Nutrition is often the unsung hero of increasing an individual's performance. In fact, I would go as far as to say that without good nutrition you cannot even begin to successfully increase your levels of performance, whether it's in daily life or in sport. There are many factors, from a nutritional perspective, that need to be in place even before you can start to increase your performance.
Try increasing your recovery ability with impaired gut function. You will not even begin to absorb all the high quality food you might be consuming and the expensive supplements that you are knocking back all because your nutrition is not in check. So when it comes to performance nutrition it might actually be a case of stripping the individual back to basics. So does the person in question have good nutrient absorption, a strong immune system, an adequate sleep pattern and enough de-stress time? If not then what are the chances of them increasing their levels of performance through increases in training volume and frequency. This is usually when players get ill, crash and burn, all because their nutrition and lifestyle are not in check.
So performance nutrition might in fact be a cloak and dagger word, but there are obviously factors of performance nutrition that do lend themselves to increases in someone's physical performance. So let's say we are working with an individual that has all the above in check, then we can look to increase their physical and mental performance with the aid of nutrition, including food and supplements. Of course there are many ways to coax the body into the environment that you want it to perform in. Specific food and specific supplements at certain times can signal the body to perform in a certain way. A perfect example of this would be during the post workout recovery period, a time where nutrients are partitioned in a certain way, when provided in the right proportions, into the muscle to preferentially induce a greater anabolic and recovery effect.
So really the above is a prime example of performance nutrition. Such a nutritional strategy thus increases someone's performance through increasing the body's ability to recovery quicker. After all recover quicker and we can train sooner, which then, over time, leads to greater overall increases in performance as more training practice has been performed. But what must not happen in performance nutrition strategies is skip one phase before the other. There is no point in giving an individual X, Y and Z supplement if their gut health is currently impaired. Much of the consumed supplements might be going to waste through poor absorption, so it would make sense to repair the gut, then build on top of that, as in theory you will then observe two increases in performance, one from re-building the gut and another from the targeted supplement use.
So of course there is a place for fancy supplements and specific foods to increase the performance of an individual at the right times, but there are essentials that have to be in place first. In essence you could liken performance nutrition to the art of building a house. Rock solid foundations have to be in place first before you build your fancy architectural sculpture on top. Now that is the art of performance nutrition.
Ben Coomber consults with MMA, rowing, rugby and physique athletes at various levels. Consults for UK tennis, and owns and runs Body Type Nutrition. He is an Internationally Certified Sports Nutritionist and trainer.
Sports nutrition consultations: http://www.bodytypenutrition.co.uk
Author website: http://www.bencoomber.com