How to Improve Performance with Food, Sleep, and Stress Colin Stuckert September 1, 2013 3225 Creatine and how it improves athletic performance was the original writing assignment for this article. Creatine is a useful supplement and this is the summary of the article I could have written: Strategic doses of creatine have been proven to increase endurance performance (and other athletic endeavors). Go to Google and search for dosing recommendations. Stick with pure creatine monohydrate and avoid the flavored crap with synergic additions. When it comes to your body and performance, it’s more prudent to get your foundation in check before venturing into the land of supplements. When compared to your diet, sleep habits, and stress load, creatine is an almost trivial topic. To reach your fitness goal, you must build a foundation of what I call The Trinity- Food, Stress, and Sleep. Essentially, what matters most is the delicate balance of what you do when you train and what you do the rest of the time in your day-to-day life. They are directly connected. The Trinity: Food, Sleep, Stress Why spend money on a shiny new pre-workout supplement when you can achieve insane amounts of ROI (return on investment) by focusing on your lifestyle? You can literally save money and your health by living and breathing The Trinity. Your performance will soar to new heights and so will your health. Until you are near perfect in each category, you are wasting time and money on anything else. Improving your food, sleep, and stress is the key to increased performance. There is no substitute for this foundation. It is also the secret to longevity, six-pack abs, and waking up every day with energy and happiness. Neglecting the Trinity is a surefire way to mess up your performance and your health. If you put too much time into your training (a stress) and you neglect your diet, you will handicap your performance. Similarly, if you eat perfect and train well, but don’t make sleep a priority, you are running the race with your laces tied. There isn’t enough coverage of lifestyle and its importance in the fitness industry. It’s because these subjects are difficult to write about and even more difficult to implement. People want to take the easy route. It’s easier to regurgitate the same topics over and over; it’s easier to maintain the status quo. Don’t be fooled by this, as this is the path of least resistance. The only healthy way to improve your performance is by focusing on your foundation first and building on top of that. This path includes much resistance, and it is difficult. Notice how the Trinity doesn’t include training at first glance; it is only a sub-category of Stress. This is for a good reason: training is a small aspect of your results. Your lifestyle accounts for the majority of why you perform the way you do, for better or worse. Too little in one category and your results suffer. Too much and you will have adverse effects as well. You can’t out-run, out-train, out-bike, or out-swim a weak lifestyle. Your competition is training just as hard as you, sometimes harder, and the one thing that can set you apart is the Trinity. Let’s break down each category so you can put together an action plan to focus on the Trinity in your own life. Food Nutrition accounts for 80% of your health, performance, and body. It can’t be avoided. It can’t be substituted. You have to make it important. Food is fuel and should not be an afterthought (especially for athletes). Think of your body as a Ferrari. You would never use regular gasoline in an engine like this. It would ruin the engine and the car would sputter along. Your food is exactly the same. What goes in reflects what comes out in your performance and results. Do this with Food: Eat healthy animals and seafood. Eat local and/or organic plants. Eat healthy fat from coconut oil and olive oil. If it used to be alive and has not been altered by a human, you can eat it. Avoid processed and refined foods. Avoid factory farmed animal products. Prepare food at home as often as possible. Learn what works for your body- for some, this means eliminating gluten or dairy or other items that may not be allergens, but might cause a reaction. Get your diet looking like this and you will blow any past performance out of the water. Sleep Sleep is one of the most important things we do as humans. If you have been living sleep deprived for awhile you probably don’t think sleep is that important. Sleep is non-negotiable, just like your diet. Make it a priority or you will pay for it in some way. Do this with Sleep: Everyone is different but the recommended average is 8 hours a night. Start sleeping more and your results will improve across the board. It’s as simple as that. Sleep enables you to perform, look, and feel better. There are many books and techniques on the subject; do your research and make sleep a priority. Stress The stress category of the Trinity includes good and bad stress. Stress, when used strategically in the proper dosage—like training—can be very useful in strengthening the human body. We adapt to stressors. Skipping meals from time to time is a beneficial stress known as fasting. Lifting weights and conditioning are useful stresses when applied in the correct doses. Too little stress and you won’t elicit an adaptation; too much stress and you induce adverse effects (think overtraining or overeating). The key is to find the healthy balance of stress that is going to improve your performance. Do your best to avoid overtraining and make sure your rest is a priority. Remember that training is breaking down your muscles; you are inducing stress. When you are resting, you are building and repairing your stressed body. You must have both parts of the equation. Do this with Stress: Try to find techniques to reduce mental stress. Some of my favorites include focused breathing, meditation, yoga, being mindful, having fun, dancing, and spending time with friends and family. Don’t Skimp If your goal is to increase your performance, and be healthy doing it, you need to do the best you can within each of these categories: Food, Sleep, and Stress. You must associate your results with the things that matter. There is no miracle pill or protocol that is going to get you results. The supplements that do provide benefit (there are some) all pale in comparison to sleeping an extra hour, or taking a rest day, or preparing your meals at home. Build your foundation, and the results will follow.