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5 Ways Combining Mindfulness and Eating will Boost your Performance
Mindfulness is the practice of being present and fully engaged in the current moment. It can be particularly helpful for athletes, as it can help you focus on your training and competition, reduce stress and anxiety, and help you tap into unleashing peak performance and potential. We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of mindfulness during training and performance. We’ve also talked a lot about nutrition. Now, it’s time to discuss the two combined.
It might come as a surprise that mindfulness can also benefit athletes in relation to eating. By being more mindful about what you eat and how you eat, you can improve your overall nutrition and support your training. The bottom line? You can significantly enhance your performance by eating mindfully.
“Multitasking is seriously overrated. Try to do one task at a time and learn to do it with more intentionality.” — Gareth J. Mole, Sport Psychologist.
Here are some tips to get you started on combining mindfulness and eating to boost your performance:
1. Slow down and savor your food.
When you’re busy with training and competition, rushing through meals or eating on the go can be easy. However, eating mindfully means taking the time to really savor your food, appreciating its taste, texture, and aroma. This can help you feel more satisfied with your meals and can help you make better food choices.
Finishing a workout and simply eating to fulfill protein or calorie requirements sucks all the fun out of food! It also can leave you feeling unsatisfied and hungry but with no more room for calories in your regime. It’s essential to get your nutrients from more than just protein bars; savoring your food will make it fun.
2. Focus on Nutrient-Dense foods.
Athletes need a well-balanced diet that provides them with the nutrients they need to support their training and performance. By being more mindful about the foods you eat, you can ensure you’re getting everything you need, such as carbs, protein, and healthy fats. This will lead to improved performance as you’ll be in tune with what you need to support your training and will ensure you consume it daily. Aim to include a variety of nutrient-dense foods in your diet, such as fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
If you’re wondering about those so-called superfoods of the world, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a round-up we did of different superfoods and whether or not they’re worth the hype for an athlete looking to boost their gains.
3. Listen to your Body.
A big part of why mindful eating impacts athletes is because it encourages listening to your body. The more in tune you are with your body, the better you’ll be at honing your overall performance across eating, training, and competing. What are you paying attention to when it comes to eating? Look for your hunger and fullness cues. This can help you with undereating and overeating, both of which impact your performance. Try to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Also, avoid distractions like screens or other activities while you eat. When paired with slowing down, focusing only on the task of eating will help you notice those cues sooner.
Trying intermittent fasting as an athlete might be tempting, but it’s another area where listening to your body will be crucial. If this is on your radar as something you’re considering trying, be sure to read this blog post we wrote about fasting as an athlete first.
4. Stay Hydrated.
We know it’s not eating, but drinking water is consumption of some kind, and hydration is essential for athletes and athletic performance. Being mindful of your fluid intake can help you stay adequately hydrated throughout the day! Make sure to drink water regularly and pay attention to your body’s thirst cues. If you’re sweating heavily during training or competition, you’ll have to make up for that out-pouring from your pores by drinking more afterwards to stay properly hydrated.
5. Practice Gratitude.
The last piece of mindfulness and eating is a classic: Gratitude. Especially in athletics that are rife with disordered eating, gratitude can help you come to terms with food being your friend and your fuel rather than the enemy. Take a moment before each meal to express gratitude for the opportunity to fuel your body and perform your best.
For more on mindful eating, check out this YouTube video featuring Dr. Emilia Thompson, who focuses on improving her clients’ relationship with the food they eat.
How to Get Started
Remember that incorporating mindfulness into your eating habits isn’t a diet. It’s a way of life. It doesn’t mean cutting out all of the indulgences you love, but rather, becoming more aware of the feelings surrounding them and letting you enjoy them more without that sense of guilt! Blueprint Nutrition has a beginners guide to mindful eating with these five easy steps:
1. Approach food with curiosity and non-judgement rather than shame and guilt.
2. Check in with yourself before and after workouts to see how you’re feeling and to address the root cause of any extended periods of poor-quality sessions.
3. Pause before eating to bring awareness and attention to your body and your meal.
4. Minimize distractions.
5. Remember to reset if you fall out of the practice.
While it may not seem like much, incorporating mindfulness into your eating habits can improve your nutrition, support your training, and enhance your overall performance as an athlete. Mindful eating has also been shown to reduce HDL cholesterol, lower your BMI, and improve your mental well-being. Increased awareness of your body through mindful eating can boost your relationship with what you eat and how you treat your body and use it to achieve greatness in your realm.
“The mind is a muscle. You need to take care of it through daily practice. It’s that simple and that profound.” — George Mumford, Author of The Mindful Athlete
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