An athlete, in a lot of ways, is like a race car. For it to run at optimal performance you would not use low octane fuel. For the best performance it requires the best fuel, high octane fuel. An athlete’s body functions in a similar fashion. You need to put the highest octane fuel possible into your body for it to be at its best. Conversely, after the car finishes a race, you shut it off. A high performance race car wouldn’t do very well if it had the wrong gasoline, and you didn’t change the oil or transmission fluid. How about if you left the car on running all night, it would overheat and not be able to compete in the race that next day.
Many athletes overlook the importance of proper nutrition, diet, rest and recovery. Eating several meals a day, staying properly hydrated and getting the proper sleep are critical elements to perform and recharge from workouts, not to mention maintain good health. If your muscles have not received the proper nutrition before the workout, and have not fully recovered from the previous workout or competition, then the chances of injury increase the next time you train or compete. Remember, when you workout, you are literally breaking down the muscle and creating fiber micro tears. Your muscles need the proper nutrition, hydration and rest to be able to regenerate and build back up.
That starts with eating a well balanced diet of quality carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Rich protein sources are poultry, fish, lean meats, beans, soy, yogurt, nuts and milk. It is important to take in quality carbohydrates as well. Remember, carbohydrates are protein-sparing molecules. Complex carbohydrates include whole grains such as oats, quinoa, wild rice, whole-wheat bread and whole grain pasta, as well as green and starchy vegetables like broccoli and sweet potatoes. Simple carbs consist of fruits and natural fruit juices. These foods are critical before and after workouts and competitions, as they play important roles for muscle fueling and recovery.
Contrary to popular belief, the most important meal of the day is not breakfast. The post workout meal takes this title. Ideally, you want to ingest lean protein, along with simple carbohydrates within 60 minutes after your workout to optimize muscle recovery and results. This is not always a simple task and that is why protein shakes are so popular, due to their simple access and ease of digestion. They are usually made with milk and/or a banana that has simple sugar already in it. The ingestion of protein, along with a mix of simple sugars, kick starts protein synthesis, which is the regeneration process of lean muscle tissue.
Water also plays a key role in muscle repair and growth. If your cells are not properly hydrated, protein synthesis will be hampered and muscle growth and function hindered. Most people do not drink enough water and if you are hypohydrated or worse, dehydrated, your risk for muscle strains and pulls go up. Adirim, Terry A., and Tina L. Cheng (2003). You should drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water every day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds you should drink at least 75 ounces of water per day, even more on workout days before and after the workout.
Lastly, sleep hygiene is a huge topic sweeping the athletic and health world. It is during sleep when your body actually performs the majority of tissue regeneration and repair from the previous day’s work. If you cut yourself short of proper sleep, you are cutting off your ability to fully recover, hence increasing your risk of injury. Establish a regular bedtime and rise time and make sure you get the proper amount of sleep for your age. (see Chart)
Take these tips to heart and apply them consistently if you are serious about reaching your athletic goals. Remember, most people don’t do the little things, but if you do, and give your body the proper rest and fuel to recover and perform, you will have a built in competitive advantage over your competition.
T. Adirim, T Cheng. “Overview of Injuries in the Young Athlete.” Sports Med (2003) retrieved by www.researchgate.net