Optimizing athletic performance… Are you balanced?
Optimizing athletic performance… Are you balanced? –
There is an inter-connection between the factors that effect your athletic performance: age, injury, sleep, nutrition, supplementation, and lifestyle choices. All of these factors not only contribute to your athletic performance but also influence one another. Today, more than ever, older athletes are competing at a high level. Improvements in our knowledge related to sleep, nutrition, and exercise have allowed us to continue to optimize our performance and longevity. Our body’s shape and function have been crafted by evolution and the ability to understand what our bodies require and why they require it is vital. Whether you are a young or mature competitive athlete, the better you understand your body, the longer and faster you will continue to improve.
Optimizing athletic performance… Are you balanced? – Injury and burnout are a common concern. As competitive people, our drive overcomes our body’s ability to adapt to stress. Small injuries become aggravated over time. Our thoughts and eyes face outward and we are unable to see the detriment we are doing to ourselves. We continue to do the same movements that cause us pain and eat the same food that makes us ill because we are creatures of habit. Whether you are a lifelong exercise guru or a beginning athlete, it is always good to take a step back and have others take a look at what you are doing and why you are doing it. However, especially for the long time guru, always try to think about why you are doing a movement a certain way before making changes. More experienced athletes tend to do things the way we do them because they have proven to work for our body types and physical restrictions. We think, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Optimizing athletic performance… Are you balanced? – When trying to make improvements in nutrition, always keep in mind ”limiting factors”.2 Too many athletes focus on protein intake and miss the point of a ”well balanced diet”. For example, a farmer can put as much nitrogen on his crops as he wants. However, if the soil is missing phosphorus, more nitrogen won’t help. If you’re not eating vegetables because of the way they taste, you’re not truly trying to optimize your athletic ability. It boils down to how serious you are and what are your goals. Be honest with yourself and what you really want out of life and athletics. This will allow you to be able to make changes that are obtainable and may become life long habits. ”Elite” athletes and athletes who strive to be ”Elite” tend to embrace a ”Spartan” lifestyle.1 Food for nutrition. Friends for enjoyment.
When considering workout programs, many of the same factors that complicate nutrition are also present. Further complications occur when developing workout programs during an athlete’s competitive season. For instance, when and for how long must the athlete be at their “peak”. Different sports require different time and exercise adaptations. However, all young athletes, regardless of sport, show the most benefit from training their whole body three times a week in a program that includes traditional weight training, plyometric training, and explosive weight training. One important factor to consider in this type of program for both young and seasoned athletes is the number of ground contacts and how closely and how often you are working at optimal intensity or at optimal loads in order to prevent injuries. However, plyometric programs, when done properly, actually decreases the risk of sports related injuries.3 It is obviously easier for an older athlete to make adjustments to their programs in order to adjust to minor injuries that commonly occur during intense training. Younger athletes, due to their
inexperience, often will not be able to recognize potential risks and attempt to train through them, so they require constant monitoring. When optimizing athletic performance you constantly walk a fine line between improvement and injury.
Sleep is probably the most important of all for improving and optimizing athletic ability and longevity. However, few people place emphasis on it. The more physically fit the athlete becomes the less sleep they require and the more ”focus” they’re able to obtain. For this reason, female college cross country runners have the best grades due to their elite level of cardiovascular fitness. There are a number of ways to help sleep issues from glasses to shield your eyes from blue light while studying at night to food groups to eat together before bed to keep you asleep. Remembering that regardless of how difficult it is for you to sleep, if you lay peacefully with your eyes closed, you still receive 75% of the benefits from actual sleep may be helpful.
Only after all the previous factors are optimized, should you consider sports supplements. There really is no difference between what we consider ”food” and what we call ”supplements”. We obviously do not live in a perfect world and due to busy schedules supplements may becomes imperative, in order to function at an optimal level. First, remove as many ”limiting factors” from your current program. When considering what supplements to use, always think first about what your body does and how to best supply it with what it needs.
In the next installment, we will discus how to most effectively set up a workout and nutritional program to best suit athletes of different age groups and sport specific needs.
I look forward to your questions and comments!
1. Mattson MP. Hormesis and disease resistance: activation of cellular stress response pathways. Human & experimental toxicology. 2008 Feb;27(2):155-62. 2. Gleeson M. Can nutrition limit exercise-induced immunodepression?. Nutrition reviews. 2006 Mar 1;64(3):119-31. 3. Faigenbaum AD, Schram J. Can Resistance Training Reduce Injuries in Youth Sports?. Strength & Conditioning Journal. 2004 Jun 1;26(3):16-21.
Optimizing athletic performance… Are you balanced?
Brief Bio on the Author:
Optimizing athletic performance… Are you balanced? – Jeff Galand is a 1993 Graduate of Grove City College where he played varsity football and earned a Bachelors of Science in Biology. He has coached 9 individual PIAA AAA Track&Field State Champions along with 1 National Record holder. Jeff was also was the Strength Coach and Offensive Line Coach on 2 AAAA High School Football Teams that were ranked in the Nation. Jeff has been a lifelong fitness, exercise, and health enthusiast.