8 Healthy Tips For Better Athletic Performance
1. Drink heaps of water and isotonic drinks
You can’t beat the heat but you can prevent yourself from becoming dehydrated and that’s where the benefits of water come in. Unfortunately, plain water can’t be absorbed at the rate that it needs to be. There’s a big move for what we call isotonic drinks. The electrolytic drinks (with the magnesium, calcium and other minerals), helps the muscles to absorb water at a higher rate. Beating the heat means more water in the system! It’s absolutely crucial.
You need to drink 2 litres of water a day standard but for every one hour of exercise, you must have an extra litre of water. So if you’re exercising for two hours straight, that means you’ve actually got to drink 4 litres of water. There’s a lot of professional supplements on the market that will keep your body hydrated. If you keep the body cool, you can perform better.
Prior to a race, it’s always good to make sure you’re well hydrated and drink plenty of electrolytic fluids in the body like Endura. The commercial electrolytes are a little bit of a electrolytic drink but they are high in sugars and corn syrup which represent problems with your blood sugar levels and I wouldn’t be recommending that before a race.
2. No cola and soft drinks
The biggest problem with cola and soft drinks, is that they are very high in sugar which elevates your blood sugar levels and therefore drops you down once your insulin is injected into the body. I think the worse thing about colas and soft drinks is, they are very acidic and they leave the body in a very acidic condition.
If you want your body to repair quickly, your muscles to work properly, if you want them to grow and maintain, you have to be in an alkaline situation. That means alkaline opposite acid. If you’re acid, you basically decay inside. If you’re alkaline, you become clean and perfect inside and the muscles need to function in an alkaline condition. Cola robs you of energy. Low blood sugar means light headiness, lack of performance, tiredness and no energy whatsoever.
3. Carbohydrates and protein before racing
I believe protein is really important prior to racing because you have to protect your muscles from breaking down during racing. Get up in the morning and have some type of carbohydrate meal like rice, pasta, fruit or banana. A simple thing like a banana and honey sandwich can be enough carbohydrates to give you energy for the race but after that, you need a protein shake because it provides the muscles with protein and energy, protects your blood sugar levels and helps your muscles to cope with the stress of racing.
4. Eat and drink between races
It is very important that you allow your body, if you’ve been racing, to recover. You need to feed your body while you take a break. Sometimes you might see a professional person peel a banana between a race to give him the extra energy. Keep up with the electrolytic drinks to help give you energy to hydrate rather than drinking straight water.
Also between races, you can also have a carbohydrate drink, which loads you up with energy and replace the energy you’ve just extended from the previous race. I think they are fantastic. I would rather drink a carbohydrate drink than have a banana because I find the banana hard to digest at times and I end up burping it up when I try to race but with the proper carbohydrate drink, they have a range of great flavours like lemon and orange and gives you that little bit of edge and the energy you need for your next race.
The best thing to do on a break is breathe deep, hold your breath and make sure your body’s relaxed. It is very important to massage your muscles and increase the blood flow to them. Oxygen is critical for energy and firing up your body. Your whole performance is based on how your muscles work. I believe it’s one of the most important things people forget. We can only last a couple minutes without oxygen so that tells you how important oxygen is to the body.
6. Avoid lollies and junk food
Anyone that eats lollies and junk food before a race, can almost guarantee they are not going to win, particularly if they are endurance racing. They are high sugar foods and are not classed as carbohydrates. Lollies that are full of sugar, spike your blood sugar levels immediately and that’s very dangerous because after you finish eating them, you will get a bit of a high, very similar to drinking cola and then bang, you will go down in the doldrums and don’t expect to perform like that.
7. Get a good night’s sleep
A good night sleep is a critical component for an athlete’s performance. You cannot expect to perform, to be a winner if you don’t get a good night’s sleep. It allows your body to repair and to recover for the next day. It is where all the mechanisms of the body takes place to ensure that you’re the number one athlete the next day. If you cut that process short, you wake up very sluggish and tired because the body hasn’t had a chance to clean and repair.
One way to not get a good night’s sleep, is if you have pasta, rice or any sort of starchy food like potatoes and bread, they are loaded with sugar and that sugar will ensure that you don’t get a good nights sleep. Always have a protein meal before you head off to bed like chicken, fish, steak with a little bit of vegies. You can not expect to perform properly if you carb up over the night time and that is old thinking as far as I’m concerned. Modern thinking is carb up at breakfast time. If you have a cup of sugar at night before you go to sleep, can you expect to get any sleep? No you won’t. And 150 grams of pasta has the same effect as a cup of sugar, so why would any good BMX rider do that?
8. Ease up on the alcohol
Alcohol has its place and isn’t actually dangerous. Excessive alcohol, any more than 2 or 3 drinks at any given time, will put some sort of stress on your liver. But alcohol on occasions is not a problem. I know some world class athletes who are not performing at the moment and I’m talking about a lot of female tennis players who go out every night and smash themselves with alcohol. And everyone of those that I know, have just lost their game at the Hopman Cup. If you trash yourself, don’t expect to perform. Alcohol is also very fattening.
If you want to stay nice and lean, you can’t expect to drink. If you have 2 or 3 beers, that could be anything from 600 to 1800 calories going into your diet and that will go end up straight body fat.
In my day, we never touched alcohol whilst we were competing or anywhere near our training days. If anything, it might be a bit on Saturday night to relax, we might have a few beers or bourbon, I don’t have a problem with that.
About Barry Andrews
I am a sports nutritionist. I apply naturopathy, natural medicine and natural repair processes to sports regime, looking for the more natural point of view instead of commercially. I’ve combined two fields – natural nutrition and sports nutrition which is a perfect combination for a natural way of looking at the human body.
I used to be a state road and track racer back in Grafton, New South Wales. But that was in my young days. I used to be a champion swimmer and when I was in my early 30’s, my father and I were body builders. My dad was an Australian champion body builder and world champion wrestler and he knew a lot about the natural nutrition and how important it was to eat protein and supplements back in the 60’s.
Barry Andrews interviewed by Delphine Jamet