5 Things You Can Start Doing Right Now to Improve Performance Nutrition

Some changes are harder than others. Let’s talk about 5 changes that can upgrade your nutrition starting today. Pick the one that feels the most exciting and achievable and start there!

1. Eat something before every run & cross training session

It’s all too easy to think, “I’m just going for a short run. I don’t need to fuel.” and skip eating beforehand. The problem with doing this is that even though the intensity or duration might not be high, your body still needs energy. If we don’t give our body fuel before a run, we dip into our glycogen stores & cause more stress on our body than needed. This could lead to a dip in speed, early onset fatigue, increased rate of perceived exertion (RPE), and other performance problems, according to a paper published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 

To get ahead of these, make sure you’re eating at least a little food before you head out to train, with carbs being the basis for your pre-workout snack. Remember: you aren’t just fueling for the work immediately ahead but for the entire week of training. Need more guidance? Check out my recent blog post for in-depth info. 

2. Stay hydrated

Even if you fuel before each training session, you’ll also need to stay hydrated before, during, and after to truly support performance. Every process in your body suffers from dehydration, which can lead to cramping, headaches, poor performance, delayed recovery, GI issues, and many other symptoms. You may find it easier to stay hydrated when it’s hot or humid outside because the conditions make you feel more thirsty. But as I shared in a recent article, your thirst can drop by 40 percent in colder weather. So make sure you don’t always drink to thirst and put this hydration plan into action: 

  • Start your day with 16 oz of fluid like water, coffee, tea, or a sports drink 
  • Keep a water bottle full of fluid with you throughout the day
  • Drink water with meals and snacks
  • Take fluid with you on long runs over 70 minutes
  • Rehydrate after runs and workouts

3. Include carbs, protein, fat & color at every meal

Beware of any diet that eliminates or limits certain macronutrients or claims that you should be scared of carbs, protein, or fat. Most people find that their bodies work optimally with a balance of all the fuel sources. Carbs are the main source of fuel for the body and brain, protein is vital for muscle building and repair, and fat is necessary for cellular health, combating inflammation, and hormone production.  

So try to include all three macronutrients at each mealtime and in your snacks. This should give the right balance of fast-acting and slow-burning fuels to power your best performances, keep your energy level high all day, and feel great. Including a wide range of colors at each meal will mean you’re also incorporating a variety of nutrient-dense fruit and vegetables into your daily diet, which helps ensure you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals.

4. Don't go too long without eating

You’ll be at your best when you’re consuming adequate calories to match your training, recovery, and everyday activity needs from the time you get up until you go to sleep. Sometimes clients don’t have an overall calorie deficit or insufficient macronutrient intake for the total day but still struggle with low energy availability surrounding runs, mood swings, and other physical, cognitive, and emotional issues because they’re digging too deep of an energy deficit around training. If this persists, they’re at risk of developing RED-S (relative energy deficiency in sport), which the International Olympic Committee states can disrupt 12 major body systems. 

A simple fix is to surround your training with solid nutrition. And, increase the frequency of your meals and snacks, so your energy intake is distributed evenly throughout the day. Take an honest look at when you’re eating and see if you can find any big gaps. Then plan meals ahead, set reminders to eat, and take snacks with you for those busy times so you don’t go too long without eating. This will help you stay out of large energy deficits, keep your energy levels consistent, and provide enough fuel for whatever comes your way. <<We’re a big fan of shower shakes around here.>>

5. Nail your protein

One of the biggest misconceptions is that runners don’t need extra protein. Endurance activities such as running, swimming, cycling, and triathlon cause muscle damage from repetitive and prolonged movements that require protein to repair. Some studies have shown that endurance athletes underestimate their protein needs by over 20 percent and don’t get enough to kickstart their recovery process after exercise, making it harder to bounce back between sessions. Inadequate protein intake also hampers healing from injury. 

Aim to get at least 20 to 40 grams of complete protein (which contains all nine essential amino acids) at each meal, incorporate protein into your snacking strategy, and consume another 20 to 40 grams with some glycogen-replenishing carbs after every training session. You might need even more if you increase your training volume and as you age.

1.D Travis Thomas et al, “Nutrition and Athletic Performance,” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, March 2016, available online at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/297695609_Nutrition_and_Athletic_Performance. 2.Margo Mountjoy et al, “International Olympic Committee (IOC) Consensus Statement on Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S): 2018 Update,” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, July 2018, available online at https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/ijsnem/28/4/article-p316.xml.3.3. Harry P. Cintineo et al, “Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training,” Frontiers in Nutrition, September 11, 2018, available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6142015/#B28.

Disclaimer: The content in our blog articles provides generalized nutrition guidance. The information above may not apply to everyone. For personalized recommendations, please reach out to your sports dietitian. Individuals who may chose to implement nutrition changes agree that Featherstone Nutrition is not responsible for any injury, damage or loss related to those changes or participation.