I have had the great honor to work with hundreds upon hundreds of athletes in my career. Olympians, recreational, youth, all different sports and ages. One thing that I have realized is that "it depends" is a very popular answer in my repertoire of answer questions from athletes. The simple reason is that each athlete is very individual from their physiology, genetic make up, fitness level, and psychological outlook. The latter is what I wanted to chat about a bit in this blog since it seems to be a hot topic in the sports nutrition for athletes world.
What I am referring to is not mental tenacity, planning and preparing meals or snacks, or even what an athlete eats. I am talking about psychological excessiveness. I am sure there is a more technical term for this but this is how I describe it. Most athletes do have an "excessive gene" which I define as taking things to the extreme. This can sometimes be good and sometimes not. I remember a few years ago when I was doing my low carb/high fat nutritional experiment and I had to completely take my nutrition to the extreme to ensure that I was only eating a certain amount of carbohydrates and protein while keeping my fat high. I had to log every day. I had to be methodical to the point where it was fun at first but drove me crazy by the end of my 4 week experiment. Perhaps it was just me, perhaps not.
What I have learned from many athletes whom I have worked with is twofold: 1) many believe nutrition is complex due to their past experiences and feel that they need to count, weigh, measure, and take their nutrition to the quantitative breaking point which can be cause mental exhaustion and lead to the already high life stress of athletes, and 2) many just want nutrition to be simple. Tell me what to eat and don't make me think about it too much. Don't get me wrong, I respect athletes who want to learn more about food and what is best for their bodies but much like my feelings at the end of my nutrition experiment, I wonder if it is worth overthinking this whole nutrition thing.
Hire a qualified Sport Dietitian who can help you take this very complex nutrition world and make it simple. That's our job. I doubt you want to know the intricate details of metabolic processes but rather, want to know what you can purchase at the grocery store to improve your health and athletic performance. Learn what foods will best optimize your blood sugar and improve health and performance without overthinking this. We all lead busy lives with a high amount of life and training stress. Add another layer of complexity to the mix and it may just send you over the edge.
Push your computer away from you now and think deeply about how you perceive food. How you interact with it, and if you let it take up too much brain power than it should. Now take a deep breath and know that it will be okay no matter which side of the thinking fence you are on. Over or under thinking. It happens. Try to find that happy balance!
Until next week...