Performance Nutrition vs. Nutrition for Health/Fitness (Wellness)
Performance nutrition is not the "health/fitness nutrition" that focuses on trying to cut out all fat out of one's diet while counting and cutting calories, it is however the only healthy way to meet the intense demands placed upon the athlete's body whether in or out of season. The problem with the information people hear about on nutrition, dieting and loosing fat is that it's not working with the body but against it. Those are not proper ways for Division I collegiate athletes to care for their bodies.
Since muscle burns fat all day long the best way for an athlete to get rid of excess fat is to increase lean muscle mass through intense weight training, thus increasing the metabolic rate and burning more calories 24 hours a day. The only way to increase lean muscle mass is to feed it properly and with enough calories, without overtraining it. The human body is "smart," it will function like it's supposed to when it is taken care of, but when it's not taken care of it will do things to survive. For instance, when an athlete doesn't eat enough calories or tries not to eat any fat at all the body will not only store excess fat but it will also breakdown protein and lean muscle mass.
Know what to eat, when to eat it and how much to eat of it No foods are completely off-limits or "bad for you" if one understands how to apply this principle to your diet. Fat is an important part of an athlete's diet, and so are sugars. The right choices, at the right time, in the right amount. Eating for performance is simply making great, good, and okay choices of foods while understanding and applying this principle so that when combined, the choices all end up "good" ones.
PERFORMANCE NUTRITION DEFINED
Understanding how the body responds and uses food, and applying that knowledge in such a way that the choices made in selecting food will help the athlete reach his/her athletic goals, not detract from them.
Performance nutrition focuses on enabling and enhancing the athlete's body to respond positively to the three major physiological adaptations that take place during high intensity training/athletics.
1. Performance Enhancement - Knowing what to eat and when to eat it will help an athlete maintain proper energy levels and allow the body to use the appropriate energy systems to compete/train at the highest level of intensity possible.
2. Maximum Recovery - Training (Practice/competition, lifting or running) at a high enough level to make gains takes proper recovery. Again, knowing what to eat and when to eat it is the key to maximum recovery which enables maximum gains. Without proper recovery the athlete will begin to over-train which begins a process of breaking down which can lead to injuries and serious health problems.
3. Body Compositional Changes - The goal of training is to increase lean muscle mass, while decreasing excess body fat. This occurs only when one knows what to eat, when to eat it and how much to eat of it in relationship to your body type.
The challenge is this - Put aside everything you have heard or think you know about "proper" nutrition and give yourself a chance to not only be a healthy athlete but also an athlete who is reaching his/ her maximum potential. To easily understand Performance Nutrition a simple model of a sporting event has been chosen. The reason for choosing this model is that once you understand the principles behind Performance Nutrition, you will be able to make wise food choices easily without being a sports nutritionist or a calorie counter. Normal nutritional/dietary "systems" do not work because the athlete must know so much/spend so much time looking stuff up and writing things down. It's time to put those images out of your head of the "Pyramid" or the "Target" and try to come into this new model with a blank slate.
The Sporting Event model focuses on education that gives only the information that is needed and that can be easily understood within a "framework" that can be easily remembered so that you can make the best decisions possible no matter where you are. There are only two major food groups in this model, Carbohydrates and Proteins, because all the principles in Performance Nutrition are based on the way the body needs and responds to these two nutrients. There are two main components and one minor component within each major food group. CARBOHYDRATES are broken down into Fruits and Vegetables and Grains and Sweets with the minor component being Beans and Peas, and PROTEINS are broken down into Poultry, Fish and Meats and Dairy and Eggs with the minor component being Nuts and Seeds. These are the foods you should concern yourself with and apply the principles to.