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Sports Nutrition and Its Impact on an Athlete's Mindset

We love eating bad food - candy, fast food, savory treats...but just how much does this affect our health and athletic performance?


Our bodies urge us to give in to these cravings for unhealthy food because of the temporary happy feeling it gives us.


It tastes great and makes us feel joy, but the results of these poor eating habits have a significant impact on the athletic mindset that many of us don't quite understand or take seriously.


Yes, we all want to indulge every once in a while, and that is ok, but it's important to practice moderation, so it doesn't start to take a toll on you mentally.


Let's dive into more about just how important nutrition is and what its effects are.


Does Nutrition Play A Role in Mindset?


When we go from a poor diet to one that is nutritious and healthy, it isn't just our physical bodies that are affected, but also our mindset. Nutrition impacts it all - our mood, emotional state, and way of thinking just as much as our weight, skin, and energy levels.


It is proven and widely known by experts that good nutrition means better mental health, and if you have a poor diet, you're chances of getting depression and anxiety are increased [1].


Anyone with a mostly unhealthy diet may experience any of the following mental symptoms:


● Poor concentration

● Fatigue (this can be both mental & physical fatigue)

● Aggression

● Stress

● Hyperactivity

● Headaches

● Decreased cognitive ability


This is not simply due to lack of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, but also because unhealthy food is doing other things like raising cholesterol, blood sugar levels, weight, blood pressure, and more, which all contribute to how you feel.


It all puts you at greater risk of developing a mental or physical illness, which is why it is so crucial to eat right - especially if you are an athlete. If you're finding yourself a victim of mood swings or you don't have the right attitude to perform athletically, you may need to look more into your nutrition and diet.


When an athlete performs, they need both physical and cognitive function for the best outcome, such as reflex time and memorizing gameplay, which makes sense with how it all connects back to nutrition.


If you're a performing athlete, then you might already know that professional athletes and nutritionists consider nutrition as the holy grail of how one performs mentally and physically. That alone says a lot about the difference it can make in your athletic efforts.


Does Eating Meat vs. Plant-Based Foods Impact Mindset?


One thing we know for certain is that eating whole, unprocessed foods results in a lower chance of depression and other mental health issues [4].


In fact, vegetarians have also shown a more positive mood compared to those who eat meat [4].


In theory, eating more plant-based foods may enhance your mindset because of their antioxidants and phytochemicals, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should cut out meat if that's what you enjoy.


By sticking to a healthy diet that consists primarily of whole foods that are unprocessed, you'll help maintain a positive mindset.


What Is Good Nutrition?


Good nutrition comes down to a lot of factors, such as your activity level, weight, gender, family genetic history, and more. Good nutrition for you might be something entirely different from someone else based on these factors.


A good rule with any diet is to split your daily caloric intake into three essential macronutrients - carbohydrates, fats, and protein.


You'll want to aim for 45-65% carbohydrates, 20-35% fats, and 10-35% protein [5]. These percentages are so broad because they'll vary based on the level of exercise you do each day.


For example, someone who works as a builder is going to eat more than someone who works at a desk all day. Athletes will eat more than non-athletes, and so forth. Even water intake will vary between each individual, although the recommended average is 3.7 liters for men and 2.7 liters for women.


But don't use this split ratio as an opportunity to get in your favorite unhealthy snacks. If you opt for more nutritious foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, you'll help prevent the mental health risks we mentioned earlier. These include vegetables, high-fiber foods like rice and potatoes, red meat, chicken, and unsaturated oils.


Even when and how often you eat throughout the day, such as before, during, and after exercise, impacts how you metabolize food [6].


It might be a good idea to consult with a dietician or nutritionist to confirm the best macro-nutrient percentages and eating times for you.


Furthermore, you might also need to supplement your diet for better mental performance, such as with Omega-3 fatty acids or vitamin B12. Your dietician can help you learn more and create the best food plan for you.


Resisting Non-Nutritious Foods


Many athletes struggle with resisting foods that aren't very nutritious, but there are ways you can overcome these cravings.


For example, not skipping meals will ensure you don't reach for unhealthy snacks for your hunger, and planning ahead with your meals and snacks throughout the day by shopping for only nutritious foods will prevent you from having access to unhealthy foods.


You should also be eating enough healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates that help you feel fuller for longer and quell that urge to eat something with a high-fat content or unnatural preservatives.


There are alternatives to your favorite treats that are much more nutritious for you. When you're craving something sweet, for example, opt for some fruit.


If you desperately want a savory snack, instead of finding a bag of high-fat chips, create a cottage cheese or avocado snack. You could also keep a trail mix in your bag when on the go for something to munch on.


These healthy substitutes will help you look away from junk food and encourage a more healthy way of eating, despite cravings.


Conclusion


We know you want to reach for that chocolate bar or bag of candy because it makes you feel good, and that's totally fine to admit.


If you're correctly balancing these foods with nutritious foods, then that's ok - as long as your body is getting the proper food that it needs to perform well and you don't go over your daily macro intake.


Take this information as a helpful tool when planning your diet around your athletic routine if you're aiming to improve your mindset. It is guaranteed that having an optimal diet will help in more ways than you think.


References

1. Be You - Beyond Blue - Nutrition and Mental Health - How are nutrition and mental health linked?

2. Meeusen R. Exercise, Nutrition, and the Brain - Sports Medicine - 2014;44:47

3. Nutrition Insight - News - Sex Matters: Gender-specific science advances as demand for tailored nutrition surges

4. PCRM - Good Nutrition - Food & Mood

5. Healthline - Nutrition - Best Macronutrient Ratio

6. Better Health - Healthy Living - Sporting performance and food - Pre-Event Meal, Eating During Exercise, Eating After Exercise







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