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Hit your peak - 8 Simple Ways to Enhance Your Athletic Performance
Contributor
Written by
LenaHemsworth
February 2020
Contributor
Written by
LenaHemsworth
February 2020

Athletes are becoming better, faster, and stronger every single year. This is something that can be attributed to a much broader understanding of sports science, nutrition, and supplementation. There are many different approaches that allow athletes with varying physiques to reach their full potential. Because of this, modern athletes need to familiarize themselves with the full extent of the sports science available to them.

If you want to be able to hit your absolute physical peak, you need to understand the science behind it and apply it to your everyday life. Knowledge is the single best asset an athlete has. Here are some of the most effective ways to improve your athletic performance and reach your potential. 

Get in the right mindset


Exercising isn’t just a test of physical ability, it’s also a test of mental fortitude. A lot of it depends on your mindset and your ability to overcome a lot of mental barriers. Think about the top athletes in their respective fields. It’s said that the best two hundred tennis players are pretty much identical in terms of form and physical ability. What sets legends like Federer apart from his contemporaries? Being in the right mindset helps. When your mind is dead set on achieving athletic success, you’re going to find that they are a lot easier to reach. 

Sports psychology is an integral part of the athletic experience. Elite athletes rely on many techniques that are used by sports psychology to achieve their goals. The question is – how do you push your limits using your mind?

Motivation is the single most important element to your athletic success. Finding the thing that drives you to achieve more will most certainly impact your physical performance, while also motivating you to improve your technique and strategy. It’s not something that always comes intuitively. 

Sometimes, you need to find that motivation on your own. Think of your athletic goals and what they mean to you. Is athleticism just a stepping stone to your academic success or are you aiming for the big leagues? Do you want fame, adoration, physical perfection, or are you keen on proving something to yourself? These are all valid questions that you should ask yourself to determine your motivation for athletic achievement.

In the end, setting goals for yourself can make or break your athletic career. If you manage to find something that you cling to even in the most grueling of training exercises, you've found your primary motivation. Keep on searching until you've got it and you'll find that success will come to a lot easier.

Stay well-read


If someone were to ask you what your most important athletic asset was, what would you say? Most people would say it's their physical talent or their dedication. These answers aren't too far from the truth, but there's one thing that can set you apart from the rest – your mind. The brain is the most powerful tool any athlete has at their disposal. It's not just about finding the will and strength to work out, you have to exercise intelligently.

All the raw strength and talent in the world won't help you reach your peak if you aren't doing the right workouts. This is something that world-class fitness experts have proven time and time again. Consider one of the most legendary bodybuilding figures of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He didn't just get to where he was with strength. He often cites his knowledge and research into bodybuilding as what gave him an edge. This is what top athletes have to keep in mind when trying to aim for trophies.

Physical fitness is as much about book smarts as it is about brawn. The body is a complex physical entity that needs to be nurtured and primed properly. Everything from nutrition to exercise regimes has to be well-thought-out in order to create the perfect athletic body. Books upon books have been written on these topics, and athletes have to sharpen their minds to stay ahead. Know your body's strengths and weaknesses before you dabble in physical activity. Every move has to be planned out with physical perfection in mind. Take a gander at books that deal with nutrition and exercise technique, they will help you reach your goals faster and with more explosive growth.

Adequately prepare


They say that preparation is the key to success. This goes for just about everything in life, especially when it comes to fitness and athleticism. Being well-prepared for your workout or training session can mean the difference between success and failure. There are different ways to prepare for exercise, and none of them should be disregarded.

You're probably familiar with the importance of stretching. If you've ever seen athletes prepare for a tournament, you might have noticed that they're constantly stretching out, before and after a difficult task. The idea is that you prepare your muscles and joints for the challenging physical activity that awaits them. Just jumping into it without preparation is a recipe for disaster and potential injury. Even in the best-case scenario, your performance would suffer without some preparation.

The jury is still out on stretching, however. A lot of preparation you see will also include doing rudimentary activities while getting ready for a workout. Stretching eliminates weak muscle fibers, which is a stressful event that your muscles don’t need right before an exercise. Instead, the most often recommended way to warm up is to slowly get into a lighter version of your usual exercises. If you’re preparing for a lengthy run, some light jogging would be a great warmup. As long as you warm up right, you should be ready for the challenges of your workout.

Eat right


Food plays an integral role in your body’s performance. There's a reason why there are nutritionists that specialize in diets for athletes. An athlete that wants to take themselves seriously can’t afford to neglect their diet. There’s only one option – to eat the absolute best food that caters to their body’s needs. An athlete’s diet is a lot more demanding than your average diet. The type of diet that is used can vary between sports, but there are a few elements that just about every kind of athlete needs to stick to.

For starters, the amount of food you consume is crucial. If you're participating in grueling training sessions every single day, this likely means that your body will have higher caloric needs. Professional runners and cyclists often consume thousands of calories more than they would if they did not participate in these sports. This is because the body can't create energy out of thin air. Any caloric deficit will lead to the body breaking down your muscles and fat stores to provide energy for a workout. You don't want your muscles to shrink in size, so this is something to be avoided at all costs. Figuring out the exact number of calories you need will require a bit of math and a lot of research into your exercise regime and energy needs.

You can't just consume any calories, either. You don't see athletes chomping down on candy bars and drinking soda, even though they contain tons of calories. You have to watch your sugar intake alongside your need for calories. Eating junk food might provide a lot of calories, but those calories are often devoid of essential nutrients and spike blood sugar. Once insulin kicks in and overcompensates, you'll be too tired to do your daily workout. 

