4 Tips to improve sports performance
Any athlete no matter what level be it Professional, Amateur or Weekend Warrior would like to improve their sporting performance within their chosen sport or activity. And the good news is their are a few simple things that you can incorporate in to your plan that can help optimise your body and prime it for performance.
1 – Hydration
This is a key one and probably THE most under appreciated thing we can do to function optimally. Research has proven that it doesn’t take much in terms of your dehydration levels for it to begin to impact your performance. Combine that with activity and environmental factors such as heat and humidity and your heading for a downfall or in extreme cases a lot worse.
Our bodies are mainly made up of water, it is essential for every role within the body and supports every living Cell. Without correct hydration levels the body cannot properly metabolise your energy, send signals to the muscles and it will reduce Strength, Alertness, Power, Reactions and Endurance. Not a great combination for an athlete.
An easy way to check your hydration levels and make sure you are right is a simple urine check, the colour should a straw-like colour. If it is dark, has a strong smell or both then it is a sign you are dehydrates and should begin taking on fluids immediately. But don’t down gallons, just simply sip water every 15 minutes until normal order is resumed.
2 – Nutrition
Nutrition in the form of Calories, Protein, Carbohydrates, Fats, Fibre, Vitamins & Minerals provide the body with everything that it needs for energy and correct bodily functions. Without the correct nutrition for YOU & YOUR SPORT you could be missing a vital opportunity to improve performance and training outcomes.
Everybody is unique in this aspect so it would be wrong for me to say in this post how much of what you should be consuming.
But for me the order of priority should be this:
A – Calories
You should consume enough calories to support your activity and exercise but not enough for excess body fat accumulation (unless that is your goal)
B – Macros (Protein/Carbohydrates/Fats)
The ratio of these will hugely vary depending on the individual, activity, activity intensity, activity duration etc.
C – Timing
Once you have Calories and their Macros under control you can then start looking at the finer points such as the timing. For example Carb Cycling, Backloading, Loading etc.
D – Supplements
Tip of the nutritional iceberg is Supplements. The use of these are within the name, they are ‘supplements’ they are meant to supplement your diet. Supplements should in no way be used to replace food and should be used to compliment your existing diet.
3 – Recovery strategy
Nutrition & Hydration is itself a recovery strategy. But their are extra things you can use such as a sufficient warm up and cool down, stretching, foam rolling, massage, ice baths, Epsom Salt bathing, contrast showers, compressions etc. The list could go on and everyone has their own opinion so it is up to the athlete to figure out what works best for them.
I myself like to foam roll & stretch post workout. I then also take on board a form of liquid Carbohydrates + Protein in the form of ICON Nutrition Recovery. At some point I will also get a Magnesium Salt bath with some extra Foam rolling & mobilisation afterwards while the muscles are warm and relaxed which can help you get more benefit from the stretching.
Sometimes I will wear compressions for a few hours post workout depending on how hard the session was and/or if I have another training session shortly after.
4 – Periodization
Nobody can go all out every session, every day, every week, every month or every year. So it is important that we plan our training to allow periods of low intensity and/or volume to allow the body the chance to de-load and recover from the intense bouts. There are plenty of models on periodization out there, some that are mapped out for an entire year or more. This is great but a plan never goes to plan. Something simple like an injury, illness, work, life can get in the way of your training and that has thrown out that planning. Sometimes the easiest thing you can do is listen to your body and understanding it will help you know when you can push and when you should fall back.
Another simple trick you can use (which is still debatable to its effectiveness) is to monitor your Heart Rate in the morning. Say for example if you know that on average your morning resting heart rate is 60 bpm and one day you wake up and its 80+ then it could be a sign that you need to have a rest or low activity day with some stretching, walking the dog etc.
These are a few simple strategies that you can implement in to your plan right away. It is all highly individual and what works for me may not work for you so it is important to experiment and find the way that works for you but hopefully this post has given you something to go off.