Fuel yourself, don’t fool yourself

What do you need to be ready to do?

Ready to work? Ready to play? Ready to exercise? Ready to perform? Ready for an exam? Ready for an interview? Ready to respond to an emergency?

If you’ve not eaten at the right time, or you’ve chosen foods that don’t provide you with the right quality of energy, your brain and body will feel less ready. Then whatever you’re trying to do will not only feel harder it will actually be harder.

Here are some nutrition principles and practises to help you be more ready, more consistently.

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High performance headlines

  • You’ll primarily think about the purpose of food as a source of fuel and repair for your brain and body.
  • The other emotional and social reasons to eat will be a secondary consideration. They’re still important, but secondary.
  • You’ll be highly sceptical of any supposed quick fixes, suggested short cuts or celebrity diets.
  • You’ll plan first about when to eat/drink. Then you’ll decide what to choose from the options available. When you do these things well, how much you eat is likely to take care of itself.
  • You’ll stick to common sense, practical plans to eat things that look like real, whole, natural food.

The full viewpoint

Your brain. Your body. They’re yours and they’re precious. They’re also unique. There’s nobody else quite like you.

What enables your brain and your body to work efficiently?

What enables them to strengthen?

What enables them to perform at their best?

In substantial part, the answer to these questions is in the timing and quality of the foods you eat and the fluids you drink.

To make the most of your potential, you will need to consider giving your brain and your body the right kind of fuel, at the right time.

Is your attitude right?

What’s your current attitude towards food? What’s the most helpful attitude to have if you want to make the most of your potential?

If you want to be at your best, fuelling yourself matters. So you’ve got to treat it like it does. Taking your fuel seriously is the start point. If you take food seriously and choose consciously it can become an essential and trusted part of your high performance recipe.

Are you planning well?

Look ahead; think about what you need to be ready to do. Then plan WHEN you need to eat to best provide fuel for your brain and body. That’s the key behaviour – plan when to eat first and stick to it as closely as you can. Plan when you’re going to eat around the demands of your day and week.

As a general rule of thumb, eat some good breakfast to get your blood sugar levels to a good operating level. Then eat regularly enough to keep it there through the day. If you have some times of particularly high physical demand, then eat something a bit more substantial 2 or 3 hours beforehand. That’ll mean the energy from the food is available to be used to fuel movements and thought (which also requires energy).

What should I be eating to help me perform?

Well, there’s a million dollar question… literally. There are millions of books and websites telling you what to eat, what supplements to take or what diet to go on.

Here’s the rub. There is no right answer. There’s just the answer that’s right for you. Who’s the only person who can find that out? Yeah, that’d be you.

You have unique biology, preferences, activity levels and environment. You’re the one who needs to take control here by making the choices that work best for you – control the controllable.

We know that’s not a popular answer, but if you pay consistent attention to what you eat and how effectively you can then think and perform, you’ll quickly start to understand what helps you be ready – to do the things you need to do.

The following healthy eating principles are widely supported by plenty of strong scientific evidence…

  • Eat plenty of fruit and veg. We know they’re healthy. Yes, fruits contain sugar but in a healthier form. They also contain loads of highly beneficial vitamins and minerals.
  • Too much sugar, or sugar at the wrong time, is less healthy. Some sugars are obvious, but also look out for cakes, sweets, many canned/bottled drinks, salad dressings, and supposed “low fat” options. They can often be a source of calories without a great deal of helpful nutrient content.
  • Complex carbohydrates (more starch and fibre, less sugar), that release their energy slowly, from whole foods, are a healthier source of sustained energy for both the brain and the body.
  • Too much fat, or fat at the wrong time, is not great for health or performance. But you need some fats in your diet to protect your health and as a store of energy.
  • You need protein to repair and rebuild. That’s its main function. It’s not an efficient source of energy for the brain and the body.
  • Get as much of your food from stuff that looks like real, natural food as you can.
  • Avoid processed foods.
  • You need about 2 litres of fluid intake a day, more if you’re in a hot environment or being active.
  • Supplements should only to be used as a last resort, if you absolutely can’t get what you need from a natural diet.

Are you being mindful?

A key to high performance is to be conscious and aware of:

  1. Your choices of food and drink.
  2. The consequences of those choices.

We’ve been encouraging people to keep food and feelings diaries for many years now. What food did you eat? How did you feel? Try this for a few weeks to identify what food choices work for you.

Practise pausing before you eat or drink, paying attention to what your body is telling you, and then choosing.

This infographic will help.

Are you finding the right time to relax?

Food and drink have other purposes in our lives. They also have a social and an emotional purpose.

So there will be times when the principles outlined above need some relaxation to accommodate fun, celebration and relaxation.

It’s all about choices. There are times to relax on the principles and others where resisting temptation or delaying gratification is absolutely the right choice.

The discipline of choosing the right time to relax is a choice that differentiates high performers from average.