with fruit.

Nutrient Timing:

Timing your nutrient intake can optimize both physical and mental performance:

– Pre-Workout: Consume a meal or snack at least 2-3 hours before your workout. This provides sustained energy during your training session. Don’t forget to hydrate as well.

– Post-Workout: There are benefits to consuming food for recovery as close to the end of the workout as possible, but at least plan refuel within about two after exercise with a mix of protein and carbohydrates. This timing aids muscle recovery and replenishes energy stores. I love a burrito or sushi as my post workout weekend meal to kickoff recovery. Replace those fluids with water as well.

-Late meals: there’s no magic to eating within windows of time, but it can help create structure and making more beneficial food choices. My clients have benefited from planning to end meals within three hours of bedtime for a more restful sleep. Let’s also be honest, most food choices after your last meal of the day don’t tend be inline with your goals. Again, just helps create mindfulness and structure when needed. 

Incorporate these nutrition practices into your daily routine, but remember that individual needs may vary. Listen to your body’s cues and adjust your nutrition plan accordingly. Hydration also plays a vital role in holistic athletic performance, so be sure to drink water regularly throughout the day.

Holistic athletic performance requires a thoughtful approach to nutrition that encompasses brain energy, metabolism, and muscle building. By prioritizing your food choices with nutrient-rich foods, strategically timing your nutrient intake, and including prioritized snacks, you’ll be well on your way to unlocking your full athletic potential. So, fuel your body and mind, and watch as your performance reaches new heights. Here’s to your journey of prioritized food choices and holistic athletic success! 

Interested in discussing your unique nutrition game plan with Ryan? Book a complimentary 20 minute discovery call to discuss your goals & learn how we can support you!

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