1. Eating Enough Fat
Though the mainstream media is coming around to the idea that including fat in one’s diet is not necessarily harmful, far too many people remain reluctant to eat even healthy fat because they fear it will hurt their performance, or because of another erroneous belief that it will make them fat. So, if you have a mental block against eating fat, perhaps now is a good time to open your mind to its many positive effects on your body.
In fact, fat is one of the primary fuels used by the body in generating energy during low-intensity and medium-intensity exercise. Fat is also incredibly calorie dense: it has the highest energy content per gram compared with either protein or carbohydrate. As such, consuming the right sort of fat can improve endurance in athletes (1). Put simply, if you’re a long-distance runner, a cyclist or a swimmer then using fat for fuel may give you that vital energy resource to go on for that little bit longer.
It’s important, though, that you don’t get fats from processed food as you’re likely to end up consuming significant quantities of trans fats or palm oil. So take a look at the ingredients list on your favorite foods — if you don’t recognize one or more of the ingredients then it’s time to take those items out of your shopping cart. A good rule is to aim for whole-foods containing healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Oily fish such as mackerel and smaller fish like anchovies are packed full of good fats. Alternatively, plant-based sources of healthy fats, such as walnuts, avocados, and coconut, can be used to fuel your workouts.
One major side effect of exercise-induced sweating is the loss of loads of valuable fluids from your body. The rate at which you sweat is, of course, partly related to exercise intensity, but other factors that influence the rate and volume of fluid loss include the temperature and humidity of the environment in which you’re exercising, what sort of clothing you’re wearing and how much liquid you have drunk beforehand (2). Studies show that dehydration greater than 1-2% of your body weight can have a significant negative impact on exercise performance — increasing the risk of cramps, heat stroke and so on. Interestingly this negative impact on exercise efficiency through dehydration can occur in less than 1 hour (2).
Physical activity can also have a huge impact on the electrolyte balance in cells of your body. Not hydrating sufficiently before exercise typically means that magnesium, which is essential for muscle contraction and relaxation, is lost through sweating. Furthermore, without magnesium, the body cannot make ATP — the body’s fuel source, synthesized from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats (3).
So replenish fluids within two hours of exercising and also eat some healthy carbohydrates. That way you will replenish both your body’s glycogen stores and electrolytes. Incidentally, coconut water is a great natural rehydration solution, free from artificial flavorings, colors and sweeteners and it’s packed full of healthy minerals.
3. Maximizing the Rest of Your Time
Though your exercise regime is obviously important to your sports performance, it is also important to consider what happens in the remaining hours of your day. In order to maximize your exercise potential, you might consider changing some of your daily habits. For example, try working at a standing desk to fire up the anti-gravity (extensor) muscles in your legs and back. This doesn’t mean you have to work standing up for the whole day, but you’ll find it useful to divide your time between standing and sitting in order to prevent shortening of your stature, which is invariably caused by tight hip flexor muscles.
In addition, try to ensure that your sleep is the best quality it can possibly be. There a few sleep hacks which can help you maximize your Zzzs. For example, take Puori M3 an hour before you go to bed. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to poor sleep quality (4). The supplement can also play a role in muscle relaxation which can further help you get restful sleep. Other great additions to your pre-sleep supplement portfolio could include the natural herbal root valerian, which has been used as a sleep aid for hundreds of years. Its use is also backed by science. Research conducted at the University of Zürich confirms that valerian really does have a hypnotic effect on humans (5).
The quantified self movement, also known as life logging, uses technology to collect data on a person’s day-to-day life. It allows you to analyze your everyday habits in order to maximize performance. When it comes to self-quantification there are many devices and apps out there. That means that you can track as little or as much as you want. For instance, technologies exist for tracking hours slept, sleep quality, heart rate, HRV, oxygen saturation, perspiration, and calories burnt while you’re getting your shut-eye and so on.
With the information provided, you can then make small tweaks to your sleep routine and go on to further quantify how these effects affect your sleep, and importantly, how they make you feel. The same can be done for food — monitor how you feel after certain food groups to see if you have any mild allergies or insensitivities (for example, gluten sensitivity or lactose intolerance) which might be hurting your performance.
5. Recovering with Protein
This last piece of advice is very simple but nonetheless very important. In order to recover properly after exercising, you need protein to ensure that your muscle fibers, which have undergone microscopic tears as a normal part of rigorous exercise, are able to rebuild and repair. So as well as making sure that you’re sleeping well, also ensure that you eat a post-workout meal packed full of protein or take a high-quality protein supplement such as Puori PW1 containing all the essential amino acids to give you that edge.
1. Lambert, Estelle V., et al. “Enhanced endurance in trained cyclists during moderate intensity exercise following 2 weeks adaptation to a high fat diet.” European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology 69.4 (1994): 287-293.
2. Casa, Douglas J., et al. “National Athletic Trainers’ Association position statement: fluid replacement for athletes.” Journal of athletic training 35.2 (2000): 212.
3. Fawcett, W. J., E. J. Haxby, and D. A. Male. “Magnesium: physiology and pharmacology.” British journal of anaesthesia 83.2 (1999): 302-320.
4. Nielsen, Forrest H., LuAnn K. Johnson, and Huawei Zeng. “Magnesium supplementation improves indicators of low magnesium status and inflammatory stress in adults older than 51 years with poor quality sleep*.” Magnesium Research 23.4 (2010): 158-168.
5. Balderer, Gisela, and Alexander A. Borbély. “Effect of valerian on human sleep.” Psychopharmacology 87.4 (1985): 406-409.