How Peak Nutrition Improves Performance

Nutrition is vital to the advancement of your athletic career.

Diet is one of the most critical factors in performance and overall health. What and how you eat strongly influences how well you’re able to recover, how much resilience you have, and even how long (and how well) you live. The foods you eat can make or break you as an athlete. A healthy diet can give you the edge you need to stay in optimal shape and help you push past your limits, whereas a poor diet can hold you back and leave you susceptible to injury and illness. The sports-industry has begun to realize this and top level athletes are benefiting from the focus put on enhancing nutrition through diet and supplementation. The topic of diet is extensive, however, the fundamentals are relatively simple to understand. Implementation of these fundamentals is easier said than done, but building positive dietary habits now pays off massively in the long-run. Peak nutrition can help advance your athletic career by making you feel and perform your best, and can lessen the toll that years of training and competing puts on your body (ensuring physical health even after your career). If you are serious about getting to the next level, committing to making better dietary choices is critical. In order to do so, you must learn to look past society’s incessant marketing of overly processed and nutrient-depleted foods. Unfortunately, most food companies are more worried about their bottom line than your health. It’s up to you to concentrate on what will actually help you become an optimal athlete.

So, what are the fundamentals?

Eat whole foods. The less processing a food goes through, the better. The processing of food often removes vital nutrients (like vitamins, minerals, and fiber) and incorporates harmful additives (like chemicals, artificial flavors, and preservatives). Additionally, these foods are usually filled with an excessive amount of added sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, all of which can act like toxins in the body. Processed foods digest much faster because these foods have been broken down, causing large fluctuations in blood sugar levels. These fluctuations can lead to hypoglycemia, fatigue, irritability, and other problematic symptoms. After consuming processed foods for a long enough time, your body can eventually become devoid of key nutrients, which can lead to decreases in performance and overall health. Do your best to eat whole foods; these are foods that come in their natural form with no (or very few) ingredients or modifications. Examples of whole foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, meats, fish and eggs, all of which are sold without (or with very little) change from their original state. These fresh, whole foods will have a much higher nutrient content than the foods that come in shelf-stable packages. Trust me, you will feel and see the difference from shifting to a more whole foods diet, and your body will thank you for it.

Eat organic foods. (or at the least clean 15/dirty dozen).  Buying organic food is slightly more expensive than conventionally grown, but just with anything, you get what you pay for.  Think of this as an investment in your health, not an expense.  Do a google search to find the clean 15 and the dirty dozen.  The clean 15 are foods that aren’t as important to buy organic, while the dirty dozen have higher levels of pesticides and chemicals and are much more important to buy organic.

Eat a variety of foods. (especially fruits and veggies) This increases the range of nutrients you get, and allows you to get more of your micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.  Aim for variety in foods and in colors – think purple (cabbage, beets), blue (blueberries), orange (sweet potatoes, carrots), green (spinach, kale, lettuce) etc.

Eat quality macronutrients.

Below is a list of the three macronutrients and some helpful information about them.  As you probably know, these macronutrients include protein, carbohydrate, and fat.  These essentially are the major building blocks of the foods we consume.

Making changes to your diet can be overwhelming, so start by making small and manageable changes.  Focus more on the “what to eat” sections below and start reducing foods in the “eat less” sections.  Revamping your diet is not an overnight process.  It took me years to make these changes, and I continue to make improvements even now.


Why it’s important: Proteins are the building blocks of your body.  They are essential for building and repairing muscle.  They also help balance blood sugar levels, giving you sustained and stable energy levels.  Proteins also play a large role in metabolism and body composition, hormone production and countless other important roles.  Protein should be consumed at regular intervals throughout the day, and especially post training sessions.  Try for around 20-40 grams of protein (depending on your body weight) per meal.

What to eat: grass fed beef, organic chicken, organic turkey, organic or pastured eggs and egg whites, organic bison, wild caught SMASH fish (sardine, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, herring), beans – lentils, black beans, kidney beans etc., (if tolerated – grass fed dairy for example greek yogurt and grass fed whey protein), grass fed collagen protein powders, organic bone broth

Eat Less: commercial or non-organic beef, chicken, and turkey, farm raised fish of all kinds, larger fish like tuna or swordfish, processed protein bars, non grass fed/lower quality whey and casein proteins, milk,

When traveling: grass fed or organic beef, chicken, turkey jerky (epic is a good brand), canned wild caught fish, minimally processed and whole food based protein bars (bulletproof collagen bars, primal kitchen bars, quest bars)


Why it’s important: Carbohydrates provide a great source of energy and help to refuel the body’s glycogen stores after intense exercise.  Higher quality carbohydrates also contain a slew of vitamins and nutrients that help the body perform optimally.  Most unrefined carbohydrates also contain fiber, which is helpful in balancing blood sugar, aiding in digestion, and detoxification.  Pair carbohydrates with fats and or proteins for typical meals as this will balance blood sugar levels and enhance the digestion process.  Having higher amounts of simple carbohydrates (those that break down faster in the body – like fruits or starches) is more important before and after intense training sessions and games.

What to eat: organic vegetables of all kinds (these are extremely important) – spinach, kale, bok choy, asparagus, carrots, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, chard, cucumber, peppers, eggplant etc., organic fruits – blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, apples, oranges, bananas, pineapple, nectarines, clementines, (in moderation – dried organic fruits, as these contain more sugar and are easy to overconsume), white and sweet potatoes, squash.

Eat less: non-organic vegetables and fruits, canned fruits and vegetables, candy, chips, bread, pasta, pastries, crackers, bagels, any packaged or processed snack foods

When traveling: organic fruit, organic dried fruit, organic vegetables (for shorter duration trips), whole food based granola or trail mix, whole food based snacks and bars


Why it’s important: Fats provide building blocks of many hormones in the body and also comprise what the cells of your body are made of.  Fats have been demonized in the past, but getting adequate amounts of high-quality fats is essential for overall health and performance.  Focus on cooking with higher heat stable oils like avocado oil, as other oils can break down and become unhealthy when heated to higher temperatures.  Also, focus on omega 3 fats (like those in fish, quality meat, and nuts) and less on omega 6 oils (like vegetable oils).  Omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory in nature while omega 6 fats are more inflammatory.

What to eat: organic coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, avocados, coconuts, olives, grass-fed butter, organic and raw nuts and seeds – almonds, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, cashews, chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, unsweetened coconut flakes, wild caught fish, high quality fish oil

Eat less: vegetable oils – canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil etc., commercial butter, roasted nuts (especially those with added sugars), fried foods, trans fats, hydrogenated oils (like those found in some peanut butters)

When traveling: organic and raw nuts and seeds, organic unsweetened coconut flakes, (there are also quality fats in bulletproof protein bars, and primal kitchen collagen bars)


Additional Resources:

Peak by Marc Bubbs ND