Power plate: Eat to fuel your performance

  • Published
  • By Susan Haley, RDN, LD/N, 6th Aerospace Medicine Squadron registered dietitian nutritionist

Food is our secret weapon. When planned and executed well food can supply everything our bodies need to thrive, whether we’re running a marathon or taking a rest day.

Even at rest, our body is in a metabolically active state. The brain, central nervous system, muscles, liver, heart, lungs, kidneys, hormones and digestive system work 24/7 to keep us alive.

All that work takes energy. Adding activities of daily living and exercise can require an added 20% to 250% more energy than what our body needs at rest.

Achieving a balanced intake requires eating foods from a variety of food groups. There are more than 40 nutrients needed to thrive and there is no one food or food group that can meet those needs.

Nutrients work synergistically, so over-consuming one can affect how well our body uses others. We can also get so focused on one goal, i.e., building muscle that we forget all the other important processes that are continually occurring.

Balance requires eating the proper amount to meet activity and performance goals. Many people eat more than they need, but those who are highly active, exercising 60-minutes or more per day, often have a hard time eating enough to cover their basic physiologic needs. When you’re well-fueled, you should feel satisfied and energized, not hungry and grumpy.

Food quality matters as well—stick close to the farm. Highly processed foods are often short of important nutrients or have added ingredients that affect the homeostasis between all our essential systems.

Take a whole food approach and eat foods that have naturally occurring nutrients to assure you get the high-quality fuel your body deserves.

Lastly, when you eat matters. Not everyone needs to eat six times a day but going too long without eating can affect homeostasis, so eating at least three times a day is an important start.

Timing is also important to get the most out of an exercise session. Eating before and right after a hard or long exercise session will assure you have a high-quality exercise session, replace used-up fuel and begin the repair, recovery, and synthesis of new muscle tissue.

For more information about nutrition for activity and performance, visit https://www.hprc-online.org/nutrition/performance-nutrition

Human Performance Resources by CHAMP (HPRC) is the human performance optimization (HPO) educational arm of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP), a DoD Center of Excellence located at the Uniformed Services University. HPRC provides holistic, performance optimization resources that help members of the military community stay physically and mentally fit, fuel and hydrate properly, maintain social ties, and stay resilient—all pieces of the puzzle that make up Total Force fitness.