There is no “Perfect Athlete” Diet

Hi, my name is Lizzie and I’m an easily influenced person. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Lately, I have realized how often my spheres of influence play a major role in my decisions and desires. For example, I will watch a youtube video where a product is featured and I will unconsciously feel lured into buying said product. It takes me a minute to snap back to reality where I consciously understand I do not need said product. To me, this means two things. Firstly, influencers are doing their jobs well; and secondly, I am not a psychology expert, but I do think it is a natural phenomenon to influence one another.

There is a little secret I would like to share with you: There is no perfect athlete diet. And if the “perfect athlete diet” did exist, there is no guarantee it would work for everyone. Sports Nutrition looks different for every athlete on every given day. Just because a fad diet works for someone over a short period of time does not mean it will work for you, as an active person, with increased energy demands.

 

Instead of trying to follow a strict set of rules, small and sustainable alterations in the short term will serve you better than a major diet shift. Whether you are a professional athlete with a dialed nutrition plan or a weekend warrior looking for somewhere to start, try not to lose the forest for the trees when it comes to your fueling. Emphasize what will positively contribute to your health and performance.

Photo: Paul Robinson of Gnarly athlete Brandon Belcher bouldering in CO.

Instead of focusing on what “diet” you follow, let’s shift this lens to the process. Here are 10 things to consider in regard to your fueling pattern:

  1. Are you timing your nutrition with your workouts? Do you have fueling strategies for morning, afternoon, or evening workouts?
  2. Are you drinking water throughout the day and during your workouts? Do you need electrolyte mix to replenish what you lose through sweat?

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3.   Is your pre-workout fuel contributing positively to your session? Do you need to fuel during your workout? 

4.   Are you eating or drinking something like Gnarly Whey or Gnarly Vegan within 30 minutes of your workout to get in your recovery protein? And a full meal within two hours of your workout? 

5.   Do you include nutrient-dense foods at every meal? Do you include the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat) throughout the day? Do you regularly consume green leafy vegetables or consume something like Gnarly Performance Greens?

6.   Are you choosing supplements that support your performance goals? Do you have a reputable source to reference to find out if supplements are right for you?

7.  Do you enjoy the foods you eat? Do you find yourself depriving yourself of certain foods because you consider them “bad for you”? Can you sustain the way you are eating now? 

8.  Do you cook often or rely on take-out options? Do you have time to spend in the kitchen or are you always on-the-go? Is your eating pattern flexible?

9.  Do you feel like you are eating enough given your training load? Do you bonk often?

10.  What are your fueling and performance goals? What steps can you take in the present moment towards these goals?

Although I just threw many questions your way, you do not have to answer or use all of them. These are starting points for small changes you can implement to support your health as a human and performance as an athlete. Start with what seems manageable now and go from there. AC/DC says it best in: “It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.” Although there appear to be many shortcuts to the top, it is best to establish a baseline eating pattern that is balanced, satisfying, enjoyable, sustainable, and right for you and your goals. 

 

If all of this seems overwhelming, there are resources that can help. First and foremost, Registered Dietitians and Sports Nutritionists help people with fueling for a living. Gnarly Nutrition also has countless blog posts translating Sports Nutrition into easy to digest concepts that you can use for yourself. Happy Fueling!

Photo: Stephen Grasz
Lizzie Larkins

Lizzie Larkins

Lizzie Larkins is a recent graduate from the University of Vermont where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Nutrition and Food Science. She raced all four years on the UVM Nordic Ski Team and is now transitioning into a full-time ski coaching position. Lizzie is a coffee connoisseur, runner, backcountry skier, and type 2 fun enthusiast who thrives on gratitude and positivity!

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