Usually i’d start a blog like this with ‘peak performance looks different to everyone’. But actually, it doesn’t.
Peak athletic performance is maximising your athletic potential. Whether that’s running, in the gym, cycling etc. it’s getting the most out of your body and mind.
So why is that of interest to us? We’re not professional athletes, we’re not going to the Olympics - why bother?
Well chances are, if you’re reading this, you love sports. You’ve always played them as a kid, but life gets in the way now and we don’t get in as many sessions as we’d like.
And that’s the reason. Our time is limited, let’s make every session count. Let’s aim high, embrace the endorphins when we shave 10 seconds off our previous best time. Enjoy that moment of achievement, you earnt it.
And with that said, here are the 4 steps you can take to achieve your peak athletic performance.
The Athlete Diet - (aka Food)
Okay let’s kick off with the most crucial - food. There’s no way you can reach your athletic potential without eating the right foods. The good thing is that we can keep it simple.
Starting with the obvious - carbohydrates. Pastas, breads, rice, potatoes, fruits. All great sources of energy and perfect for athletic performance. When we put our body through its paces, our body demands glycogen - carbs provide that glycogen.
The amount of carbs you’ll need will vary on your sport. The longer your sessions, the more carbs you’ll need. Below is ‘rough’ guide showing you how many carbs to eat per day:
Intense training lasting 1 to 3 hours per day: 6g - 12g of carbs per kg of bodyweight
If you weigh 75kg, you’ll need 450g to 900g on that day of training. Now this may sound a lot, it’s because it is. But remember, this is to maximise your athletic performance - you may not need this much every day (i.e. slow run / recovery days).
Now be honest with yourself, how often do you get near those types of numbers? Don’t worry, that means you’ve got a sure fire way to give your performance a boost next time out!
A note on timing of carbs, it’s a tricky one as it differs for everyone. It’ll depend on how long it takes you to digest and ‘feel comfortable’ after eating. As a rule of thumb, I like to consume a decent sized meal (100g of carbs) about 90 to 120 minutes before the workout. And then 30 mins before I may have something small and quick digesting, like a banana.
Protein doesn’t work in the same way as carbs, it isn’t an ‘energy source’ as such. But it is critical for recovery - if you’re not recovering then your next sessions won’t be optimal.
Now, there’s a lot of debate around how much protein you need. A lot of the science suggests 1.6g per kg of bodyweight is enough. Yet, a lot of trainers believe you need closer to 2g+ per kg of bodyweight.
My advice? Try both and see where your body feels best, that will always be your best guide.
In terms of food choices, I'm a huge fan of red meat due to the extra vitamins such as Iron, B6, B12 etc. But a good variety of dairy, meats, eggs and supplements is fine.
And then there’s fats. Your peanut butters, oily fish, avocados, egg yolks etc. These become more important the longer your exercise lasts. For long runs etc. our body actually uses fats for energy in a similar way to carbs. As well as that, we need fats to help digest our fat-soluble vitamins.
For fats, again it’s mainly done by feel - but aim for around 1g of fats per kg of bodyweight as a baseline. As a rule of thumb, 20-30% of your calories should come from fats. Dropping below that can affect the regulation of hormones, your ability to concentrate and energy levels.
P.S. I know there’s a lot of food chat here, but water is equally as important. Want to know how much you should drink? Check out this calculator!
Your Training Routine
Okay, this is almost as critical as food. It’s your training or workout routine. Usain Bolt didn’t win the Olympics turning up to training every day and running randomly. He had a plan, every session was mapped out. All Usain had to do was execute the plan.
Training routines or programmes are beneficial in many ways:
There designed to peak your performance for a particular event
They keep you focused
They keep you accountable
There’s a reason professionals have trainers. It’s not to shout motivational quotes at them while they work out. It’s to map out the next 12 - 16 weeks, identify what sessions are needed to achieve their goals.
The best bit? There are so many programmes available online. Google your sport with ‘training programme’ or ‘workout programme’ and you’ll get dozens of results. Some will be better than others, but all of them will be better than nothing.
Does this sound interesting? You’re in luck - we’ve written a whole blog on training programmes and even link some of the best examples right here.
Vitamins and Supplements for Performance
Okay let’s clear this up first of all - yes, you should aim to get all your vitamins and nutrients from food.
But the reality is, the majority of people don’t. A study from 2018 showed that nearly 50% of adults in the UK don’t even eat their 5 a day. And guess what, you need more than that if you’re an active individual!
So what specific vitamins and supplements do we recommend?
You should be getting at least the RDA for Vitamin D, Iron, Magnesium and B Vitamins. These are critical to supporting your immune system and performance - it’s why we put them all in our Daily Driver Multivitamin.
As we’re mentioning Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) it’s worth noting that these recommendations are not to improve your performance. RDAs are what the body needs to function (fight off infection, walk around etc.). If you’re an athlete, or an active individual you’ll most likely need more than the RDA.
For supplements, a good multivitamin alongside caffeine and sodium is a great foundation. The truth is, there are 100s of supplements marketed at you, but a lot lack scientific research.
A good multivitamin acts as a ‘safety blanket’ ensuring you are consuming the vitamins that improve performance. A good multivitamin is often much better value than buying 5 or 6 different supplements.
Caffeine is another powerhouse (if you enjoy it!). It has been well-proven to improve performance and reduce your perceived effort.
Anywhere between 50mg - 200mg is recommended ~45 minutes before your workout. For reference, this is anywhere from a cup of tea to a can of Monster Energy. If you want to dive a little deeper into how caffeine works, check out our blog.
Sodium can be consumed from your diet by adding enough salt to your meals. I'd recommend tracking your salt intake for a few days to see if you are consuming at least 4g per day. This is a good amount and enables your body to balance your fluid levels. This is critical as we sweat during exercise.
Sleep and Athletic Performance
By this point, you know what to eat. You know how to train. And you’ve got your trusted supplements.
The final piece of the jigsaw is sleep. Without it, you simply cannot optimise your athletic performance.
Sleep is the time when our body properly recovers. If you’re reading this, you’re probably putting your body through some intense training sessions. Training breaks our muscle tissues down which is good, however, its during sleep when these muscles recover. If we’re doing everything as we should, our muscles should recover and be stronger than they previously were.
If we’re not getting enough sleep (7-10 hours per day) our body won’t have enough time to recover properly. We start to feel lethargic and our workouts suffer drastically.
Don’t believe it? A study was conducted on men's basketball players after they ensured they got 10 hours sleep each night. The result? Their half and full court sprint times got faster, as did their shooting accuracy. The power of sleep on performance!
Aside from performance itself, getting low amounts of sleep each night makes us more susceptible to a wide variety of health issues. Another reason why sleep is king.
And there you have it. No fancy gimmicks, no fad diets. Doing the fundamentals well will always be best.
Food. Training. Supplements. Sleep.
Make sure you are absolutely nailing these four pillars of athletic performance.
Now go and get your next Personal Best!