Nutrition Plays An Important Role In Athletic Performance

Image of health foods in the shape of a heart

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates once wisely declared, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Since then, advances in science and nutrition have supported what Hippocrates knew thousands of years ago: what you eat has a direct correlation with your physical health.

March is National Nutrition Month—a month meant to remind us of the vital role nutrition plays in our athletic performance and overall well-being. It’s a time to refocus and turn your attention back to eating well, so you not only look good but feel good too. Proper nutrition can ensure that you perform to the best of your abilities athletically and spend less time recovering in our physical therapy clinic, all from being conscious and mindful of what you’re consuming.

Increase Athletic Performance

Formula 1 drivers wouldn’t put regular gas in their cars before a race. Similarly, marathon runners wouldn’t gorge themselves on Burger King before running a marathon. For your body to function at optimal performance, it should be fueled by premium fuel. Instead of foods laden with empty calories, fats, and sodium, athletes should consume real whole foods that benefit the body, like lean proteins and carbohydrates that are low glycemic index (GI) or “complex” carbohydrates. Lean protein from sources like chicken, fish, or legumes helps repair muscle tissue after strenuous exercise. Low GI carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and brown rice are broken down and absorbed slowly to produce the steady energy your body needs.

In addition to improved athletic performance, proper nutrition can impact the time you spend in our physical therapy clinics recovering from injury. Inflammation is our body’s way of responding to injury or something foreign in the body. Eating properly can decrease inflammation that damages tissues, impact joints and arthritis, and impedes recovery. Eating foods consisting of fruits, leafy green vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds, and olive oil has decreased inflammation, which creates an easier path to recovery.

Fight Off Sickness & Disease

The pH scale runs from 0, being the most acidic, to 14, being the most alkaline. A pH of 7 is considered neutral. A healthy body should be slightly alkaline, with a blood pH level of around 7.4. However, eating a diet of highly processed acidic foods can throw off your pH level and provide the perfect environment for inflammation, sickness, and disease. Foods that promote an acidic environment include alcohol, those laden with sugars or artificial sweeteners, highly processed foods, or those fried or cooked at high temperatures, altering their chemical structure. They encourage the same inflammation that impedes recovery and promotes injury, sickness, and disease, which thrive in an acidic environment. Eating a healthy diet that promotes a balanced pH level can help combat these issues.

Eat Real Food

Opt for real foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and protein sources from legumes, fish, and chicken. Making your meals ensures that you know exactly what ingredients went into it. While it may seem like more work having to prepare your food, there are plenty of resources like Pinterest and healthy cookbooks with no-fuss, yet tasty recipes.

Avoid These Foods

Limit eating sugar and high GI simple carbohydrates like refined flour found in bread, cereals, and pasta. These foods are broken down quickly giving you a burst of energy, spiking your blood sugar and insulin levels, and causing a crash later. Monitor your sodium intake as well as trans fats, and avoid artificial sweeteners altogether—they provide no health benefits, are chemical-laden, and throw off the body’s natural hormones.

At ProActive Physical Therapy, our goal is to get you back to the activities you love. If you’re looking for more tips on how to live a healthy life, contact a ProActive clinic near you to schedule an appointment!

ProActive Physical Therapy is empowered by Foothills Therapy Partners (FTP).