Much of the nutritional features we publish on FitMag is generally related to body composition. However, with the Olympics in full stride we wanted to talk about food and performance which is a very different topic. Just because somebody has 8% body fat and a muscle dense physique does not mean they are strong, powerful or aerobically fit. Aesthetics and function are at totally different ends of the spectrum. This is why we see some boxers in the same weight class who look shredded, and others who don’t – it doesn’t mean the guy with a higher body fat is not as functional at his sport, it is a simply a case of not caring what they LOOK like and instead focussing on what they can do.
Research shows that calories are of more importance than a particular macronutrient to provide fuel for optimum strength. This means if you were to eat 5,000 calories the day before a 1 rep max attempt with a view to energising yourself adequately, in theory is wouldn’t matter too much if they came from healthy fats or low GI carbohydrates. For strength calories are king but the calories need to be quality because the body still has to break them down and utilise them and we know junk food is often hard to digest properly.
Different people will say different things but I am a big believer in complex carbohydrates for optimised endurance levels having spent a lot of time with elite athletes from endurance sports. I know several Pro MMA and UFC fighters who use carb rich diets to keep them fuelled for their training, and fights.
Using low GI carbohydrates every 2-3 hours will provide a constant supply of energy where it can be broken down as glucose and then utilised as energy. This variety of carbohydrate also helps prevent blood sugar dips which are one of the most common ways to experience a rapid loss in energy during endurance sports.
How much should I eat for maximum performance is the question! Unfortunately it is one of those ‘’how long is a piece of string’’ questions where it totally depends on the genetics of the athlete AND the sport.
For power events I would personally recommend 20-25 calories per pound of body weight to drive energy levels up with at least 1g of protein per pound of body weight and the rest coming from healthy fats and low GI carbohydrates – right before the event a carbohydrate source which digests quicker would also be favourable.
For endurance events I would in some instances recommend more, but we will say between 20-30 calories per pound of body weight pre-competition OR during high intensity training periods. I would recommend a similar level of protein, yet most of the remaining calories would come from low GI carbohydrates. The only time a faster digesting carbohydrates is required would be post-exercise where they will aid recovery.
Eating with performance in mind doesn’t always mean you will LOOK your best, however as you can see the chances are you will still look athletic!!