Whether you’re an athlete, a CEO, or a parent that needs to keep up with their kids, eating for peak performance can apply to just about everyone.
But how do we know when we’ve reached our “peak”? It’s not like you get a letter in the mail, or can suddenly leap over tall buildings. We do get red flags, however, when we fail to consume right calories and macronutrients to meet our energy needs: fatigue, injury, brain fog and illness are just some of the ways our bodies say, “I can’t keep going like this.”
The nutrition connection
Yes, training and recovery are key components of peak performance, but the most crucial element is proper nutrition. When you consume the right macros (proteins, fats, carbohydrates) in the right amounts for your unique energy expenditure, your body is perfectly fueled. No amount of rest can make up for poor nutrition, and a body with poor energy input cannot train, think or perform at its best.
LEA is just that: not enough energy for the maintenance of good health beyond exercise, training, and life’s daily demands.
Let’s talk about the consequences of low energy availability, or LEA, a newly recognized condition within the athletic community. Research out of Penn State University identified LEA as contributing to the following in athletes:
• Increased bone stress injuries and fractures
• Hormone imbalance
• Compromised immunity
• Poor muscle recovery
• Poor endurance
Even the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee warns of these signs of LEA in Olympic athletes:
• Repeated injury
• Prolonged recovery
• Mood swings
• Failure to lose weight
• Reduced or low bone density
• Reduced libido
• Excessive fatigue
Whether you’re an athlete or not, can you relate to any of the above? Could your diet be more nutritionally balanced and energy efficient to meet your needs? Even if you need to lose weight, you could still be suffering from LEA, which is preventing you from getting leaner.
Who is most at risk for low energy availabilityIt’s safe to say most people aren’t eating for peak performance, and that most people’s diets are lacking in one form or another. In terms of athletes with LEA, researchers at Penn State identified the following as high-risk:
• Athletes in aesthetic or lean-build sports: dance, gymnastics, diving, figure skating, distance running
• Athletes in weight class sports: wrestling, martial arts, ski jumping, jockeys
• Athletes who unintentionally under eat because they don’t know their energy needs
The same researchers also identified these at-risk groups
• Military men and women
• Chronic and repeated dieters, or secret eaters
• Those with pathological eating behaviors: anorexia, bulimia, use of laxatives or diuretics to control weight
• Those who avoid certain foods, such as fats
How to eat for peak performance
If you think your fatigue, susceptibility to illness or injury, athletic plateau or even mood could be helped with better nutrition, here are some strategies that can help:
Journal your foods
Tedious, we know. It’s one of the reasons we made SmartPlate™. Whether you use our system that’s takes five seconds per meal, or write everything down in a traditional journal, it’s critical that you know what you’re eating, and when.
Calculate your energy input
Also tedious, and also why we created Smart Plate™. Our technology is 60x more accurate than all other calorie and carb-counting apps, and is calculated as soon as you journaled your food (so, we help you skip this step). Or, you can figure out calories and macros manually. Either way, knowing these numbers is critical.
Calculate your energy output
There are a number of online tools to help you estimate how many calories you burn, based on your age, gender, height, weight and activity level. The SmartPlate™ app also has this built right in.