Slow-release carbs with fiber are essential to an athlete's diet. You should have a steady amount of energy coming in throughout the day, which is why quick-release and processed sugars aren’t recommended. Protein intake is just as essential, as your body will require lots of protein while you work out. Muscles are constantly rebuilding themselves and need a steady intake of protein. If you go through a challenging anaerobic workout, your body will crave protein. If it doesn’t receive it in time, it will start breaking down other muscles for the protein. It’s why you always see athletes drinking their protein shakes throughout workout sessions. Keep your protein and energy up at the right times and you’ll find that exercising will produce much better results, in both performance and physique change.

Hydrate even better


The athlete’s motto is: eat well and hydrate better. Water is something that you really can’t do without. It’s no surprise, considering that our bodies are mostly made up of water. Around seventy percent of our mass is attributed to water alone. That’s a lot of H2O that needs to be replenished constantly. 

Hydration has an enormous impact on your athletic performance. Even a slight deficiency in hydration can negatively affect your workout. It’s crucial that you keep yourself hydrated before, during, and after your workout. 

There’s a lot of misinformation surrounding exactly how much water you should consume during your exercise sessions. Contrary to popular belief, more isn’t always better. There is an upper limit at which point you will not only hit diminishing returns, but you can also “overhydrate” yourself and lessen performance. 

The general consensus around hydration during a workout is that you should consume around 500-800 ml of water per hour. It’s possible to sweat out more than that during a particularly intense session, but your body can’t replenish fluid any faster, even if you provide it with more. This amount should generally be enough for most athletes, but it depends on their stature and their chosen sport. On the upper end of the spectrum, you could even be looking at 900 ml of water per hour. It depends on a variety of factors, but the range above should be enough for a start.

Limit calories during workouts


While it can’t be understated how important how you eat is, when you eat is something that can’t be disregarded either. As common sense would tell you, it’s not recommended to eat at all times of the day, especially if much of your day is enveloped in challenging workouts. So, when is the best time to eat and when should you avoid putting too much on your plate?

Intuition and reason do a good job of guiding you through this part. You should definitely avoid eating too many calories during a workout session. While you should keep the protein shake around while you exercise, don’t overdo it. Around three hundred calories per hour are the recommended number to stick with. 

Athletes often try to increase this number to reach better results and increase their mass. The issue is that your digestive system won’t be able to take any more calories without overloading. Most of the blood in your body is heading towards your heart and muscles instead of your stomach and intestines. Increase the calorie number above this limit and you’ll quickly feel the effects of bloating and nausea. Stick to body cooperative amounts and you’ll be consuming the right number of calories.

It also goes without saying that you shouldn’t eat too much before going to sleep. Having proper shut-eye allows your body and focus to recuperate, making way for a higher quality workout the day after. Overeating before bed will decrease the quality of your sleep, and this will affect your workouts in the morning. There’s no need to starve yourself at night, but stick to light and nutritive snacks.

Supplement where necessary


There are situations where the food you consume won’t be enough to provide your body with the nutrition it needs. Various micronutrients, minerals, and vitamins that you require can only be found in certain foods that you probably won’t be consuming in large amounts. It’s not worth the trouble of singling out these foods for your nutritional needs, which is why supplementation is the more efficient alternative.

Creatine is a substance that every athlete should be consuming. It’s the most extensively studied supplement out there and its positive effects on athletic performance are well documented. While creatine can be found in the food we eat, it’s not present in amounts that are optimal for an athlete’s needs. This is why athletes often consume creatine supplements to increase their performance during a workout. Generally, creatine supplements are taken as part of pre-workout supplementation. If taken half an hour before a workout, creatine has time to be digested and provide your muscles with extra PCR muscle stores, which allow for a more effective workout. 

Fat supplements are another important part of athletic nutrition. They’re often used to increase an athlete’s metabolic rate while reducing their muscles’ tendency to catabolize and break down. It’s not as important as creatine, but it can provide enormous benefits for muscle growth and maintenance.

Some would consider coffee to be a form of a supplement. It is, after all, a stimulant that affects physical performance. Professional athletes often consume some amount of caffeine before participating in a workout or competition. While the amount of coffee that should be consumed varies from person to person, a cup should be more than enough to produce positive results.

Practice functional exercises


While exercising, athletes need to focus on specific muscle groups that allow them to excel at their chosen sport. Some sports require better jumping efficiency, while others will require a more endurance-focused approach. There are many specific exercises that help build the most optimal muscle groups for a certain sport. This becomes an issue for athletes that start neglecting functional exercises to focus on these.

An athlete needs to be able to complete compound and functional exercises that allow them to function at their chosen sport. Sticking to isolation exercises alone won’t get the job done right. This is the domain of bodybuilders, who prefer that their muscles serve an aesthetic function, instead of being optimally primed for exercise. Body sculpting isn’t something you should focus on, as it provides you with no athletic capabilities. Any aesthetic benefits you get from your exercises are a bonus, but they aren’t indicative of your performance. There are lots of athletes that don’t appear very athletic, despite their peak performance.

Some important functional exercises include split squats, Olympic lifts, deadlifts, etc. These exercises and isolation variants include various muscle groups that are important for every athlete. This allows these exercises to work the core and increase the athlete’s overall performance. 

Conclusion


There are many ways to increase athletic performance, even before you start working out. Our bodies are pretty demanding when it comes to nutritional and other physiological needs, which is why these needs have to be met for optimal performance. It's important that an athlete gets to know the factors that have an impact on their abilities before they start rigorous training. Not only will this give them better control over their bodies, but it will also improve the quality of their training. Follow some of the tips that are listed here and you're going to quickly see improved results in both training and competitive aspects of your sport. 

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