“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” ~ Hippocrates
Performance nutrition is simply about consuming the right combination of nutrients and calories to maximize mental and physical performance. The more mental and physical stress that a body endures, the more nutrients and calories it needs to repair, and maintain cellular function. Understanding and implementing performance nutrition will help you achieve your goals on and off the golf course.
I have been mentoring an athlete-friend on performance nutrition and weight loss. She was frustrated with her lack of progress and when I asked what her specific concerns were, she stated two things:
- I’m eating healthy foods but I still feel hungry all the time.
- I can’t seem to lose the weight I want to lose.
Her concerns are valid. She is exercising more, playing golf two to three times a week and being intentional in her eating. Even though she is meeting her daily caloric goals, she does not have the endurance that she wants and needs. She went on to share that she has a harder time focusing towards the end of a golf-game. Fatigue plays a major role in her overall game.
Even though my friend has been eating healthy, she is not getting the nutrients she needs for the stressors her body is undergoing. Not only is she an athlete, she also works for a large performance-based corporation and the mental stress she is under can be intense. All of these factors stress the mind and the body, requiring more nutrients to maintain cellular function, repair and growth.
You don’t have to be an athlete to need nutrient dense food, and you don’t have to be an athlete to need performance nutrition. All you need is to have stressors. Who doesn’t have stressors in their life? Both my nursing background and my knowledge of performance nutrition helped me identify the root issue: lack of nutrient dense foods.
This is the information that I shared with my friend:
“Minerals in the soil control the metabolism of plants, animals and man.
All of life will either be healthy, or unhealthy according to the fertility of the soil.”
~ Dr. Alexis Carrel (Nobel Prize winner).
The condition of the soil determines the nutrient value of the food. A 2004 study evaluated the USDA food composition data of 43 garden crops between 1950 and 1999. It showed that as a group the vegetables contained:
- 16% less calcium
- 9% less phosphorus
- 15% less iron
- Protein down 6%,
- Vitamin B2 down 38%
- Vitamin C down 15%
The decline of nutrients in our “healthy” food began with the discovery of chemical fertilizers. This allowed farmers to dramatically increase their crop production and thus increase their incomes. “Most crops utilize an average of 40 elements from the soil. In no case do fertilizers add more than 12 and most commercial fertilizers add a maximum of six elements.” (Sea Energy Agriculture)
The increased crop yields dilute available nutrients. As you can see (above), our current crops are not as nutrient dense as they used to be in the 1950’s. What is happening to my friend is that her body needs nutrients, and is signaling her brain that she is hungry. She is eating more food (calories) but not necessarily getting the nutrients she needs to stay healthy and lose weight.
Eating a variety of healthy-whole foods across all food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy) is important in order to capture all of the nutrients that your body needs on a daily basis. The challenge is to get the maximum amount of nutrients with the minimum calories. Consuming too many calories will cause weight gain. With the decreasing nutrient value of our food today, we are having to eat more to get the nutrients our bodies need. To maximize the nutrient density of the foods you eat, stay away from processed food (foods with added sugar, sodium, and saturated fats) as much as possible. Examples of processed foods include: pizza, deli meats, soda pop, ice cream, etc.
In order to access food that is nutrient dense, source groceries from local farmer’s markets as much as possible. Farmer’s Markets sell a myriad of in-season produce: eggs, meat, vegetables, and fruit. It’s important to note that only in-season produce will be offered. Ask the farmer to tell you about the produce they are selling; how was it grown? If you are uncomfortable doing this, and want more information on what to ask, and why, read this:Holy Cows and Hog Heaven: The Food Buyer’s Guide to Farm Friendly Food
If you don’t have a local farmer’s market where you live, you can begin by choosing to purchase organically grown produce in your local store. You can identify organic produce by the PLU (Price Look Up) code on the produce sticker. The U.S. began utilizing PLU codes in 1990 to make inventory and check out more efficient. If the PLU code begins with the number “9” you know that the produce was organically grown. Example: PLU code #4318 identifies a muskmelon that was conventionally grown where PLU code # 94011 identifies an organically grown banana. However, I would recommend that you look for “100% organic” which cannot, by law, be produced from genetically modified organism (GMO’s).
In my next post, I will talk about Body Mass Index. I will share with you what it means (and doesn’t mean), and give you tools to find out what your current BMI is at this time. I will also introduce you to Macro-Nutrients and explain why they are important to improving performance over time.
You have a golf coach to help you with your swing. Who is helping you with your nutrition?
Feel free to leave a comment or question. I would love to hear from you!