We took a look at some of the latest research in sports science and nutrition to bring you our top tips to improve performance with minimum input and maximum gains.
1. Take it outside
Vitamin D deficiency is the most common vitamin deficiency in the western world and is really common among athletes. Believe it or not, Vitamin D is a steroid and an important precursor for testosterone, a hormone crucial for exercise performance. Vitamin D is also responsible for a wide variety of other functions, including your immune response, gene signalling, and cellular regeneration. Our body creates most of our vitamin D from direct sunlight on our skin, but you can also top up your levels by eating oily fish, meat and eggs.
2. Pumping iron
A recent study by the Department of Nutrition and Internal Medicine at the University of California showed that both iron deficiency and magnesium deficiency can result in a significant reduction in exercise performance. If your diet is lacking in magnesium and iron, consider foods such as dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish and bananas.
3. Don’t skip a beet
Nitric oxide is a gas found in your bloodstream that is an important regulator of blood flow. It improves cardiovascular health, maximizes endurance, and exercise output. A clever way to optimize the timing of nitric oxide in your bloodstream is to eat nitrate rich vegetables such as rhubarb or beetroot before a workout. Beetroot juice is the most popular option for athletes - 500g before a workout should give you a significant dose of nitrates.
4. Trust your gut
All health begins in the gut; your body contains trillions of microbes which dictate how you look, think, feel and perform. What’s more, studies have shown that an unhealthy gut environment can negatively impact everything from your immune system to your mental health. Advanced prebiotics have been shown to positively rebalance gut microflora by selectively promoting good bacteria.
The Journal of Primary Prevention released a paper reviewing the link between dietary supplements and enhanced sports performance in which researchers found that improving gut health may positively affect athletic performance. Benefits included enhanced recovery from fatigue, improved immune function, and maintenance of healthy gastrointestinal tract function.
5. Mind over matter
Perhaps one of the most overlooked factors affecting athletic performance is state of mind. Mind-set is everything; it can take you from nervous, tense and erratic to proactive, assertive, and focused. Try to adopt your desired mind-set in practice and competition until it is ingrained. Recent research by the University of Toronto, Canada, has shown that mental skills training can directly translate to improved competition performance. A qualified sport psychologist can help you maximize your results both in training and on competition day.