“You are what you eat” might be a popular phrase, but not many people realize just how far
this concept extends. Sure, you might not turn into a tomato by eating lots of tomatoes
(despite what your grandfather might have told you when you were a child), but the type of
food you opt for changes your physical and mental health. Don’t underestimate diet and its
impact on mindset.
It follows that nutrition can play a crucial role in athlete motivation and help you maintain
a positive outlook while training. Here’s why it’s so important.
The role of the gut
What we eat changes our gut — and the gut in turn is responsible for producing
neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, widely known as the “feel-good”
chemicals. This whole process helps to keep us feeling positive and calm.
Some studies suggest that, if we eat the wrong food, it could lead to poor mental health —
or even psychiatric disorders like depression.
So, what foods should we be aiming for? It’s unlikely there’s one miracle diet that will
optimize everyone’s wellbeing, but you can’t go wrong with whole foods boasting high
nutritional value — think vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
You might have heard of free radicals — they play a natural role in our body, but if there
aren’t enough antioxidants to balance them out, they can damage our cells. This is known
as oxidative stress, and it can stop our brain from functioning correctly. Guess how we can
ensure we have the right levels of antioxidants? By eating the right food.
When we eat foods high in vitamins and minerals, they help to fuel the brain properly. But
if we eat too many processed foods, especially those high in refined sugars, it can impair
brain functioning and worsen our mood.
Why this matters for athletes
You probably don’t need us to tell you that it’s not easy to maintain the discipline and
motivation necessary to stick to a grueling training regimen and continually improve your
athletic performance. Even in the best of times, it’s hard to wake up early on a cold, rainy
day and head to your training — but if you’re constantly battling negative feelings and your
the brain is screaming at you to stay in bed instead, it becomes almost impossible.
None of this means that you should never eat another chocolate bar or burger. But if you
really want to optimize your performance and remain in a positive mood, making sure that
most of what you eat is nutritional should swing the pendulum in your favor. Try to take
notice of how the food you eat makes you feel. You might have enjoyed your fast food binge
at the moment, but were you so happy a few hours later, or the next day?
Mind over matter
The brain is a mysterious beast, and there’s plenty we’ve still got to learn about it. But one
the thing almost everyone agrees on is that whole foods are a better choice for our minds than
their processed counterparts.
If you’ve found yourself nodding along but you’re not sure how to take action, you’re in the
right place. The rest of our content focuses on the link between athletic performance and
mindset, so why not check it out?