My role within Taranaki Rugby, and now ‘The Chiefs’, is a ‘Performance Nutritionist’.
The word ‘performance’ covers many bases.
I like the idea of using food and nutrition to improve performance. Given I am a physical being myself, I understand when ‘performance’, and wanting to improve it, is related to sport and exercise.
A lot of people want to maximise their performance on game day, or for a specific event. Although this makes sense, it’s like getting advice on completing an Iron Man when you’re running 5-kilometres through the park.
What you do on the day of the event is certainly important, but your training and nutrition leading up to it, in my opinion, should be your initial priority. If you don’t train or refuel smart then you’re dancing with the chance of injury, getting sick or psyching yourself and missing the event. If you prioritise training and refueling like a machine, hello to the potential of a personal best sporting performance.
The way to fuel a training program depends on black and white, but also the grey areas.
To me, the black and white areas are things like – type of exercise, current body composition, the duration and frequency of training sessions and estimated requirements to complete the performance. This is textbook information.
If you know the role of macro-nutrients in your sport you can fuel the black and white. Carbohydrates are an easy fuel for the body and brain to utilise, protein helps our muscles, fat is a concentrated source of energy that may help hormone production and the decrease of inflammatory markers. The amount, and timing of macro-nutrients is what changes.
The grey areas are things like - understanding of nutrition principles, desire to change body composition, relationship with food, current eating behaviours, appetite, triggers to eat, ability to cook, budget, hormones, physical demands and commitments outside the sport. This is not textbook information but it’s what makes us human. Although harder to factor into a training program, the ‘grey’ needs to be.
Once you have identified the event that gets your wheels spinning, think about the training required to get you there. If you know how active you are going to be, have identified and factored in your grey areas then start thinking about fueling your training.
The importance of food and nutrition is overlooked by many, but you try driving a car with the wrong fuel.