Mind and nutrition
Do you have your pre-comp nutrition habits down to a science?
The best way to prepare nutritionally for a competition is to establish nutrition habits well before the competition, and then simply keep them the same. This way you will have one less thing to think about as competition nears, which in itself can lower hindering stress. So let’s start with these simple tactics and
1) create a new relationship with food
2) increase your body’s ability to absorb more nutrients
3) take time appreciate what it has been given
Pacing yourself is the foremost important aspect to remember when eating on or off performance grounds. Why? Because there is a limit to the rate in which the stomach can empty the nutrients into the system, and either over or under-fueling, can wreak havoc on your gut. Pacing yourself while eating decreases the chance of discomfort during digestion, lowers odds of bloating, and allows for the intestines to perform at peak to absorb more nutrients. Truly a win-win. Here is the process of pacing:
First make a conscious decision to eat half and pause.
If you are sitting for a meal, plan to eat half of what is on your plate and pause for a break. This ensures the proper mechanisms to take place in the brain, and ignite your true stopping point called satiety. Then, in future situations, you can pack food according to your predictable stopping point.
Next, simply chew your food more.
Chewing is the simplest and healthiest way to increase the use of enzymes that are already available in your system. Check out the benefits:
· Chewing sends signals to the stomach to prep stomach for incoming food.
· Saliva produced by chewing lubricates food and contains an enzyme called Amylase.
· Amylase helps digest carbohydrates.
· Smelling, chewing and taking the time to taste your food, all prepare the intestines for digestion and allows detection of rancid or unsafe consumption of products.
Prep to physically and mentally stay cool
Environmental, body, and food (yes food) temperatures, as well as psychological stress, can have a direct impact on the rate in which your body uses the fuel and provides energy. Therefore, it is beneficial to stay both physically and mentally “cooler.” Each of these tactics are quite do-able, but may take a little preparation and practice.
To avoid physically overheating first be aware of environmental factors: humidity, sun-rays, and barometric pressure. In these circumstances, believe it or not, simply consuming a very cold drink can speed up gastric emptying rate (GER) -- So, on warmer days, longer rides, bigger runs, and in hotter gyms -- drink cooler drinks. It will also be to your advantage to know the sodium/fluid intake balance that suits your system in accordance with energy output. Typically the chemically filled and artificially produced replacement drinks, do more harm than good. For most athletes, water is the best fluid replacement - especially if you are eating whole, fresh foods, with sensible sodium content.
It is also very helpful to avoid psychologically “overheating” otherwise known as a “mental-meltdown.” Stress and eating are not a good combination. Tension in the system slows down digestion, to the point that it can make you sick. Stress decelerates GER, essentially filibustering your healthy diet efforts and leaving you at risk for gut problems. Because of all these complications, the body will not get nourishment when it needs it the most, which is commonly, during a performance. Bottom line: It is super helpful to eat calmly, as often as possible, to reap the benefits from the food you eat.
Implement these mindful strategies at your next meal, and continue every meal this way to form a habit:
· “Check in” physically with your body before you chow-down.
· Take a deep breath and release your head, neck, and shoulders.
· Try a back jaw massage for one minute to stimulate saliva and help loosen any buildup of food embedded in the salivary gland or tonsils.
· Drink fluids first (think of it this way; we can live for weeks without food but only days without water).
· Breathe again.
· Remember, as we mentioned before, CHEW :)
Even though there is great emphasis in sport on specific food choices, it does not matter what food you consume, if your digestion is thrown off by stress and dehydration. This could not be better summed up by Feed Zone authors, Allen Lim and Biju Thomas, “Nourishment is something greater than calories or individual ingredients. It’s the soul in a great dish, pursuing a goal with close friends and family, and taking care of our entire being.”
Eat in peace.