It has been argued that modern day athletes are becoming faster, stronger and better every year. In one TED Talk, David Epstein compared Usain Bolt’s performance to Jesse Owens in 1936. Jesse Owens once had the world record for 100 meter dash, but if Jesse Owens competed at the same time as Usain Bolt, he would have been 14 feet behind Usain Bolt.
We are living in a time wherein we have accumulated a complex understanding of sports science, nutrition and supplementation. We have applied different approaches to give athletes an edge on their sports.
If you are an athlete, or plan to become one, you need to maximize your potential. What are the secrets to increasing athletic performance? Here are seven things that you need to implement.
1. Eating the right food at the right time
Food plays a crucial role in athletic performance. An athlete can’t afford to eat anything and expect the best results on their body. An athlete’s meal should be cleaner than the meal of an average Joe. Serious athletes can’t regularly eat junk food.
This is why there are nutritionists specific for athletes. Nutritionists can create meals that are designed for different functions. Depending on the time when the food is consumed, it plays a different role. It can easily be a recovery meal, or a meal which will be used as fuel for performance.
One of the most basic things that athletes need to do is to have a healthy breakfast. A healthy breakfast can stop your body from catabolizing the muscles, and even jump start your metabolic rate. If you are not used to eating breakfast, you can always start eating a small meal first thing in the morning, then move up to a full and complete breakfast.
It is also important to choose the right meal before a workout. It should contain not only carbohydrates that can be used for fuel, but sufficient amounts of protein which could prevent catabolism during intense workouts.
2. Eat the right supplements at the right time
There are instances when you just can’t only rely on the food that you eat. There are times when you will need to consume supplements to provide your body with the necessary macronutrients, vitamins and minerals.
The most basic supplement that you can have is vitamins. This way, you don’t have to eat so much food just to fill in the vitamin and mineral requirements of the body.
Whey protein is a popular pre- and post-workout supplement among athletes. Whey provides and replenishes protein in an athlete’s body, allowing faster recovery and muscle development. Together with whey are branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). BCAAs are known to be anti-catabolic and are easily absorbed by the skeletal muscles.
There are also fat supplements, such as conjugated linoleic acids, used to increase metabolic rate and to prevent muscle catabolism. Some invest in stimulant-based pre-workouts in order to boost mental alertness. Of course, before you invest in supplements, you should be aware of the side effects. Supplements are only a secondary source of nutrients among athletes.
3. Focus on functional exercises
In order to hone athletic abilities, it is imperative to have the right workout for the right sport. In most situations, isolation exercises won’t get the job done. The usual regimen of bodybuilders won’t be beneficial for athletes. Body sculpting is the least of an athlete’s concern. In fact, there are athletes who don’t look muscular.
Here is when functional exercises enter the picture. Functional routines aim to mimic the movements needed in an athlete’s usual activity. Its focus is not only to improve movements, but to augment possibilities of an injury.
Samples of functional exercises include goblet squats, deadlifts, Olympic lifts, split squats and variant isolation exercises that have been combined with each other. The reason why it is called functional exercise is because of the inclusion of different muscle groups.
Another important detail that athletes should take into consideration is the way they train. One of the best ways to improve athletic performance is by repeating the same movements over and over again. This helps improve the neuro-muscular reaction among athletes.
If you ever wondered how athletes react so fast to different scenarios, it is because of the specific drills that they have been doing over and over again. It helps them reduce the lag time in certain scenarios.
5. Mix-up your workout every three weeks
Muscle memory is your body adapting to the stressful scenario that it encounters. For athletes, workouts, drills and regimens are considered stress. Muscle memory explains how you master certain movements when done repeatedly. Unfortunately, sticking to the same workout over and over again may not give you the best results.
Muscle confusion can produce significant results to an athlete. Changing your workout every three weeks can help the body get the most results, especially when you feel that you are already used to performing the different routines and drills.
6. Log your performance and improvement
Athletes need to have an idea how much they’ve accomplished. Did you become a bit faster? Did you become stronger? Keep track of your performance, how much you’ve improved, and what you still need to work on. This gives you a concrete idea on how much work still needs to be done. This can also give you an idea of the things that you can improve on.
7. Include conditioning in your routine
Athletes take their time to improve and refine their techniques. For example, basketball players perform shooting practices for hours, while soccer players are doing the same kick over and over. Instead of simply focusing on technique, it is also a good idea for athletes to focus on conditioning.
By incorporating conditioning exercises during these routines, you train the body to nail the activity even when you are already tired.
If you wish to improve your performance as an athlete, it isn’t enough that you are just dedicated to your craft. It is equally important to work smart on how you approach training, nutrition and even rest. With what we have today, it is possible to you maximize your athletic ability to the fullest.