Speaking on a panel at the Spartan World Championships in Squaw Valley, California may be one of the most interesting angles I have come at nutrition from yet. The panel topic is discipline.
Learning to eat in a way that supports what you set out to achieve – in this case completing thirty plus obstacles, over thirteen or more miles while running up and down mountain peaks at elevation – requires discipline to change from eating behaviors that do not support what you hope to achieve.
For many non-competitive athletes who want to improve and achieve in sport as a hobby they first have to shift in mindset from exercising to burn calories to then be rewarded with food to that of an athlete who exercises to train and who eats to train for the reward of achieving something more than the calorie credit to eat lots of pizza after a race.
How does someone begin to change the mindset? Well, in my experience as an athlete and working with the pros I have found applying discipline in these three areas can change the reward mindset to one that makes the participation in the sport the reward rather than loads of food.
Three disciplines to practice daily:
Eat to train. Don’t train to eat. Skipping meals, skimping on food during training and events lasting longer than one hour, and delaying eating after activity have major consequences on how well the body can feel during the activity. Stop holding out on providing the body the right fuel at the right time through out the day and through activity.
Eat with purpose. Eating with purpose is being conscious of what is going into the body and why. The purpose could be anything like to nourish, energize, recover, and even to celebrate or relax. This empowers the eater to make the food choice with feeling deprived while also eating the right to suit the occassion.
Eat before, during, and after hard training and events. Eating an energy dense meal the hours before like a big bowl of fruit and yogurt will top of energy stores in the muscles. Eating an energy gel or three energy chews every twenty to thirty minutes during activity lasting more than an hour will give you the edge over competitors who skip it. Eating a protein bar or drink after the effort to kick start recovery helps to get the body prepared for the next challenge.
Discipline isn’t holding off or delaying gratification. Discipline in sports nutrition comes from learning what to it when and changing the behavior mindset so it isn’t all about will power but rather, a healthy routine if eating the right food and the right time to suit the occasion, even if that occasion is a celebration!