Improving Your Athletic Performance in Quarantine and Beyond (Part 2)
In this 2 part blog, we are looking at how to maintain and improve your athletic performance during quarantine, so you are ready to hit the ground running when the gyms do open back up. Yes, not having access to your regular training equipment will have an impact on your performance when you can finally get back into the gym. However, we are taking a look at some key components to athletic performance that you can still train and control without access to equipment. These 6 components are not only important to focus on during quarantine, but will help you sustain a high level of performance no matter what your circumstances are.
Last week, we looked at 3 physical components that are critical to improving your athletic performance:
Single Limb Stability
If you haven't had a chance to read last week's blog, check it out here: https://www.enhanceptdsm.com/post/improving-your-athletic-performance-while-in-quarantine-and-beyond-part-1
This week we are going to cover 3 key components of performance related to what you do outside of the gym or your training program:
Sleep is not only important for performance, but our overall health as well. During sleep, our bodies are able to recover and repair. Not only is the quantity of sleep important, but also the quality of sleep. It is during REM sleep that we replenish energy for the brain and the body. If sleep is cut short, the body doesn't have time to repair memory, consolidate memory, and release necessary hormones for proper regulation.
Sleep deprivation can lead to a number of negative effects on our body:
Decreased alertness, reaction time, and memory
Decreases in immune system function
Reduces the release of growth hormone - important for the body to repair itself after exercise and maintain metabolism
Reduces the release of leptin and adiponect - which play major roles in fat gain and loss
Because of these negative effects of sleep deprivation, a lack of sleep can impact athletic performance in the following ways:
Decrease in muscle glycogen stores, which leads to a decrease in performance in endurance sports
Decrease in sprint speed
Decrease in weight lifted
Increase in risk for injury - greatest risk for injury occurs when there is an increase in training load and a decrease in sleep
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. However, the necessary amount of sleep may vary widely based on stress, sleep debt, training levels, and illness. For a high level of performance, it is important to monitor your sleep. Not only the duration, but your quality of sleep as well. You may complete a sleep journal or use one of a number of devices on the market to that monitor sleep quality: Whoop band, Apple watch, FitBit, or your cell phone to name a few.
If you want to avoid these negative effects of sleep deprivation, here are some tips for improving your sleep hygiene:
Proper sleep environment - dark, no electronics, minimal noise and distractions
Consistent sleep schedule - helps regulate your body's natural sleep/wake cycle
Perform 30-60 min of relaxation before bed
Turn off electronics at least 1 hour prior to bed - blue light emitted from electronics suppresses the body's natural release of the sleep hormone Melatonin
Nutrition is obviously a key component in optimal performance. However, today's blog is not designed for guiding you as to what specific nutrition plan you need to follow because that is very individualized based on a number of factors: sport, performance goals, training levels, timing of workouts, etc. However, it is designed to serve as a reminder of the importance of properly fueling our body if we not only want to perform at a high level, but also live a long, healthy, and active life. The saying "We are what we eat," is 100% accurate. If we want to perform at a high level, keep performing our favorite activities, and live a long and healthy life then we have to pay attention to the food we eat and make our nutrition a priority.
Here are a few key points to remember about nutrition for performance:
Fuel your body with REAL food: your diet should consist mostly of vegetables, meats, eggs, fruits, nuts and seeds, and healthy whole grains.
Pre-workout nutrition: fuel your body 1-4 hours prior to a workout. Pre-workout nutrition should consist of carbs and proteins. Carbs provide the fuel for your workout and protein rebuilds and repairs your muscles. Protein also "primes the pump" to make sure the right amino acids are available for your muscles.
Post-workout nutrition: The optimal carb:protein ratio post workout is 3:1. Consume this within 30-60 min following a workout to replenish your glycogen stores (fuel your body needs to workout).
Hydration is our last, but definitely not the least important component to optimizing performance. As with sleep, it is not only important to pay attention to our quantity of hydration, but also the quality. During exercise, we lose electrolytes (sodium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, potassium). Electrolytes are vital to the function of our cells. They control the electrical activity in our cells that allow them to perform their vital functions. They also help maintain fluid balance, perform muscle contractions, and control neural activity (activity of our nervous system).
Following a workout, and even during, it is important to make sure that we are replacing our electrolytes with something like a sports drink, electrolyte packet, and even food. Sodium is the most important electrolyte because it assists in rebalancing all electrolytes and water follows sodium into the cells to help them rehydrate.
As mentioned, quantity of hydration is also important. It is recommended that you drink at least 1/2 of your body weight in ounces per day of water. Water helps to maintain our blood volume, regulate our body temperature, and is involved in muscle contractions. A greater than 2% loss of body weight after activity indicates dehydration, which can lead to an increase in perceived exertion (how hard you feel like you are working) and a decrease in performance. Focusing on your water intake throughout the day and replenishing electrolytes following workouts will allow your body to function at an optimal level and assist in your athletic performance.
There are a lot of factors that play a role in athletic performance, and sometimes things outside of our control, aka COVID-19 and quarantine, can have an impact on our athletic performance. However, there are still a number of factors that are within our control that we can still focus on during quarantine and on a daily basis. If you start making these 6 factors a priority and a habit now, it will greatly benefit you when you do have access to the gym and your normal equipment again. Also, these 6 components will help you maintain a high level of performance over a longer period of time and are critical to living a long, healthy, and active lifestyle.