Do you feel like you have been doing all the “right” things but are still underperforming? Maybe you are getting injured more often, not recovering as well, or simply tired all the time. Chances are, you may be overlooking some of these simple performance-boosters.
Not Getting Enough Sleep
There is a higher prevalence in sleep deprivation in elite athletes than in the general population. This is caused by many things: intense workout schedules, traveling across different time zones, jet lag, electronic use, and under-prioritization. There are many negative effects of not getting enough sleep, such as impaired hormone function, increased pro-inflammatory elements, and decreased immune function to name a few. As an athlete, these slight metabolic changes can have a big impact on performance. Decreased muscle repair, cognitive function, and some motor functions are all side effects of inadequate sleep. If you want to increase your speed and output, try catching a few more zzzzzs.
Not Drinking Enough Water
In addition to the stress our bodies are under during exercise, dehydration stresses them more. If you begin exercising without being properly hydrated, you are starting out with fluid imbalance. Add in water lost through sweat and urination and you are at an even greater deficit. This stress has severe implications on physical and cognitive performance. To combat these effects, it is important to maintain fluid balance throughout the day and avoiding deficit. This means drinking fluids prior to exercising, during exercise, and after exercise. It is better to space out your fluid intake throughout the day than chugging your whole days’ worth in one sitting (your stomach would thank you for that as well!). If you want more information about why hydration matters, check out this blog post.
Not Getting Enough Variety In Your Diet
When something is working, why switch it up, right? If you mainly eat the same meals every day, however, you may be missing out on crucial nutrients. Along with eating balanced meals consisting of protein, carbohydrate, and healthy fats, it is important to mix up the ingredients you are using. Try incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables (the more colors the better!), and whole grains into your diet to ensure you meet nutrient requirements. An adequately fueled athlete is a better performing athlete.
Not Eating Enough
If you are an active person you are burning more energy than the average person. Because of this, you need enough fuel in the tank for the demands you are placing on your body. If you are in a sport that emphasizes size or weight (wrestling, dancers, etc.), there may be some pressure to cut meals to maintain or lose weight. Not fueling enough will more than often than not hurt your performance instead of help. Some tell-tale signs that you are not eating enough include chronic fatigue, frequent injuries, thin and brittle hair, constant thoughts of food, and more. If left unchecked, these symptoms can have more serious consequences.
Do not let these mistakes be what knock you down from doing the activities you love. If you improve these habits into your daily routine, I guarantee you will notice positive changes in your play and performance.
Clark, N. (1990). Nancy Clark’s sports nutrition guidebook. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Samuel, H. (2020). 5 Signs You May Be Underfueling. Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://feetures.com/blogs/feetures-blog/5-signs-you-may-be-under-fueling
Variety. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.choosemyplate.gov/eathealthy/variety
Vitale, K., Owens, R., Hopkins, S., & Malhotra, A. (2019, August). Sleep Hygiene for Optimizing Recovery in Athletes: Review and Recommendations. Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6988893/